Author: Dr. Robert Heller
Relapse prevention for substance abuse is among the most challenging issues facing those in recovery. Clients often benefit by focusing both on the underlying causes that lead to the substance abuse as well as the current and possible future triggers that may re-activate it.
The cognitive behavioral approach for relapse prevention for substance abuse often starts with the client efforts to become aware of their thought. THOUGHTS, trigger additional thoughts or repeated thoughts that give rise to FEELINGS or desires/urges that then lead to negative BEHAVIORS and then lapses or relapses.
Your first step in to RECOGNIZE what you are thinking at the earliest stage of this chain of events.
Early recognition of thoughts associated with using alcohol or drugs gives you more time stop and think differently before you act.
Awareness leads to CONTROL and the chance to make different choices.
A useful mantra to live by is, “Never let a negative thought go unchallenged”.
Your second step is to examine and challenge/dispute what you are telling yourself. Think about the consequences of your actions. Consider other ways of dealing with the underlying issue that gives rise to the urge to use. Develop and use alternative coping responses such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation and guided imagery.
Replace your negative thoughts with positive, helpful and rational ones. Do this BEFORE you actually find yourself in difficult situations.
Consider how you would like to think, feel and respond when negative thoughts and/ or urges arise. Review this desired response in detail.
Then FREQUENTLY and STRONGLY tell yourself these healthier ideas. Write them down, record them on your phone and repeatedly listen to them. Say them out loud.
Your goal is for the newer, healthier thoughts to become a strong and automatic reaction to old triggers associated with using.
Next, create a clear image or picture of yourself, having a thought or urge and then successfully overcoming it through the steps you have been practicing.
Practice the cognitive behavioral approach to relapse prevention for substance abuse and you can remain free of your addictions for a very long time.