Relapse Prevention Program and Counselling in Toronto

CCFA provides specialized relapse prevention therapy. Contact us to learn more about our structured relapse prevention program designed for recovering addicts.

Relapse Prevention Program and Counselling in Toronto

The possibility of relapse is a reality recovering addicts have to face on their journey to sobriety. Addiction is a chronic disease, and relapse is often a part of the recovery process for most people. Studies show that over 40% to 60% of people with substance use disorder relapse after treatment. Having a relapse does not mean you’re not trying hard enough or that your treatment has failed. Rather, it means you need to take extra precautions to prevent it from happening again.

No one plans to return to using a substance they’ve decided to quit. However, the will to remain abstinent is often insufficient to prevent a person from relapsing. So, it is necessary to include a relapse prevention strategy in your rehab program. Learn about CCFA’s relapse prevention program and counselling for recovering addicts in Toronto.

What is Relapse Prevention?

Relapse prevention is any structured plan that aims to prevent or limit relapses by helping recovering addicts anticipate and recognize circumstances that are likely to trigger a relapse. Any strategy devised to cope with these high-risk situations is known as a relapse prevention plan.

As part of a relapse prevention plan, the recovering addict learns that certain emotions, feelings, and circumstances will provoke cravings for the addiction they’re trying to overcome. They also learn to be alert for these warning signs and have an action plan for dealing with them.

What is the Purpose of Relapse Prevention?

The purpose of relapse prevention therapy is to help prevent or limit the effects of relapse by equipping recovering addicts to identify and overcome situations that make them vulnerable. Relapse prevention also helps recovering addicts view relapse from a healthy perspective. People who suffer relapse may view themselves as failures and grow doubtful of their ability to recover. This type of thinking is counterproductive and can even cause the individual to return to old habits. However, relapse prevention teaches them to interpret slip-ups as opportunities to improve their coping skills. It also helps to minimize any harm that can arise from relapse and get the individual back on the recovery path as quickly as possible.

Why It’s Essential That You Seek “Experienced Help” for Relapse Prevention

You need experienced help for relapse prevention because the determination to maintain abstinence from substance use is often inadequate. Without a structured relapse prevention program, it’s usually a matter of time before you encounter triggers and give in to your cravings. In a professional relapse prevention plan, you will work with a specialist to assess scenarios that might make you vulnerable to substance abuse and design clear strategies to avoid or work around these scenarios.

Some people may consider a relapse prevention plan unnecessary or even an example of negative thinking. However, this is not the case, as having a plan shows you are aware of the risks of want to be prepared to handle them. A relapse prevention plan could also be life-saving as it typically involves a person who can call for medical help if needed.

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If you or a loved one is recovering from an addiction, the Canadian Centre for Addictions is here to help. We offer relapse prevention therapy that gives you or your loved one the best chance at remaining sober. Our centre with luxury amenities is in a serene location, away from the temptations and stresses of the city.

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What are the Stages of Relapse?

Contrary to popular thinking, relapse is not a quick, situational occurrence in which a recovering addict uses their substance of choice. Relapse is a slow process that can occur over a few hours to weeks. It happens in three stages, and awareness of these stages can help you prevent relapse before they occur. The three stages of relapse are emotional, mental, and physical.

Emotional Relapse

The first stage of relapse is emotional. At this point, the recovering addict is not thinking of using and is determined to maintain the sobriety they’ve achieved during rehab. However, the issues that led to their substance abuse in the first place are still present, and these could be setting them up for the next stages of relapse. The individual is emotionally vulnerable at this point, and they may exhibit warning signs such as:

  • Withdrawing from friends and loved ones
  • Bottling up emotions
  • Skipping support groups or recovery meetings
  • Neglecting their health
  • Seeking unhealthy outlets for dealing with their emotions
  • Mood swings
  • Not taking time out to relax or have some sober fun.

It’s crucial to recognize this stage of relapse to prevent progression to the next. Denial and the fear of judgment are prominent features of emotional relapse. Many people do not share how they’re feeling at this stage, and keeping it all in will leave you exhausted and wanting to escape. Being able to self-reflect and answer the following questions can help you avoid getting stuck in the emotional stage of relapse:

  • Am I being good to myself?
  • Am I having fun?
  • How am I addressing my emotions, feelings and thoughts?
  • Are there similarities between my self-care routine now and when I was an active user?
  • How do I feel about attending support group meetings?
  • What can I add to my recovery program to keep me physically and emotionally safe?

Mental Relapse

If you ignore the signs of emotional relapse, it’s only a matter of time before you transition to the next stage. Mental relapse is a stage of internal conflict where one part of you wants to remain sober while the other wants to use drugs or alcohol again. You may start to fantasize or find justifications for using again.

Individuals in the mental relapse stage will also start to bargain; this means they will begin to imagine scenarios where drug or alcohol use may be acceptable. They may permit themselves to use on holidays or special occasions. They may also consider relapsing periodically, like using once a month or twice a year. Bargaining may also involve switching an addiction to another.

As an individual spends more time in the mental stage, their resistance will weaken while the need to escape becomes stronger. The signs of the mental relapse stage include:

  • Fantasizing about substance use
  • Cravings or psychological urges to use the substance
  • Thinking about places, people, or situations associated with previous use
  • Hanging out with old friends that still use the substance of choice
  • Plotting ways to control use better
  • Lying about their activities or whereabouts
  • Glamorizing past use
  • Underplaying the consequences of past use
  • Planning for relapse

Some strategies for getting through the mental relapse stage include:

  • Count the Cost
  • Consider the cost of giving in to your urges and whether it’s worth it. The answer is that it is not. If you allow your cravings to get the better of you, chances are you may not be able to stop, and you’ll be trapped in the cycle of addiction you’ve been working hard to escape.

  • Focus on the Present
  • Avoid worrying about whether you can go without using ever again. Your focus should be on getting each day, one at a time.

  • Speak to Someone
  • Speaking to someone you trust about how you feel has a calming effect. You will notice that your cravings become less overwhelming the more you express yourself.

  • Find Ways to Relax
  • Stress and tension make you irritable, angry, and more likely to seek an escape. You are more rational and likely to make decisions that do not involve substance use when relaxed. Meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness are some relaxation techniques that can help you overcome your cravings.

  • Wait Out the Urges
  • Urge surfing is a mental technique that involves watching your urges without engaging in them. Most urges last 10 to 30 minutes, and while this may seem long, they will dissipate if you find a way to keep yourself busy or distracted.

Physical Relapse

Physical relapse is the stage where your defences crumble, and you use the substance. You will inevitably get to this point if you don’t address the issues of the emotional and mental stages. A single use of the substance (a slip or lapse) does not necessarily mean you’ve suffered a relapse. However, you must quickly seek help to avoid entering a new phase of active addiction.

People in the emotional or mental stage of relapse can avoid physical relapse using the following strategies.

  • Call someone
  • Having someone around when you feel your cravings overpowering you can help prevent a scenario where you eventually use drugs or alcohol.

  • Change Your Environment
  • Going away to a place that does not remind you of your addiction for a few days or weeks might get you out of your mental or emotional relapse phase. Ensure someone knows where you are if you decide to move.

  • Consider Readmission into Rehab
  • You can call your rehab centre for readmission if you feel overpowered by your cravings. You don’t need to wait until you use before returning to a rehab facility or relapse prevention centre.

    Unfortunately, it’s still possible to suffer a physical relapse despite your best efforts. If this happens, there’s no need to beat yourself up or feel like a failure. Recovery is a journey, and there are usually bumps on the way. Understand that you’re dealing with an illness, and relapse is only a flare-up that you can and should deal with decisively.

Who is most Likely to Relapse?

Anyone in recovery is at risk of relapse, but some factors can increase relapse risk.

  • Stress
  • Coping with stress is one of the primary reasons people turn to substances and relapse when trying to get sober. Stressful situations trigger and intensify urges, especially if the drug was used as a previous coping mechanism. Finding healthier ways of relieving stress makes it easier to manage cravings when they come.

  • Co-occurring Mental Health Problems
  • Individuals with co-occurring mental health problems may return to drug use if the symptoms of the illness become too unpleasant. People with mental health problems may self-medicate with drugs, so addiction treatment should include health services for co-occurring disorders. It’s easier to manage urges when you don’t have to deal with the symptoms of other health issues.

  • Absence of Routine
  • You are more likely to relapse if you don’t have or deviate from an established routine. You’re less likely to have time to think about your cravings when you have a daily routine. Straying from your routine will push you towards drug use.

  • Exposure to Triggers
  • Individuals who are exposed to people, places, and circumstances connected to their addiction are more vulnerable and likely to relapse. It’s vital to have effective ways of handling these situations when they arise. So if a friend asks you to go out or there’s a celebration at work that involves your triggers, you should have a specific answer ready.

  • Unrealistic Expectations
  • Recovering addicts on the path to sobriety may expect so much when they quit and feel disappointed when things don’t go as planned. Having unrealistic expectations can lead to dissatisfaction which triggers relapse. Understand that recovery takes time, and you may even require more time to get your life to how it was before drugs.

What are the Benefits of Professional Relapse Prevention?

Professional relapse prevention equips participants with the skills to navigate the challenging periods on the road to recovery. Relapse prevention programs offer the following benefits:

Developing Awareness

Individuals who participate in relapse prevention programs develop the capacity to recognize high-risk situations that make them vulnerable. They become able to identify triggers early and initiate strategies to avoid or work around them.

Enhanced Coping Skills

Relapse prevention programs equip participants with the coping skills required to deal with situations that can trigger drug use.

Improved Confidence

Relapse prevention programs help participants to build confidence and self-esteem. They learn that their addiction does not define them and that recovery is possible. Participants also get to understand what relapse is and that relapsing does not imply failure.

Restructured Thinking

Relapse prevention programs help participants to modify the beliefs and thinking patterns that led to addiction in the first place. They understand why they started using drugs and learn new ways to ease stress and other factors fueling drug use.

What is the Process of Relapse Prevention?

Addiction counsellors create relapse prevention plans to meet the specific needs of recovering addicts. You can create your own relapse prevention plan by following this general process:

Understand Your Relationship with Drugs

Understanding your relationship with your drug of choice is the first step to creating an effective relapse prevention plan. You should know the periods you were more prone to using, triggers, and thought patterns that led to relapse.

Create a List of Warning Signs

What were the warning signs for your last relapse? You should think of how you felt and behaved when you relapsed. This list provides insight into your addiction and equips you to react better.

Establish Your Action Plan

Your action plan is a list of steps you’ll take when you face a difficult situation instead of turning to drugs. This plan should be as detailed and specific as possible. It will include information like who to call, what to do, or where to go when you notice your warning signs. The people on your list should know what you’re doing and be willing to help.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a relapse prevention plan?

A relapse prevention plan is any structured plan that aims to prevent or limit relapses by helping recovering addicts anticipate and recognize circumstances likely to trigger a relapse.

What are the four D’s in relapse prevention?

The four D’s in relapse prevention are:

  • Delay

Delay for a few minutes and the urges will pass.

  • De-stress

Lower your stress levels by taking deep breaths while focusing on the rise and fall of your breathing.

  • Distract 

Distract yourself from your urges by doing something to take your mind away from your cravings. Take a walk, read a book, flip the channels, or anything to forget about using for now.

  • De-catastrophize

Don’t get caught up in panic, thinking you cannot succeed or beat the urges. Challenge your thoughts to be positive. Repeat positive statements like “I’m fine, I’m getting better” to focus your mind in your desired direction.

What is the nine-step relapse prevention plan?

The nine-step relapse prevention plan is a model developed by Terry Gorski for relapse prevention. The nine steps are:

  • Self-regulation

Physical, psychological, and social stabilization

  • Integration

Completing a self-assessment

  • Understanding 

Educate yourself on warning signs and how you can prevent them

  • Self-knowledge

Identifying warning signs for when you’re likely to relapse

  • Coping Skills

Managing warning signs effectively

  • Change

Reviewing your recovery plan

  • Awareness

Acknowledging when things go wrong

  • Support

Involving others to help you on your recovery journey

  • Maintenance

A comprehensive follow-up plan

What are the three P’s of recovery?

The three P’s of recovery are

  • Purpose

Know why you’re in recovery

  • Practice 

Practice makes perfect. Recovery is a long journey; you must practice your new thought patterns and coping skills until you master them.

  • Perseverance

Recovery is only successful when you’re persistent. Take what you have learned in rehab into account and continue to implement this knowledge in the future.

What is the best way to prevent relapse?

The best way to prevent relapse is by getting into a professional relapse prevention program. Such a program equips you with the skills to recognize and overcome situations that put you at risk.

What are the top three factors that contribute to relapse?

The top three factors that contribute to relapse are stress, exposure to triggers, and untreated co-occurring health disorders. 

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