Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention in Toronto, Canada

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Relapse Prevention

It may come as no surprise to learn that relapse prevention programs are integral to any addiction treatment.

Relapse prevention is a critical aspect of long-term recovery, enabling those in addiction treatment to develop strategies and awareness to help them maintain sobriety and avoid regressing to old, unhelpful behaviours such as alcohol or drug abuse.

Understanding what relapse looks like is critical for individuals in recovery and their families as, very often, people expect relapse to look a certain way, i.e. when a person starts up drinking again or retaking drugs.

However, relapse is thought of as a process instead of a single event and is categorised into three stages: 

  • Emotional relapse – is considered the “initial phase of relapse,” where specific emotions and behaviours set the stage for a possible relapse without a conscious intention of using. 
  • Mental relapse – during this phase, you may start to think about drinking or retaking drugs. You may also grapple with internal conflicts and ideas around substance use.
  • Physical relapse – is when the individual begins using substances again.

This page explores relapse prevention in more detail.

In the meantime, if you want to know more about relapse prevention or are concerned about yourself or a loved one’s substance use habits, contact our friendly team today, who can offer further advice and support.

Relapse prevention in Toronto, Canada: Meet the Centres for Health and Healing team

Centres for Health and Healing provide bespoke relapse prevention treatment in Toronto, Ontario, and surrounding regions to help individuals in addiction recovery build resilience and develop healthy coping skills to avoid relapse and achieve lasting wellness and sobriety.

Our clinical team has decades of knowledge and experience in diagnosing and treating various types of addiction and mental health issues, including alcohol and drug use disorders.

In our experience, an effective addiction program encompasses a holistic, person-centred approach to addiction recovery.

This often includes recognising and addressing the root causes of your addictive behaviours, identifying and treating other medical conditions you may have, and developing a robust relapse prevention program that can help you track your progress and continue getting the help and support you need once you complete treatment.

We combine various evidence-based treatments and approaches to help you get clean and maintain sobriety, utilising a mind, body, and spirit approach to long-term recovery.

Our substance use disorder programs include medical detox, behavioural therapy, trauma-informed treatment, mindfulness, and a comprehensive relapse prevention program that ensures a full-circle recovery, enabling you to get your life back on track, free from the clutches of addiction.

To learn more about our relapse prevention treatment in Toronto or other addiction programs, contact our friendly team today, who will happily assist.

We are always here to lend a compassionate ear and provide any helpful information or resources you may need.

Speak to a specialist today!

What is meant by relapse prevention?

There are various ways to describe relapse prevention, but to put it simply:

“Relapse prevention programs are used to help keep a person from using a substance after they have decided to quit. 

It is one of many tools used by individuals recovering from a substance use disorder.” (What Is a Relapse Prevention Plan? Verywell mind, Sarah Sheppard, February 28, 2023.

There is often this misleading, albeit harmful myth that relapse begins when a person starts using substances again.

However, reusing substances only paints half the picture; as we have already covered, there are three stages of relapse that someone often goes through before actually returning to drinking or taking drugs.

Relapse is a gradual process of slipping back into old behaviours and thinking patterns that cultivated your addiction in the first place.

For instance, you may start hanging out with friends you used to drink with or call the person who you once bought drugs from.

You may also start frequenting the places you once drank in or abused drugs – such as a pub, a friend’s house, or another location.

These behaviours can trigger the temptation for you to begin using again.

It’s like a slow handshake with the devil; sooner or later, the temptation to drink or take drugs spirals out of control, and before you know it, you’ve lapsed into stage three: using substances again.

Those in addiction recovery must recognise their triggers and create some form of a contingency plan to manage the three stages of relapse.

The above allows individuals to get immediate help and support from their peer groups, sober communities, and treatment providers.

Crucially, when you understand and recognise the first two phases of relapse (emotional and mental), this allows you to put a plan in place to avoid the physical stage of returning to substance use.

Our relapse prevention treatment program in Toronto helps our clients identify, address, and manage their triggers, helping them recognise the early warning signs of relapse and gain appropriate tools and coping skills to maintain sobriety and wellness.

What causes a person to relapse?

A relapse can be brought on for various reasons, such as a triggering event or situation.

Other possible causes of relapse may include:

  • Going through a stressful situation or crisis. 
  • Not engaging properly with treatment.
  • Constantly being reminded of your addiction triggers, such as seeing people who remind you of a time when you drank alcohol or took drugs or specific places, sounds, or smells that bring you back to that time in your life.
  • Feeling lonely.
  • The discomfort and pain of withdrawal symptoms.
  • Relationship breakups or other losses.
  • Bumping into old friends that still use drugs or alcohol.

What factors determine a relapse?

You must understand that relapse is a part of addiction recovery that many people experience on the journey to lasting sobriety.

Relapse doesn’t equal failure. 

Instead, relapse is often an opportunity to re-evaluate your triggers and coping skills and is considered the rule, not the exception, for those in addiction treatment.

Moreover, adequately defining relapse is another critical factor for those in addiction recovery, as there is a monumental difference between a relapse and a temporary setback or slip-up.

For instance, a relapse is a continual return to heavy and frequent substance use that existed before treatment or a commitment to change. 

On the other hand, a setback or slip-up is a temporary lapse, usually accidental, typically reflecting inadequacy of coping skills in high-risk situations. (Relapse, Psychology Today.)

Knowing the difference between a setback and a relapse can help you get the proper support and guidance from your treatment provider and those in your support network.

However, a slip-up or relapse is expected as you navigate the bumpy road to recovery; therefore, it’s essential to cultivate self-compassion and empathy along the way.

The warning signs of a relapse

As well as the three stages of relapse we discussed earlier, some additional signs and symptoms may signify a relapse, including:

  • Defensiveness. You may feel threatened or defensive when questioned about a potential return to substance use.
  • Impulsivity. As your cravings to use a substance increase, you may act or behave in ways that hurt others or yourself, resulting in you using substances to feel better or cope.
  • Withdrawal and isolation. Another sign of relapse is when an individual begins pulling away from friends, family, and others in their support network.
  • Mood changes. You may be more anxious, irritable, agitated, or depressed; these are all common signs of relapse.
  • Sleep and appetite disturbances. Another critical sign of relapse is when an individual skips meals or engages in binge eating. Sleep disturbances are also common in relapse where a person may sleep less or experience disturbed sleep due to the effects of alcohol and drugs.

Other symptoms of a relapse to watch out for include:

  • Feelings of shame and guilt.
  • A lack of self-care.
  • Experiencing intense cravings and urges to use a substance.
  • Changes in your physical appearance.
  • Getting back in touch with old negative influences, such as people you once drank or took drugs with, old relationships from that time in your life, or people or places that trigger your addiction.
  • Dismissing the consequences of substance use.
  • Planning to relapse.

Relapse prevention treatment

Relapse prevention treatment utilises a comprehensive approach that involves the integration of various therapies, techniques, strategies, and support systems to help you maintain long-term recovery from substance use.

Alongside medical detox, the type of treatments incorporated into a relapse prevention program typically include the following:

Behavioural therapy

Behavioural therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) help to change maladaptive thoughts and behaviours that lead to substance use, helping you to develop new habits and healthy coping strategies.

Skills training 

Skills training includes teaching individuals practical tools and skills to manage challenging or stressful situations without resorting to drinking or drug use.

Cognitive restructuring

Cognitive restructuring involves exploring and challenging harmful or destructive thought patterns that can lead to relapse and is a significant component of CBT.

Mindfulness treatment

Mindfulness techniques such as mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) blend cognitive behavioural techniques with mindfulness principles to help increase awareness around cravings and triggers.

Moreover, stress reduction techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, and meditation can help those in recovery manage stress and improve their emotional regulation skills.

Trauma treatment

Identifying and addressing past traumatic experiences and internal conflicts can help get to the root cause of substance use.

Trauma treatments such as EMDR (eye movement desensitisation reprocessing) help discharge painful memories and experiences from the body that may have been ‘stored’ during a painful or upsetting event. 

EMDR and other somatic therapies can help you to reprocess any traumatic experiences you may have encountered so that you can view them in new, more empowering ways.

There is a profound correlation between trauma and addiction. 

For instance, studies have shown that around 59% of people diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder will develop issues with substance use and dependence at some stage.

Therefore, trauma-informed treatment is an integral component of relapse prevention treatment as it helps individuals identify and address the root causes of addiction and dependency, thus allowing them to build resilience and healthier alternatives to coping.

Other treatments used in relapse prevention include:

Healthy lifestyle changes are also encouraged as part of a relapse prevention treatment program, such as:

  • Practising good sleep hygiene.
  • Nutrition and exercise. This includes eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise to help improve your overall health and well-being.

Summary

Relapse prevention treatment involves a complex, multifaceted approach, exploring and addressing the emotional, psychological, and practical components of addiction recovery.

These programs cultivate a strong support network and healthy coping mechanisms and incorporate healthy lifestyle changes that support long-lasting sobriety and wellness.

Relapse prevention treatment aims to prevent a return to substance use and empower you with invaluable insights, tools, and strategies to help you maintain recovery and live a life you could have only imagined at the beginning.

A life free from the grip of addiction and dependency.

To learn more about our relapse prevention treatment program, contact our friendly team today, who will gladly help.

We are here and ready to guide you on this transformative journey.

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