Leaving rehab is an exciting time. You’re beginning a new chapter in your life, equipped with the tools to maintain your sobriety. However, this does not mean that you won’t be faced with temptation.

The best way to prevent relapse after rehab is to proactively think about what triggers the urge to use and how you’ll handle cravings when they arise. Everyone’s experience is a little different, but this post outlines the most common triggers and offers suggestions you can use to help yourself stay clean.

1. Stress
A major part of the appeal of drugs and alcohol is that they provide a temporary escape from life’s stressful situations. If you’re worried about losing your job, experiencing financial difficulties, or fighting with your significant other, the key to maintaining your sobriety will be finding a constructive outlet for your stress.

Some ideas to consider include:

  • Listen to soothing music.
  • Write about your feelings in a journal.
  • Pray or meditate.
  • Exercise.
  • Talk to a friend about what’s bothering you and brainstorm solutions together.

2. Boredom
Boredom is a common trigger among recovering substance abusers who turned to drugs and alcohol as their preliminary method of socializing and having fun. It can be challenging to find ways to entertain yourself after leaving the structured environment of a rehab facility.

The best boredom busters are ones that align with your own interests and passions, but here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Have friends over to binge watch a new show on Netflix while enjoying a bowl of freshly-made popcorn.
  • Take a class to learn about a subject you’ve always been interested in, such as painting, gardening, or mastering a new language.
  • Spend time outdoors hiking or biking. Exercising and spending time in nature helps provide natural endorphins to boost your mood.
  • Get involved with a volunteer organization that lets you meet new people while helping to make the world a better place.
  • Look for opportunities to socialize at your place of worship, such as guided Bible study groups or short service trips.

3. Frustration
Making significant changes to your life isn’t easy, so it’s normal to become frustrated when your recovery doesn’t progress as well as you’d hoped. However, you can’t let this frustration cause you to give up or decide that being sober isn’t worth the effort.

When you’re frustrated, head to a meeting. Friends and family may mean well, but other recovering substance users will have a unique understanding of the challenges you’re facing. They can reassure you that what you’re feeling is normal and help you work towards finding a way to move forward with your life.

4. Peer Pressure
In a perfect world, the people closest to you would respect your decision to get clean. Unfortunately, the friends you made while you were still using may feel threatened by your newfound sobriety. They may ignore your requests to engage in drug- and alcohol-free activities, take you to places that trigger memories of past substance abuse, or encourage glamorizing your history of addiction.

The sad truth is that there isn’t thing you can do to control the behavior of others. You are only in control of your own thoughts and actions. If you find yourself surrounded by people who aren’t being supportive of your recovery, it’s time to put some distance between yourself and them. Saying goodbye to old friends is hard, but it’s sometimes necessary to move forward. Give yourself permission to seek a new social circle that understands your worth and encourages your recovery.

5. Failing to Address Co-Occurring Conditions
Many people with substance abuse disorders also struggle with co-occurring conditions such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. If you’re not taking the time to address these issues, you may find that you’re tempted to start using as a way to self-medicate.

To effectively maintain your sobriety, you must address all mental health concerns with your therapist or counselor. Cognitive behavioral therapy and/or medication may be necessary as part of your addiction treatment plan.

One Mistake Isn’t the End of the World

If you do succumb to the urge to use, it’s not the end of the world. One mistake doesn’t mean that your efforts in recovery are doomed. Think of the recovery process as a journey that requires regularly reevaluating which treatment strategies and coping mechanisms work best for your needs.

St. Joseph Institute offers extensive relapse prevention and aftercare services, including counseling, retreat programs, and alumni gatherings. If you’re struggling to maintain your sobriety, we can help connect you with the resources you need to ensure a lasting recovery.

By Dana Hinders


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April is Alcohol Awareness Month. This observance, sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), stresses the need for education regarding alcoholism and addiction recovery.

At St. Joseph Institute, we stand together with NCADD to encourage an open and honest conversation about the risks associated with underage drinking. In this post, we’ll outline six tips for talking to your teen about alcohol use.

1. Begin the Conversation as Early as Possible

It’s best to begin talking to your children about alcohol use in the upper elementary grades. Statistic indicate that about one-third of young people have begun experimenting with alcohol by the end of eighth grade, with boys reporting their first drink at 11 and girls reporting their first drink at 13. This is troubling because children who start drinking before 15 are five times more likely to abuse alcohol later in life than those who begin drinking after 21.

Of course, it’s never too late to start discussing the risks of underage drinking. Older teens still need your guidance as they navigate the challenge of becoming independent young adults.

2. Promote Positive Relationships

Friendships play an important role in helping kids develop their own unique sense of self. Making an effort to get to know your child’s friends can help ensure that these relationships stay positive. Encourage your teen to invite friends over to your home regularly—using snacks, movies, video games, and music to create a welcoming atmosphere.

It’s also important to maintain contract with the parents of your teen’s friends and establish that they share your values in regards to underage drinking. Do not allow your teen to attend parties where there will be no adult supervision or to spend time at homes where alcohol is readily accessible to minors.

3. Encourage Extracurricular Activities

Kids who are involved in sports, music, drama, and other extracurricular activities are better equipped to resist the pressure to drink because they’ve seen firsthand that alcohol isn’t necessary to have a good time. If your child is struggling to find a suitable activity at school, consider searching for volunteer opportunities in the community, such as working at an animal shelter or the public library.

Getting a part-time job may also be an option for older teens. Work experience teaches time management skills, teamwork, and responsibility. All of these attributes will help your teen make wise decisions in the years to come.

4. Stress the Risks

Pop culture often portrays drinking as a harmless way to relax and have fun. Talking to your teen about the darker side of alcohol use helps put the issue in perspective, especially if you can provide context in regards to portrayals of underage drinking in your child’s favorite movie or television show.

NCADD has a fact sheet with underage drinking statistics that can provide a starting point for discussing the risk of making poor decisions while intoxicated. Risks for teens include getting into fights, having unprotected sex, suffering from alcohol poisoning, or being involved in an auto accident.

5. Be Honest About Your Own History

If you’ve struggled with alcoholism or you’ve seen the consequences of a family member’s drinking problem firsthand, don’t be afraid to share this story with your teen. You don’t need to provide every intimate detail, but these personal stories are often a highly effective way of getting a teen to recognize the dangers associated with alcohol use.

It’s also important for your teen to know that having a family history of alcoholism puts him or her at a higher risk of developing similar problems. Genetics isn’t destiny, but abstaining from underage drinking is the best way for your teen to stay safe.

6. Know the Warning Signs

Drastic changes in academic performance, decreased personal hygiene, neglecting responsibilities at home, and a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities are some of the signs that suggest your teen may have a drinking problem. Depression, mood swings, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating are also cause for concern.

If your teen has already been experimenting with alcohol, encourage him or her to take the self-test for teenagers on the NCADD website. This simple questionnaire evaluates a teen’s risk factors for problem drinking, providing you with a baseline to determine if further services are needed.


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By: Aspen Stoddard/staff writer

After more than a decade of using substances to avoid my “self,” one of the hardest parts of transitioning into sobriety was learning new tactics for dealing with the cycle of anxious thoughts spinning constantly in my mind.

Sure, I understood the idea of living one day at a time, but the fear of having to sustain this thought-battle in my mind permanently taunted me. How would I ever get through? It was right around this time period that my therapist suggested meditation.

“Have you ever tried?” she asked. I had not. I started to get a little angry: I needed real help. Being inside my mind was part of the problem.

“It works for me,” she said. “I find I have more energy afterward.”

I tried not to laugh. I imagined myself sitting cross-legged on some maroon rug trying to keep my eyes shut. I wouldn’t last ten seconds. My thoughts churned inside my head like hurricanes. There was no way I would be able to quiet my mind. In fact, I believed trying to sit still would only make the thoughts worse. I also thought that meditation was a practice that one needed to grow up with in order to efficiently perform. I’m a small-town girl who has experience in self-destruction. What did I know about meditating?

So instead of taking my friend’s advice, I returned to the chaos of my mind and continued struggling within the way I had grown used to.

After a few weeks, and at a point where I was feeling worn out and on the verge of running back toward drugs to ease my mind, the idea of meditation returned to me. I decided to give it a shot. I began with guided meditations, which allowed me to listen to someone tell a story.

If you have ever listened to a guided meditation, then you can probably imagine the soothing voice suggesting: find a place to sit down. You can choose a soft pillow or a cushioned-chair. Just find a place to sit down and be comfortable and then close your eyes. Concentrate on the cool air streaming through your nose. Just stay right there. Breathe. Think only of the flow of oxygen moving in and out. Allow thoughts to enter and exit your mind without attempting to interpret them. In other words, relax. Allow yourself to be.

I sat with my eyes pinched closed, my body taut with tension, and a voice in my head telling me that it was time to relax (not telling—more on the verge of panicking). I could only think about how I didn’t know what I was doing.

But then slowly something strange happened. After about five minutes into the session, I was suddenly only aware of the muscles in my body and the woman’s voice who was guiding me. I felt the circuit of energy moving in waves through me. When I finally opened my eyes, tears streamed down my cheeks. Not so much because I had an out-of-this-world spiritual experience (though, that would come later after more practice) but because of the relief my brain felt. I had, if only for that short moment, escaped from my anxious thoughts.

I escaped without poisoning my body.

One of the common misconceptions about meditation is that you must force your mind to empty. The reality is quite the opposite. Rather than forcing the mind to be silent, meditation asks that you allow thoughts to freely flow without judging them. For the addict in recovery, I think this is one of the most essential terms-—judgement. As addicts in recovery, we are professionals at judging ourselves. We are not so expert at acceptance. Meditation allowed me to begin to forgive myself for hurting myself and others. Through a steady practice of meditation, I could allow those thoughts to enter my mind and let them pass.

It has been a few years now since I started practicing meditation. I find that I am more stable when I am practicing. When I get off track and start skipping sessions, I feel myself spiraling. Meditation forces me to sit with myself, to be aware of my awareness, to allow a maelstrom of thoughts to appear and disappear without trying to over-analyze them.

But don’t just take my word for it; in a recent study by Harvard in 2011, researchers found that an eight-week program of meditative practice changes the gray matter in the brain, the region that controls stress, memory, empathy, and our sense of self.

Again, keep in mind that meditation works best as a daily practice. It’s best to find a way to incorporate meditation as part of your lifestyle than to see it as time-absorbing exercise. You don’t need a lot of time. In fact, I started with just ten minutes a day.

Check out these websites for a variety of specified guided meditations:

 

To learn more about our programs or for a campus tour  of St. Joseph Institute, please visit our website. You can also call us directly at 877-727-4465. 


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