Substance abuse recovery can be difficult. You may have joined a rehab program or a support group, but sometimes you struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When you feel yourself struggling with sobriety or negative thoughts, having healthy coping mechanisms can be a great line of defense against relapsing.

Outpatient programs for substance abuse can be a great place to develop healthy coping mechanisms and relapse prevention skills for your time of need. From learning grounding techniques to gaining access to support systems, outpatient programs equip you with the tools you need to remain sober.

In this article, Turning Point Care Center explores some of the most common relapse prevention skills that patients learn during their inpatient and outpatient treatment. By the end, you should have a clear idea of what these relapse prevention skills may look like and how to integrate them into your daily life.

Preventing Substance Abuse Relapse

Outpatient programs help people struggling with mild cases of substance abuse to develop healthy coping mechanisms. By doing this, patients learn how to reclaim their lives and practice their newly acquired skills independently. The following are some of the most common relapse prevention tools used by people with substance dependence.

Avoiding triggers

Avoiding your triggers is an important substance abuse relapse prevention skill. Inpatient and outpatient programs can help you identify your triggers, especially if they are connected to underlying mental health conditions. Triggers may vary widely from person to person. For some, a trigger may be a certain person, place or even time of day. Triggers may also be brought on by emotions, memories or situations.

Many people in substance use recovery use the H.A.L.T. technique to avoid relapse. H.A.L.T. is an acronym that stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. Studies show that feeling hungry, angry, lonely or tired are common relapse triggers. By checking for these triggers first, people in substance use recovery may prevent relapse.

By learning how to recognize the patterns that lead to substance abuse, you can learn how to avoid them or deal with them in healthier ways.

Using grounding techniques

Another helpful relapse prevention strategy is known as the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique. This strategy guides you through the five senses to help ground you in the moment. Doing so helps you avoid relapsing, stops you from engaging in negative thoughts, and prevents you from having the immediate feeling of needing an ‘escape’ (through substances).

The 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique works as follows:

  • Acknowledge five things you can see
  • Acknowledge four things you can touch
  • Acknowledge three things you can hear
  • Acknowledge two things you can smell
  • Acknowledge one thing you can taste

Do this exercise while taking deep breaths. By focusing on the moment, this exercise helps you regain control and reduce anxiety.

Practicing self-care

Prioritizing your health and well-being can act as an effective strategy for relapse prevention. By recognizing and engaging in behavior that demonstrates that you matter, you are less likely to put your health at risk by relapsing.

Self-care is both emotional and physical. Consider practicing mindfulness meditation or yoga to become more self-aware of potential triggers and temptations. Another self-care strategy is to develop healthy daily routines, such as having a balanced diet and a good sleeping schedule.

Joining support groups

Outpatient programs will often be able to refer patients to local peer support groups. These groups include organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and more. By regularly attending these meetings, you are investing in your long-term recovery and well-being.

Support groups provide support, build accountability, and enable you to learn more about substance abuse recovery. Joining support groups also builds hope, as you get to hear from people in different stages of recovery.

Having an emergency contact list

Making an emergency contact list for times of relapse temptation is another helpful technique. This list should allow you to get in contact with someone you trust. This could be a family member, a friend, someone from your support group or a sponsor.

Overall, you should include people who know of your struggles and can help you avoid going back to unhealthy behaviors. This person should be able to both provide social support but also encourage accountability.

Having a list can be important in the initial stages of recovery when you’re still testing out coping mechanisms and developing healthy routines. Make sure this list is readily available to you at all times.

Thinking of the short-term and long-term consequences

Finally, another effective relapse prevention skill is to take the time to think of the short-term and long-term consequences of relapse. Although it may be easy to justify bending the rules once, it is important to think about the bigger picture.

What are the immediate consequences of your substance abuse? What does maintaining sobriety do to your mental and physical well-being? If you relapse, where do you see yourself in the future? And vice versa, what are some of the great things you can achieve by staying sober?

By asking yourself these questions, you can reframe the way you think about substance abuse and maintain sobriety.

It’s Never Too Late

Remember, the path to substance abuse recovery can be long long and difficult – but it is not impossible. Some may never relapse after starting their journey to recovery, while others may relapse several times. Some people have good days, while others may face difficulties along the way. Most importantly, relapsing should not be thought of as failure. Instead, it is simply a part of your journey toward a happier, healthier tomorrow.

If you believe you or a loved one suffers from substance abuse, Turning Point Care Center is here for you. Located in Moultrie, GA, we provide adult inpatient and outpatient detox and rehab programs. Our programs help patients develop relapse prevention skills and coping mechanisms that lead them to long-term sobriety.

For more information on our services, call 800-342-1075 or reach out using this form.