Relapse Prevention Guide

Detox. Treatment. Therapy. Relapse. The cycle of addiction is easily understood. Recovery is the complex journey.

Dr. Steven Melemis is a medical doctor specializing in mood disorders and addiction. He wanted to explain relapse prevention through a set of basic rules.

Preventing relapse is the reason most people seek help. Usually, individuals have already tried to get clean on their own. Then they realize the solution is far more elaborate than they imagined.

Dr. Melemis reintroduces relapse prevention as more practical and less complicated.

Rule 1: Change Your Life

I know this rule seems overwhelming and black and white. Change your life feels like it should be the one and final rule, but as Dr. Melemis intended, it’s simpler than it sounds.

Recovery is about evolving, not changing everything about your life.

“We want our old life back— without the using,” Melemis describes what most people say when entering treatment. But it doesn’t work that way.

Your old life is the breeding ground of your addiction. Abandoning your old ways leaves addiction behind. They rely on each other to continue.

Recovery is not simply just not using. It’s beyond reaching sobriety. It takes creating a new way of life that doesn’t tempt you to use. Recovery isn’t about searching for inner strength or reaching within yourself. Or whatever inspiration mantra that may fly over your head. Instead, recovery is building successful life management skills. It’s not willpower; it’s practice.

Dr. Melemis advises developing a healthy fear against your old life. Positive fear can guide us and keep us safe. It can help you avoid people, places, and things that were a part of using to fear falling back into the addiction cycle.

There is a saying that goes, “love change, fear staying the same.” That might make you scoff because everyone is resistant to change, but there is a “silver lining of having an addiction,” as Dr. Melemis puts it. Recovery forces us to reflect and encourages necessary changes. People without addictions aren’t usually pushed to reconsider their unhealthy life. They don’t reflect on the opportunity to change and develop a happier life for themselves.

This recovery rule is about shifting the way you see your addiction. Recovery is difficult, but addiction is even more difficult. If it were something you wanted to let go of, quitting should be easier, but if so, why do you need to quit?

Rule 2: Be Completely Honest

Like I mentioned in rule one, addiction needs your old life. The people, places, and things associated with using allow your addiction to thrive. The same goes for lying. Addiction requires lying, as Dr. Melemis puts it.

Being completely honest doesn’t mean telling everyone how you feel and what is wrong with them. Instead, this rule refers to self-honesty.

Relapse happens way before you drink or use again. It starts with a subconscious thought of your last relapse and turns into a denial of that thought. Denying these thoughts manifest into tension and restlessness. These emotions empower the feeling of wanting to use again.

If you can’t be completely honest with yourself, you’re already in the first phase of relapse.

As strange as it may seem, honesty can be practiced. One method includes admitting you lied and correcting yourself at the moment. Another practice method is a recovery circle. It’s a group of family, counselors, sponsors, or a self-help group to practice without shame or guilt. Then, once you start to feel more at ease, you can expand your circle to include more people.

Dr. Melemis expresses a good rule of thumb when asking how honest you should be with yourself: “uncomfortably honest.”

relapse prevention

Rule 3: Ask for Help

Most people try to recover on their own and feel out of control and helpless when it ends in relapse. But the truth is, you can’t defeat addiction on your own.

Studies show that a combination of an addiction treatment program and a self-help group is the most effective way to achieve recovery.

“But I don’t like groups.” This is one example of the many reasons people don’t join self-help groups. That’s completely relatable. But, unfortunately, self-help groups can be your greatest relapse prevention tool.

Addiction stigma is crippling. The harsh judgments and negative views that come with addiction fuel isolation. It’s a giant hurdle for individuals seeking treatment. A common fear is that the individual is not worthy of happiness or a better life. Self-help groups can allow you to overcome these self-defeating thoughts. You can see you’re not alone.

Surround yourself with people that understand addiction isn’t a choice. Connecting with others that are going through the same thing as you can feel comforting. New acquaintances can also mean advice on your coping skills, support, and encouragement. Even a new friend you don’t have to feel judged around.

There are so many self-help groups to choose from. If you’re not sure which is right for you, try to think about what you would want out of a self-help group. Then, consider the aspects of recovery that mean most to you. Being a part of a group that you dread isn’t going to help—or last long.

Rule 4: Practice Self-Care

The importance of self-care in recovery is not given enough attention.

Individuals struggling with addiction are their harshest critics, often surrounded by self-limiting beliefs. Using doesn’t allow a clear understanding of your self-perception. Addiction distorts your reality. Physical cravings and the thought of using again lets self-care fall to the wayside.

What is self-care? Dr. Melemis introduces an acronym to know if you lack it, HALT: hungry, angry, lonely, and tired.

Self-care is different for everyone. For example, some people need eight hours of sleep and a nutritious diet. Others need to work on being kind to themselves.

Recovery is impossible if we can’t be good to ourselves. Self-care allows us to be comfortable with who we are. Without it, there is no room for self-worth and the sense of feeling deserving of a better life. Plus, a lack of self-care strips us of any motivation to stay clean.

Rule 5: Don’t Bend the Rules

“Never bend the rules. You bend the rules a little bit, and then it’s a slippery slope.” -Thomas Peterffy

This is where people say things to themselves like, “I’ve been clean a year. I know how much I can handle” or “Coke is my weakness. I can have a drink without a problem.”

If you’re looking at how you can do this your way, you’re already bending the rules. You can’t make secret deals with yourself.

Preventing relapse is an ever-evolving project. Only, there are no shortcuts, and you can’t reinvent the wheel.

We’re Here for You

Several evidence-based treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy are offered at Northridge Addiction Treatment Center. They show promising results that can help you overcome self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors. Stop avoiding relapse on your own. A fulfilling life free from addiction is possible.

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Our caring and compassionate specialists are eager to help you comfortably navigate this journey to recovery. Our individualized treatment plan, programs, and therapies may be a perfect match for you or your loved one. Let us assist you in living the happy life you deserve. It starts with a phone call.

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