How to avoid falling back into drug addiction
Archie Modequillo (The Freeman) - September 16, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — It must be very difficult to get out of drug addiction. This can be seen in the behavior of drug addicts, who are willing to risk everything – including their very lives – for their vice. What’s even much more difficult is to remain out of the habit if one is ever able to get out of it in the first place.

Indeed, the chances of a rehabilitated drug addict falling back into the habit are quite high. Some come out of a drug rehab program totally reformed; others even speak of a life-changing, or even divine, realization. Then, after just a short while, they slide back into their addiction.

Back-sliding drug dependents would confess that it’s so hard to fight the withdrawal symptoms, the most common of which are anxiety, nausea, and physical weakness. In many cases, irritability, mood swings, poor sleep, and poor self-care are also experienced. And there’s the imminent risk of being tempted by old friends who are still into drugs.

According to experts, coming back to the place where the drug addict previously used or bought drugs can trigger a relapse of drug addiction. Worse if he is once again surrounded by things to remind him of the habit. Returning to such environment, it would be easy to slide back to drug addiction when one is under stress or is suffering from a feeling of isolation.

A rehabilitated drug addict shall watch out for recurring emotions, like the so-called “H.A.L.T.”: hunger, anger, loneliness, tiredness. Also, feelings of pride and overconfidence thinking he doesn’t have a drug or that the habit is all behind him already can be a crack for relapse. There is really need to be ever watchful and not grow complacent about it.

The website www.addictionsandrecovery.org states: “Relapse is a process, it's not an event.” The website explains that there are three stages of relapse that can start weeks or even months before the event of physical relapse:

Emotional Relapse, where one is not thinking about using, but his emotions and behaviors are setting him up for a possible relapse in the future. The common signs in this phase are anxiety, intolerance, anger, defensiveness, mood swings, isolation, not asking for help, not going to meetings, poor eating habits, poor sleep habits. This early stage of relapse is easiest to pull back from.

At this stage it helps for one to recognize that he is in emotional relapse and try to change his behavior. One shall recognize that he’s isolating, and shall ask for help. He shall recognize that he’s anxious and needs to practice relaxation techniques. He shall recognize too that his sleep and eating habits are slipping, and he shall practice self-care.

If he doesn’t change his behavior at this stage and he remains long enough in the stage of emotional relapse he'll become exhausted, and when he’s exhausted he will want to escape, which will move him into mental relapse.

Mental Relapse, where there's a war going on in the person’s mind – part of him wants to use drugs, but the other part doesn't. In the early phase of mental relapse, the person is just idly thinking about using. But in the later phase he’s definitely thinking about using.

The signs of mental relapse include thinking about people, places, and things he used drugs with; glamorizing his past use of drugs, lying, hanging out with old drug-using friends, fantasizing about using drugs, thinking about relapsing. It gets harder to make the right choices as the pull of drug addiction gets stronger. To deal with mental images, one shall:

Play the tape through. When he thinks about using drugs, he fantasizes being able to control his drug use this time, that he'll just have a little. But he shall play the tape through. One shot usually leads to more. He'll wake up the next day feeling disappointed in himself. He may not be able to stop the next day, and get caught in the same vicious cycle. When he plays that tape through to its logical conclusion, using drugs doesn't seem so appealing.

Tell someone that he’s having urges to use. It helps to call a friend, a support, or someone in recovery and share with them what you're going through. The magic of sharing is that the minute he starts to talk about what he’s thinking and feeling, the urges begin to disappear; they don't seem quite as big, and one doesn't feel as alone.

Distract himself. When one thinks about using drugs, he must do something to occupy yourself – call a friend, go to a meeting, get up and go for a walk. Just sitting there with the urge and doing anything, one is giving his mental relapse room to grow.

Wait for 30 minutes. Most urges usually last for less than 15 to 30 minutes. When one is in an urge, it feels like an eternity. But if he can keep himself busy and do the things he’s supposed to do, it'll quickly be gone.

Do his recovery one day at a time. He shall not worry about whether he can stay abstinent forever. That's a paralyzing thought. It's overwhelming even for people who've been in recovery for a long time.

One day at a time means the person should match his goals to his emotional strength. When feeling strong and he’s motivated to not use, telling oneself that he won't use for the next week or the next month will help. But when struggling and having lots of urges, and those times will happen often, he shall tell himself that he won't use drugs for today or for the next 30 minutes.

Make relaxation part of his recovery. Relaxation is an important part of relapse prevention, because when one is tense he tends to do what’s familiar and wrong, instead of what's new and right. When tense one tends to repeat the same mistakes he made before. When relaxed, he is more open to change.

Physical Relapse. Once the person starts thinking about relapse, it doesn't take long to go from there to physical relapse: to go get drugs. It's hard to stop the process of relapse at this point. So this is not where the focus of efforts in recovery should be. Abstinence may now have to be achieved through brute force – but it is not recovery.

In conclusion, the www.addictionsandrecovery.org website encourages recognizing and understanding the early warning signs of relapse. It is a significant way to help the troubled person to catch himself… before it's too late.

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