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Recovering from drug or alcohol addiction is a challenging process that in truth, lasts a lifetime. Getting clean is the first and most important step to achieving a healthy lifestyle, but there is no cure for addiction, and in order to stay healthy and sober, a recovering addict must constantly work to maintain the clean lifestyle that they have worked so hard in treatment to attain. Here are five steps to help avoid a relapse, which can quickly set a successfully recovering addict back to step one.

1. Have a Strong Support System Around You

One of the best ways to prevent a relapse is to be surrounded by the right people. Make sure you avoid people who are triggers for you. Old drinking and using partners should be avoided if they are still using. You should also avoid people whose behavior triggers you emotionally to want to use.

Instead of keeping the company of people who may drive you to use, make friends at the meeting you attend. Have a strong sponsor who can support you in times you may be tempted to use. Create a social environment for yourself that discourages using.

2. Know Your Triggers and Have a Plan to Deal With Them

There are many things that can trigger a person to use: depression, stress, boredom, anxiety. You will inevitably face all of these emotions in your day to day life, so have a plan for dealing with them without the use of drugs or alcohol. Exercise, meditation, reading, or speaking with a friend or sponsor are all great examples of coping mechanisms that are much safer and more effective than using.

3. Continue Seeing a Therapist or Counselor

Many addicts make the mistake of stopping treatment as soon as they have stopped using. Continued visits to a therapist can help you work to address the issues that led you to use in the first place. It will also allow you to be more emotionally aware, and more likely to recognize triggers as they present themselves.

4. Cultivate the Activities and Relationships You Are Passionate About

Focusing on doing something you love makes you much less likely to use. You are much more likely to stay clean if you have an activity or people you want to stay clean for. Try finding a sport or creative endeavor you may have been pursuing before you started using.

5. Join a Twelve Step Program

If you haven’t already, join a twelve step program. Most programs have meetings in almost every major city in the world, and offer a very effective support system you can count on any time you are at risk for relapse. Twelve step programs are also a great way to meet other sober people and offer a framework for recovery that has helped millions of people stay sober for their entire lives.

Do not be discouraged by the difficulty of avoiding a relapse. Challenges are part of the recovery process that all addicts must deal with.

Author: Ken Seeley is a board certified addiction specialist and interventionist, learn more about him and his fellow interventionists at Intervention 911.
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