Addiction to a substance or behavior is complex affecting the addictive person and everyone around them. We help every individual at their unique state of development, motivation, and readiness for treatment and recovery
COPING WITH STRESS TO AVOID RELAPSE
Dealing with stress while in recovery is often a major reason for relapse. Stress results when one becomes overwhelmed by external circumstances and feels powerless to manage them. This creates a sense of entrapment. The old way of handling such feelings would be to drink or use chemicals to get high in order to escape the stress.
In recovery-focused therapy, the client will learn to develop non-chemical coping skills to anticipate and manage stress cues that may trigger the compulsion to use drugs or drink. Emotional and physical “traps,” which can lead to relapse, include allowing oneself to get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, known as “HALT,” or to get lost in feeling victimized. Recognizing these traps, avoiding them, or getting out of them through positive action is the focus of an intervention.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) is a reaction caused by damage to the central nervous system resulting from the abuse of alcohol or drugs. Getting through it can depend on how much stress is going on in the recovering person’s life—as well as his or her ability to cope. When the symptoms of PAWS set in, a person may be enormously vulnerable to relapse. Craving for drugs and alcohol increases. The individual is unable to concentrate or think clearly, may experience heightened emotional “shut-down,” an overreaction to situations, or extreme mood swings. He or she may become fearful for no reason, have difficulty sleeping, or experience “weird” dreams, dizziness, imbalance, slow reflexes, and aches and pains.
Coping with Acute Stress
← Talk to someone. Go to a therapist, 12-step sponsor or members of a recovery support group. Let them know what you’re going through and how you’re feeling (symptoms). Sometimes just talking will provide a more realistic view of what is going on.
← Journal. Keep a journal about what is happening and how you’re feeling day by day. How does it compare (similarities/differences) to other episodes? Write about what changes you could make in how you’re dealing with the symptoms. This is your own personal reference guide for dealing with future symptoms. Keeping track of your feelings and behaviors allows you to see your progress, as well as to gain insight and come up with better coping strategies.
← Learn how to manage stress in healthy ways. When life seems particularly stressful, it’s time for extra self-care. Get adequate rest, eat properly, and get some exercise to burn off tension. The important thing is learning to cope effectively and not resort to “using” as a way to escape your feelings of stress and pressure.
← Practice relaxation skills. When under a PAWS attack, do things that are nurturing such as listening to soothing music, talk with friends, hug your pet, go for a walk or run. All can produce stress-reducing hormones.
← Work on spiritual aspects of recovery. Learn about and practice the spiritual principles of your 12-step program. If you’re not working the steps, review them, what they are, and how they can work for you. Faith is a potent source of comfort in times of duress. Whatever your faith, apply its doctrines and meaning to your life. This can help you persevere in tough times and give you strength to stay committed to living alcohol- or drug-free.
← Vow to hang in there. Encourage yourself to stay in recovery, and face life one day at a time. Don’t compare yourself with others. You probably have lost time in other parts of your life, but just stay focused on doing your best for today. Look at how far you’ve come in your recovery and continue to stay clean and sober one day at a time.
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