Is relapse prevention a possibility during the recovery process?

Relapses are a common event in the recovery process. However, relapse is not inescapable. Some of the common predictors of relapse revolve around the individual’s demographic and life history factors, use of drugs and alcohol as it relates to overall daily functioning, and life perceptions and coping mechanisms. With certain lifestyle changes and learning and practicing individualized relapse prevention techniques, there is an increase in sustaining the choice of sustained recovery.

Researchers estimate that more than 2/3 of those in recovery will relapse within weeks to months of beginning addiction treatment. Recent drug relapse statistics reflect that more than 85% of individuals will relapse and return to drug use within the year following treatment (Sinha, R., 2011).

Recovery from addiction is more than not drinking or using drugs, it requires people to change their lifestyles to avoid behaviors, people, places, and things that can trigger a relapse.

Ultimately everything comes down to making choices in small ways and big ways. Deciding to see life as a gift and changes in lifestyle will require support and work. You can begin a plan for relapse prevention while still in treatment either inpatient or outpatient. Not all of the relapse prevention techniques work for everyone.

If you want recovery to work for you, then you must ask yourself some basic questions to develop an individualized relapse prevention care plan.

  1. What things do you see triggering a desire to use drugs or alcohol and why?
  2.  What can you do to help prevent relapse from happening?
  3. What have you tried in the past that worked? Explain
  4. What have you tried that did not work? Explain
  5. What does recovery mean to you?

It is important to be aware of triggers that can occur and are related to certain people, places, emotions, and trauma. Life can be complex and when life’s problems arise they are not so intimidating when you have a clear mind. The daily grind of the autopilot and unconsciousness is full speed with many distractions resulting in cycling back into old habits. This occurs when neural activations are outside of our conscious awareness and activates somatic input into the focus of our attention and changes what we can do with this information: Consciousness permits both choice and change (Siegel, D. J., 2007).

Becoming Mindful

Mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness. Mindfulness is developed by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moment’s thought to. It is a systematic approach to develop a new kind of control in our lives based on increasing our capacity and skills for relaxation, paying attention, awareness, and insight (Kabat-Zinn, 2005).

Theories and research presented on the science of mindfulness reflect the convergence of psychology, science, and spirituality. Relationship to brain integration, heart/brain coherence, interpersonal resonance, and psychological processing is linked to skills of intuitive knowing within an expanded awareness, an interconnected field of energy and informational flow between therapist and client. Applications to a nonlinear, moment-to-moment integrative and transformative psychotherapy come together when the patient can experience this essence.

Dr. Daniel Siegel stated,

“Mindfulness is a very important, empowering, and personal internal experience, a necessity blend of personal ways of knowing along with external visions from the nature of the mind.”

Mindfulness is realized when illuminating the nature of the mind itself as you help your patient consider a form of interpersonal attunement and resonance. When you become introduced to mindfulness, you allow self-actualization and transcendence to occur, unencumbered by trauma and the triggers to substance disorders.

Mindful awareness involves being cognizant of all aspects of the mind itself. By reflecting on the mind, we are enabled to make choices and thus change becomes possible (Siegel, 2007).

Mindfulness also involves attuning our attention to our intention. Thoughts connect to emotion which forms intention (making sense), and feelings (thoughts integrated with emotion) expressed from the inner heart. The mind emerges from brain activity that is directly impacted by interpersonal experiences. The mind is created when neurophysiological processes and interpersonal experiences interact in the brain, i.e., induced memory.

Traumatic event memories and substance abuse have a way of clouding a sense of meaning and purpose in your life.

Once you can accept a sense of peace and trust, you can be present in the here and now. The here and now is a difficult place for all of us to be. We are typically thinking about what was or what we think will be. You can experience the here and now, even if just for a brief time.

Using a simple 5-minute meditation of sitting silently and listening to your breath can begin to offer relaxation and the opportunity to release stress. There is a simplicity when noticing our breath being present with the inhaling and exhaling to bring an individual into the moment.

According to 2013 research study, out of the University of Pittsburg and Carnegie Mellon University, mindfulness practices can shrink the brains jumpy “fight or flight” center in the amygdala. People who meditate on a consistence basis have different patterns of brain electricity, potentially leading to more efficient attention-paying and learning. Therein coincides with “change your thoughts, and change your brain.” This practice can become a solid technique for relapse prevention. Once you learn how to be centered in presence and mindfulness, it changes the old thought processes and behavior which once lead the individual to a cycle of substance abuse.

Mindfulness is an exercise of the here and now and gives us an opportunity to re-center and be present to observe the quality of pure consciousness and the gentle voice of the harmony of truth.

Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention in full recovery is all about finding balance in life from a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual perspective. When you can connect to a place of mindfulness and heartfulness they receive a glimpse of the authentic self. When you find your authentic self you find “love.”

The true sense of self is easily forgotten in a world of demands and distraction for attention. Relapse happens when you choose to attempt to numb the senses and hide from self and others in fear. A substance use disorder can impact the way you perceive yourself. Therefore, the authentic self-becomes lost in a sea of emotions, on the rollercoaster ride of substance abuse and the consequences of withdrawal.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said,

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”

Relapse prevention happens within as you learn how to be mindful of what has meaning and purpose in your life. When the veil of confusion is removed, it reveals that treasure is where your heart is, this is heartfulness, the key to recovery – recovering life.

Watch the video below to learn more about mindfulness in the recovery process.

Hotzel, B.K., Camody, J. Evans, K.C., Hoge, E.A., Dusek, J.A., Morgan, L., Pitman R. K., Lazar, S. W. (2010). Stress reduction correlates with structural changes in the amygdala. Social Cognitive Affect Neuroscience, 2010, Mar 5(1): 11-7.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2005). Guide mindfulness meditation: A complete guided mindfulness meditation from Jon Kabat-Zinn. San Francisco, CA: Hachette Books.
McFeature, B. & Herron-McFeature, C. (2017). Integrated health – HeartPath practitioner assessment and intervention for the trauma-exposed patient. Welbourne, FL: Motivational Press, Inc.
Siegel, D. J. (1999). The developing mind. How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are. New York: Guilford Press.
Sinha, R. (2011). New findings on biological factors predicting addiction relapse vulnerability. Current Psychiatry Reports, 13(5), 398–405.