How To Recover From A Relapse After The Holidays

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A drug relapse over the holidays can feel like a failure, but it isn’t. Use the experience as an opportunity to learn more about your unique recovery process and help prevent another relapse in the future.

Recovering From A Holiday Relapse

The holidays can be a time for relaxing with family and friends, enjoying some time off work, and reflecting on the past year while preparing for the new one.

However, expectations to enjoy the holidays can make this a particularly difficult time for some. Many people find themselves stressed out or dealing with loneliness or regret.

For the 23 million Americans in addiction recovery in the U.S., experiencing difficult emotions and high levels of stress can make a relapse more likely.

It’s essential to see a drug relapse as another step in the process of recovery rather than a personal failure or a sign of weakness.

Just as addiction affects everyone differently, recovery is also different for everyone, which makes it a lifelong learning process that could involve relapse.

Take Quick Action

Thinking about using a drug or drinking alcohol can happen a thousand times, but as soon as an action is taken to ingest the substance, it’s considered a relapse.

Taking action can work just as quickly back in the direction of recovery. As soon as you take that action, you can consider your drug relapse as ending.

The action might be:

  • attending a 12-step meeting
  • meeting with your mentor or another sober friend
  • scheduling an appointment with your therapist ASAP
  • asking for support from family or good friends

Taking quick action not only gives your relapse a stopping point but also encourages you to acknowledge that you need help, which is often essential for healing.

Practice Self-Care

Regardless of understanding that a drug relapse is often part of the learning process of recovery, people who do relapse typically still experience feelings of shame and failure.

Feelings of stress and overwhelm are also common over the holidays, with disruptions to normal daily schedules.

Practicing self-care can be a way to deal with any negative emotions by showing compassion for yourself and your situation.

Using a drug or drinking alcohol may have felt like self-care at some point, because these substances can temporarily provide good feelings, like calmness and happiness.

However, being in recovery is an opportunity to learn and adopt healthy coping mechanisms.

Some examples of healthy coping mechanisms include:

  • going on a hike
  • practicing mindful movement, such as yoga or Tai chi
  • calling a friend and asking if they can talk or get together
  • preparing a healthy meal for yourself
  • playing an instrument, making art, reading a book, or engaging in another hobby you enjoy
  • taking a bath or getting a massage

Keeping a journal can help you determine which strategies work best for you, as this may change over time.

Plan An Outdoor Adventure

Studies show that outdoor activities like camping and forest bathing can improve mental health and even reduce cravings.

Participants in a three-day adventure therapy and therapeutic camping program aimed at relapse prevention reported fewer negative thoughts and cravings than those who participated in standard relapse prevention.

In another study, women who participated in two days of forest bathing saw reduced blood pressure and improved mental health, including less tension, anger, and fatigue.

Forest bathing is a term that originated in Japan that simply refers to spending time in a forest environment to absorb its atmosphere for health purposes.

Outdoor activities like camping and forest bathing also provide a change of scenery, which can be helpful for people in recovery.

During the holidays, they can be an opportunity to get some space for a bit from family members too.

Consider The Triggers

Once you’re feeling better, take some quiet time to consider what might have triggered your drug relapse. This can help you prevent another one from happening.

Common drug relapse triggers include:

  • stress
  • anniversaries of trauma or loss
  • financial problems
  • family problems
  • other relationship problems
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • too much alone time
  • too much together time
  • physical illness
  • being teased, judged, or criticized
  • specific noises, smells, or tastes
  • being around alcohol or the drug you used
  • being around someone who has treated you badly

It’s easy to see how triggers can add up over the holidays, like financial issues, feeling overwhelmed, and family problems.

The next step, reworking your drug relapse prevention plan, can help you prepare for triggers that are particularly cumbersome for you.

Rework Your Relapse Prevention Plan

Now that you’ve identified triggers that may have contributed to your relapse, it’s time to update your relapse prevention plan.

Consider what helped you this time to stop your relapse. Did you talk with a friend? Attend a meeting? Schedule an appointment with your therapist?

These are activities you can engage in when you feel triggered next time. However, feeling triggered isn’t always obvious.

Being triggered might feel like:

  • restlessness
  • anxiety
  • difficulty enjoying activities you usually enjoy
  • difficulty sleeping (or sleeping too much)
  • a loss of appetite (or overeating)
  • increased irritability or negativity
  • obsessing over someone or something
  • disconnection from the body
  • forgetfulness

The best relapse prevention plans are always evolving, just as you are. Keeping your plan updated can give you the best chance of avoiding another relapse.

Getting Help Following A Drug Relapse

At times, it might be best to enlist additional help and begin or return to an addiction treatment program.

Addiction specialists can help you detox if necessary, further hone your recovery skills, and continue on the path to recovery through evidence-based treatment.

Call today to learn more.

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(888) 859-4403

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