Relapse is a breakdown or failure in an attempt to maintain change in behaviors. Relapse prevention training combines learning to change behavior and thinking. It is an approach that emphasizes self-management and rejects labels like alcoholic or drug addict. Relapse prevention training assists you to increase your resilience to stress and increase your capacity to solve problems without drugs and alcohol.
Effective relapse prevention strategies include coping skills training, cognitive or thinking therapy (changing how you think), and lifestyle changes.
- Coping skills training includes: communication skills, anger management, relaxation techniques, and stress management (Parks, & Marlatt, 2000).
- Cognitive therapy helps you change negative thinking, reframe the way you think about your habits, manage the stress of changes (even positive ones), and treat errors and setbacks as learning experiences.
- Lifestyle changes will reduce the risk of relapse and strengthen your overall coping capacity. This means including in your life: meditation, exercise, relaxation, healthy diet, regular sleep, scheduled activities, positive work, and an improved support network (Parks, & Marlatt, 2000).
Relapse is a process that starts with a lapse. A lapse is a single use or one event of using. A lapse can be a learning experience and if managed can increase your strength and capacity to prevent another lapse and prevent progression to relapse or a state of regular using.
A lapse signals you to:
- Use damage control to reduce negative consequences of the lapse.
- Stay engaged in your recovery.
- Continue to take actions that help you make progress toward your life goals.
- Renew your focus on your new, more balanced lifestyle.
- Review the situations, emotional states, and events that preceded the lapse and make changes in your life based on what you find in your review of the lapse.
- Take actions to prevent further use (Parks, & Marlatt, 2000).
In most relapse episodes, the first lapse occurs in a high-risk situation that individuals report they were not expecting and were poorly prepared for. They found themselves in rapidly escalating circumstances they could not deal with effectively. The lapse or subsequent relapse appears to be the last link in a chain of events that led to exposure to the high-risk situation itself. It seems as if individuals set themselves up for relapse, because they did not or could not see the early warning signs (Parks, & Marlatt, 2000).