Best Methods for Preventing Relapse

Upon detox, everybody has the best intentions to stay sober. Sadly, the National Institute’s latest research on drug abuse shows that within a year of addiction treatment, over 60% of those suffering from addiction will succumb to relapse. Those statistics may sound shocking to those who have not experienced addiction. However, anyone with firsthand experience with addiction will tell you otherwise. Recovery isn’t easy, and many don’t believe it’s a linear path. Since the risk of relapse is always present while living in recovery, it is entirely possible to achieve long-term sobriety by empowering yourself through a variety of strategies for preventing relapse.

Why are skills for preventing important?

Relapse avoidance skills are necessary for learning how to live a happy sober life. One day at a time, one might learn to use these coping mechanisms to prevent relapse and continue living beyond substance abuse.

Rehabilitation from alcohol or other drugs with developmental milestones is a continuum of personal growth. There is a chance of relapse at any point of rehabilitation, making it highly important to understand relapse prevention skills. Among the most common relapse causes include:

  • Boredom
  • Stress and Anxiety
  • Financial Problems
  • Relationship issues
  • Problems related to the sense of smell and sight
  • Anger

Most drug and alcohol recovery programs educate patients about strategies of reduction of relapse to make them understand how to continually progress and meet short and long-term goals. There are a wide range of strategies to stop relapse that can be applied to try and prevent it from happening.

There is a common misconception that preventive techniques should be used only when someone has a willingness to use them. Nonetheless, in order to prevent or reduce the risk of cravings, relapse prevention skills should be incorporated in the daily schedule and routine of each recovering person.

Top 10 skills in prevention of relapse include:


Signs and symptoms of post-acute withdrawal include insomnia and exhaustion while recovering from addiction. The Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) in New York states that these are common possible relapse causes. It is possible to enhance their sleep quality by incorporating physical exercise and a healthy diet. It can be achieved by developing and maintaining a daily routine of sleep, exercise, and eating. It encourages one to retrain the body to sleep better and also helps to reduce the likelihood of relapse.

Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired (HALT)

In general, when you feel anxious or “down,” ask yourself whether you have any of these symptoms mentioned, hunger, rage, exhaustion, or fatigue. When you stop and say to yourself, “HALT”, you can better acknowledge your negative emotions and address them in a healthy manner.

Mindfulness Meditation

Meditation of mindfulness is a practice that teaches people to become more self-conscious. We are better able to cope with potential triggers to relapse if we are more self-aware. An NCBI study found results that indicate significant improvement in treatment individuals that adopt a preventive relapse plan with mindful meditation relative to those who do not use meditation with awareness. Individuals who used meditation for mindfulness remained clean and sober longer and had fewer cravings and increased awareness and acceptance. Participants are encouraged to learn to “play with” their cravings through Mindfulness meditation, rather than combat them. 

Acceptance that cravings will come is a skill that has been gained through this experience when applying skills in the prevention of recurrence. Concepts, like embracing, letting go of personal control, and using prayer and meditation, are hallmarks of meditation on mindfulness. A simple meditation technique of mindfulness, created by the co-founder of Spirit Rock, Jack Kornfield, is a phrase to repeat 3 times while concentrating on your breath slowly and carefully:

The core principle of mindfulness is to pay close attention, awareness or emphasis on what you’re doing, where you are, who you’re with, and more. To start the process of becoming more attentive, just consider what you’re doing without judgment. Writing down your daily activities can be helpful by recording them with a smartphone to raise awareness of what you’re doing, thinking, and feeling. This can result in an immense understanding and determination to work against cravings.

Comprehension and the causes of triggers

Triggers can be internal, such as anxiety, lack of energy, tension, frustration, and poor self-esteem, such as individuals, locations, or objects reminiscent of prior experience. Having a list of internal and external stimuli is an important way to understand one’s symptoms and reduce relapse risk.

Join and be part of Support Group

Regular attendance in a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) provides support, accountability, encouragement, and the ability to meet friends who understand what you’re going through. It also avoids recurrence as it decreases feelings of loneliness and the possibility of isolation, both of which can be important relapse triggers.

Grounding Techniques

When it comes to healing, stress and anxiety are often the biggest obstacles. A useful technique of prevention of relapse is a calming technique called the technique of coping 5-4-3-2-1. It requires you through the five senses to focus on the moment and avoid thinking about using liquor or other drugs, anxiety, negative self-talking, and any other unhealthy thoughts or feelings that might cause someone to want to escape.

The 5 steps start with a few deep breaths, followed by:

5- Acknowledge five things you see around you

4- Acknowledge four things you can touch around you

3- Acknowledge three things you can hear around you

2- Acknowledge two things you can smell around you

1- Acknowledge one thing you can taste around you

Start with a long, deep breath in this exercise. Focusing on your senses can help you gain self-awareness and increase awareness, helping you perform daily tasks, resolving negative thoughts or feelings, becoming more in control and less stressed, and reducing the risk of relapse.

Deep Breathing

As you know, breathing is the key to life. What many don’t know, though, is how much control you have over your life simply by changing your breathing patterns. Not only is breathing related to various essential functions in the body, but it also has a major impact on your brain chemistry. Breathing changes your emotions profoundly and helps to regulate your mood as a whole. That’s why breathing deeply with one’s mental health is so critical.

Deep breathing stimulates the brain’s neurotransmitters, many of which release healthy chemicals that help relax, relieve and reduce pain. Deep breathing and increased oxygen supply often allow the body to exhale toxins. 

The 4 x 4 is a common method of deep respiration. Take four deep breaths through the nose and stay free for four seconds. As you breathe in and out, you can feel the diaphragm. Deep breathing is a great way to avoid relapse, as it can be used almost anywhere without anyone realizing that you are doing it.

Create an Emergency Contact List

It can be difficult to manage when an impulse occurs, especially at the start of recovery. A very useful skill in the prevention of relapse is making a list of supportive family members or friends that you can call for assistance in recovery as well. Speaking to a supportive individual will help you get over the temptation and understand why you don’t want to go back to previous habits. Having the list on you at all times is vital as it is a tool that you can use when calling someone safe quickly.

Play the Tape Through

Just play the tape first is a great tool when you feel like drinking or getting high and decide what to do. In order to play the tape, you have to play up to the very end of what will happen in your head. Consider what is going to happen in the short and long term, whether you want to drink or use it. Thought about the consequences of using a drug or drinking alcohol and if you have not used it. This can improve decision-making and reduce the risk of recurrence.

Ask for Help

Implementing these methods of relapse prevention into your daily schedule can help increase your likelihood of preventing relapse. To learn more about inpatient or outpatient treatment services, contact a committed care provider to learn more expertise in relapse prevention and get help today.