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January is often a time for new beginnings, resolutions, starting over. As you make your own resolutions, it’s important to keep on with the good things you have going. Maintaining recovery is an ongoing process for the rest of your life and needs to be maintained one day at a time. You don’t go into this alone, but have people and tools to help you live a healthy life.  

There is a common misconception that relapse prevention skills should only be used when someone is having a desire to use. However, relapse prevention skills should be implemented into each recovering person’s daily schedule and routine to prevent or reduce the risk of cravings. 

(Continued from last month’s entry…read tips 1-5 here

  1. Grounding Techniques

Stress and anxiety are often the biggest obstacles when it comes to recovery. A helpful relapse prevention technique is a grounding technique called the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique. It takes you through the five senses to focus on the moment and avoid thoughts of using alcohol or other drugs, anxiety, negative self-talk, and any other unhealthy thought or feeling that may lead someone to want to use to escape. 

The 5 steps begin by taking a few deep breaths, followed by the following:

5: Acknowledge five things you see around you

4: Acknowledge four things you can touch around you

3: Acknowledge three things you can hear around you

2: Acknowledge two things you can smell around you

1: Acknowledge one thing you can taste around you 

End this exercise with a long, deep breath. Focusing on your senses will help you gain self-awareness and increase mindfulness, which will help you accomplish daily tasks, overcome unhealthy thoughts or feelings, feel more in-control and less overwhelmed, and reduce the risk of relapse. 

  1. Deep Breathing

Like various forms of meditation, mindful breathing can help draw your attention into focus and regulate your emotions. Deep breathing releases neurotransmitters in your brain, many of which trigger feel-good chemicals resulting in relaxation, happiness, and pain reduction. Deep breathing, and the resulting increased oxygen flow, also encourages your body to exhale toxins. A useful deep breathing technique is the 4 x 4. Take four deep breaths in through your nose and hold, then release for four seconds. Deep breathing is a very portable technique, requiring no equipment or devoted space, just momentary focus. 

  1. Create An Emergency Contact List

Especially as you begin recovery, it can be difficult to manage on your own. The good news is you don’t have to. A helpful relapse tool you can help create for yourself is to make a list of healthy family members or friends who are also in recovery that you can call for support. As you start out in recovery, a seasoned member of your support group might be a good resource for helping put together this list. Having a safe person to talk to can help you get past the craving and remember why you do not want to return to previous behaviors. Keeping that list on you at all times is important because it is a readily available resource you can use by quickly calling someone safe. 

  1. Play The Tape Through

If you find yourself having a desire to drink or get high and you are debating what to do, a great tool is playing the tape through first. To play the tape through, you must play out what will happen in your mind until the very end. Imagine what will happen in the short and long-term future if you decide to drink or use. Think of the consequences that would occur if you used vs. if you did not use. This can help with your decision making and reduce the risk of relapse. 

  1. Get Help

The fear of relapse can be debilitating. However, it does not have to be when you are fully prepared with a toolbox of healthy coping strategies. Implementing these relapse prevention techniques into your daily schedule can greatly help reduce the risk of relapse. Contact a dedicated treatment provider, such as Solutions in Living to learn more about inpatient or outpatient treatment programs to learn more relapse prevention skills and get help today. 

Specializing in Addiction Services in Northern Kentucky, Solutions in Living, located in Erlanger, KY, provides the support you need to gain and maintain wellness. 

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