Tag Archive: Relapse Prevention

  1. Teaching Relapse Prevention Skills to Teens

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    A person with addiction can return to substance abuse any time following a period of being clean. Doctors refer to it officially as ‘relapse.’ Drug addiction relapse happens in approximately 40-60% of cases. It may pop up when least expected yet it is something which can affect a person for the lifespan. The first few months and years of recovery are the most critical which is why teaching relapse prevention skills is important.

    Stages of Relapse

    Teens who battle addiction often experience unpredictability in many areas of life and relapse can throw yet another wrench into plans. The three areas that may trigger relapse include:


    Social and emotional challenges of recovery affect many people and are exacerbated in adolescence. Counseling is typically encouraged to assist teens in harnessing the power of emotions. Depression, odd behavior and mood swings may indicate a teen needs help, even if it’s just in the form of conversation.


    Stress and anxiety are two big factors in substance abuse for teens. Overwhelming feelings occur but for a teen addicted to drugs or alcohol, it may seem like a logical solution to the difficult emotions surfacing. Intuition matters in this situation. If it feels like it may be happening, it may be true so pay attention and offer help.


    The body responds mentally and emotionally to the stages of relapse. Malnutrition, trouble sleeping and other physical symptoms are all signs a teen is struggling. A physical decline may be a sign relapse is not far behind or may have already happened. It is merely a matter of time until the teen’s mind wanders off to find drugs or alcohol to help resolve the problem.

    Know the Triggers

    Relapse triggers are events or situations which can be risky for recovery. This varies but coping skills and behaviors are helpful in supporting teens who struggle with potentially disastrous scenarios in recovery. Triggers may include a friend, another person, place, old relationship, situation or hard feelings which arise. Other situations may include:

    • Frustration
    • Boredom
    • Exhaustion
    • Impatience
    • Pressure
    • Self-pity
    • Cockiness
    • Argumentative nature

    Common ways to cope include exercise, creative ventures, learning, social interaction, meditation, going outside, mindfulness and other ways to be healthy.

    Teens need a lot of support in recovery. It is not just about finding ways of coping but having people in relationship close to the teen who notice when things are happening and can offer help and kind words. It helps to find a facility that provides support when it seems nothing else is working. A good facility will have trained professionals who are able to help the teen cope and get back on track to a healthy recovery.


    Sustain Recovery provides a safe, comfortable space to dive into the deeper reasons for relapse and addiction. If your teen is struggling, there is hope. Reach out to Sustain to find out how we can help your teen get back on the path to a healthier recovery with individualized plans, goal setting and more to support their journey.

  2. Marijuana Aftercare and Relapse Prevention

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    The current state of marijuana use and abuse can present a barrel of contradictions for adults and teens alike. Medical and recreational use of marijuana is increasing, yet the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency continues to treat marijuana as a prohibited substance. Regardless of the medical or other benefits that are highlighted by marijuana proponents, marijuana can be addictive, and excessive use of marijuana can impair a young person’s physical and emotional health. Teens who have become addicted to marijuana will have a difficult time breaking patterns of marijuana use. Keeping a teen away from marijuana requires an active aftercare and relapse prevention program.

    “Determining Root Cause”
    A useful first step in an aftercare addiction recovery program is to determine the root causes for the addict’s use of drugs or alcohol. Addicts might turn to various substances in an attempt to treat other conditions, like depression or anxiety. Many younger addicts use marijuana to alleviate stress in school or as a lever to help them fit in with preferred social cliques. Sometimes, marijuana use begins primarily because the substance is so easy to obtain, and a teen is bored and has little else to do. Solving, or at least understanding the underlying problem can go a long way toward preventing a relapse. Treating the underlying problem often removes the primary general catalyst that fostered a person’s marijuana addiction.

    Likewise, a teen may associate marijuana use directly with specific triggers, including specific friends or places where he and his friends would go to use marijuana. A teen who is committed to breaking a marijuana habit can work with a counselor to identify triggers and to develop responses and methodologies to handle them when they tempt him back toward marijuana use.

    “Customized Recovery”
    A good marijuana aftercare and relapse prevention program will combine different methodologies in a treatment plan that is personalized and customized to give each individual addict the best opportunity to succeed. That program might include intervention counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy in individual and group settings. These methodologies teach coping skills and help a marijuana addict to develop specific positive responses to help handle temptations to go back to using marijuana. The program might also include motivational therapy that gives a recovering marijuana addict specific positive rewards for meeting and adhering to certain goals. Family therapy can also be productive to teach a teen’s parents and siblings how to help a recovering marijuana addict stay away from the drug. These family programs require all other members of a recovering marijuana addict’s family to stop using marijuana.

    “Perception of Marijuana”
    Recovering from any addiction with no relapses will require a long-term commitment with regular monitoring and review of an addict’s attitudes about his own use of and perceptions about marijuana. Even if marijuana gains the same level of societal acceptance as alcohol, marijuana addicts will need to permanently refrain from marijuana use. Marijuana addiction, like alcoholism, can create serious chronic physical and psychological problems while simultaneously impairing a person’s ability to maintain employment and social and family relationships. Like alcohol, marijuana is a mind-altering substance that can alter an adolescent’s brain chemistry and psychological health. It may have legitimate medical uses when utilized under a physician’s care, but it is also easily abused in ways that can lead to addiction.

    Sustain Recovery Services in southern California structures individualized marijuana aftercare and relapse prevention programs for adolescents and young adults to. Please see our website or call us at 949-407-9052 for more information about our marijuana addiction aftercare services or to arrange a confidential consultation with one of our counselors.

  3. Relapse Prevention for Teens in Recovery

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    Teens who are struggling to overcome substance abuse problems often have a much more difficult road ahead of them than adults who are fighting drug addiction and alcoholism. The combination of a teen’s still-developing brain that leads to poor impulse control, his limited perspective and life experiences, and his social networks and peer pressure often create the perfect storm to undermine every rehab effort and to push him toward one or more relapses Awareness of the problem is a good first step toward preventing relapses for teens who are recovering from drug addiction or alcoholism. Other specific steps can further reduce that risk.

    “Teen’s Relapse Triggers”
    Relapses are frequently a function of triggers that entice a recovering substance abuser back to drug or alcohol use. A teen’s relapse triggers might include exposure to drug or alcohol use among his peers, visiting physical locations where he previously used different substances, as well as more common teen emotional traits such as mood swings, stress responses, boredom, and self-pity. Parents and counselors who are working to keep a recovering teen away from a relapse should try to identify as many potential triggers as they can and then help him structure his schedule and daily routines to prevent any encounters with those triggers.

    “Identifying Triggers”
    Identifying triggers can help keep a teen away from them, but avoiding all relapse triggers at all times will not be possible. Teens also need tools and techniques to help them fend off the pressure they feel when they are faced with a relapse trigger. Those tools and techniques can include a heightened sense of awareness or “mindfulness” of the relapse risks, or connecting the teen with one or more recovery sponsors whom the teen can contact any time of day or night for support in staying away from drugs. Like adults who are struggling to overcome addiction, teens can also avoid relapse temptations by staying busy with exercise, creative endeavors like art and writing, and connecting with nature. Teens who find themselves bored or who begin to feel too good about their recoveries may find that relapse temptations are increasing. Learning to avoid relapse triggers and developing techniques to confront them are not one-time events, but both need to be ongoing processes that a recovering teen practices and relearns throughout his recovery.

    “Unnecessary Relapse”
    Teens and adults alike further should understand that contrary to some popular culture opinions, relapses do not need to be a normal or necessary part of addiction recovery. The incidents of relapses among recovering teen addict and alcoholics may be high, but relapse is not inevitable. A teen who expects to relapse will have a harder time dealing with relapse triggers than one who approaches recovery as a continuing activity with no inevitable milestones or backward steps.
    A teen who does relapse should not conclude that his recovery is a failure. Rather, he can immediately reconnect with a sponsor and support group to get his recovery back on track and to continue his recovery and rehab process. His sponsors and counselors can help him examine what caused the relapse and his recovery can be restructured to help him avoid a relapse in a similar situation. Sometimes, this can be as simple as simple as eating well and getting enough sleep so that the teen has a better general sense of how much better he acts and feels when he is sober. He may be experiencing symptoms of other psychosocial problems, including mild depression or anxiety that need to be treated separately. When a relapse is viewed from this perspective and caregivers provide the right response, a teen can come away from a relapse stronger and with even greater resolve to stay with his recovery.

    Sustain Recovery Services in southern California helps adolescents and young adults to stay on track with the rehab and recovery programs and to avoid relapses that drive them back to substance abuse. Please see our website or call us at 949-407-9052 for more information about our services or to arrange a confidential consultation with one of our counselors.

  4. Avoiding Relapse

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    avoiding relapseEveryone knows that rehab is a long, hard road, but maintaining sobriety in the long-term can be just as difficult of a process—especially since it’s entirely up to the recovering person to manage. For adolescents, it’s even harder. Any parent who wants the best odds of success for their child should make sure that he or she regularly attends community support groups—like 12 step programs—as well as maintain a network of support within your home and in the child’s social life.  Support and attention is everything.


    Avoiding Temptation

    A common refrain among the casual public is that temptation is unavoidable, so the addict must learn to resist. Avoiding temptation is entirely practical; teens and young adults don’t need to be in those situations anyway. Families should do whatever they can to make sure their loved one doesn’t relapse, even if it means teaching them to avoid certain friends, even if they’re good people. It’s not hard to determine if a situation or scenario is high risk for temptation so create a sensible plan for checking in and making plans together.


    Maintaining a Support System

    This is what should replace the tempting elements from the adolescent’s previous, pre-rehab life. It can be more difficult than it sounds, because it’s not always bad people that encourage bad behavior. Sometimes, unfortunately, the relationships that comfort us most happen to be counterproductive. Maybe those friends or family members are drug users themselves; maybe something about their personality triggers cravings; or maybe the memories the teen associates with that person steer their mind toward a bad place. Comfort and support are not mutually exclusive, but they can be totally separate. Recognizing that divide is an important part of any program of recovery.


    Don’t Get Cocky

    When life on the outside seems to be progressing, and the responsibilities become more and more time-consuming, teens may begin to slack on group meetings or therapy. It feels like a step forward, moving on with life, but addiction doesn’t just fizzle out completely; it sits and waits to be sparked up again. Life is unpredictable. More than half of heroin, alcohol, cocaine, meth, and marijuana addicts relapse after treatment. Having a sobriety system doesn’t mean your life is a mess; it’s a fail-safe to maintain clean living. Active participation in aftercare should continue for several years before returning to activities and environments that could be considered trigger-worthy.


    Don’t Abandoning Ship

    If you’ve ever spent hours writing an essay or assignment of some kind, only to have your computer crash and all progress lost–you know the urge to say “Screw it” and walk away from the assignment altogether. How could you possibly start over? The same goes for recovering addicts. Once they relapse, they have to two choices: either accept the incident as a slip, a setback, and simply push forward; or continue using and enter full-fledged relapse. The best way to handle a relapse is to figure out what triggered your cravings and make a note to avoid that situation in the future.  But don’t give up on your sobriety altogether.


    To someone who has never experienced drug addiction, the recovery process might seem open-and-shut: admit your problem, accept treatment, get better, and put it all behind you. The reality of addiction is that sobriety will always be a challenge, the urge to use lingers for years to come, and addicts must learn to identify, understand, and avoid the psychological triggers that lead to relapse.

  5. Alternative Coping Strategies for Recovering Teens

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    Alternative Coping Strategies for Recovering TeensThere are many different ways that people deal with the challenges of life. When life is going well, we feel on top of the world. When life throws us a curve ball, that’s when we find out our true coping skills. Some people have strong, solid coping mechanisms and can deal with problems in a healthy way, while others of us find that we do not have a solid coping foundation and turn to substances or other vice to deal with our problems.  If you’re out of rehab and looking for ways to cope with life’s turmoils and difficulties without turning to substance use, consider these options;


    Exercising To Feel Good

    The vast improvement that exercise can have on the mind and body are hard to grasp until you actually start doing it. It doesn’t take long, though. Endorphins released during physical activity cause a natural, healthy euphoria which encourages you to repeat the productive and beneficial act. Exercise also helps remove byproducts of the stress response. If you’re feeling agitated, anxious, or angry—some of the biggest cornerstones of addiction recovery—a quick run or bike ride can do wonders for peace-of-mind and clear thinking.


    Journaling To Express Yourself

    By putting your thoughts on paper, you’re not just expressing your feelings—you’re gaining insight on them. You have to talk to someone, even if it’s just yourself. The major advantage of journaling in recovery from addiction is that it provides a clear and motivating record showcasing your treatment progress and which actions, attitudes, or choices worked for you along the way. Not only does the act of writing often reduce the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and cravings, it can serve as a useful tool to look back on when you need insight or inspiration in the future.


    Talking It Out With Someone

    In addition to self-regulation and analysis, it’s important to have another listening ear. When stress and devastation make life seem unbearable, the act of communicating with another human being serves to help ground you in relationships and human interaction, which helps you to not feel so alone. Talking to a trusted friend takes some of the burden off yourself. It also makes way for multiple perspectives, both yours and theirs. If you’re attending AA or a similar program, you can even obtain a sponsor–a fellow addict with whom you can interweave your motivations and skill-building.


    There’s no better place to learn and utilize coping skills for recovery and sober living than right here, with us. Sustain Recovery offers a multitude of counseling and guidance services for building effective coping skills in and after treatment. For a consultation, call 949-637-5499.

  6. Sobriety Doesn’t Have To Be a Chore

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    Sobriety Doesn't Have To Be a ChoreObviously, many people fail at staying sober. It’s difficult. That doesn’t make it a chore, though. Chores are tasks which award no pleasure. Think about it: A lot of things in life are difficult—including some of the things we enjoy the most! You simply must embrace the difficulties as positives, not punishments.


    The Myths

    Those who relapse after a period of sobriety may blame their treatment instead of examining where, why, and how they lost control of themselves. Relapse statistics convey a dismal, discouraging message about their predicament. People tend to trust statistics. Problem is, they only reflect the numbers, not what causes them. It’s hard to do treatment right; it requires huge self-discipline and planning.

    Significant life changes—where to live, who to talk to, how to perceive yourself–are scary. Not everyone nails it the first, second, or third time, but once you do, your chances of success are much, much better. The morbid relapse statistics out there don’t demonstrate the difficulty of staying sober—only the need to approach things correctly. Yes, young recovering addicts have to stay on guard for the rest of their lives; and yes, incidents are bound to happen now and again. It’s not a daily battle, however; or at least it shouldn’t be, unless the adolescent exits rehabilitation early–something the staff rarely allow.


    The Coinciding Problems

    Young recovering addicts suffering from depression or other mental illness are naturally ambivalent toward their recovery. Since mental illness and addiction typically work together, you can expect these individuals to improve their outlook on recovery as they slowly move through it. Gradually, they need less and less outside help from the counselors to be motivated. Humans are influenced by those with whom they spend time.

    Rehab is often viewed negatively for its aim to change the thoughts and personalities of those who enter; truth is, the adolescent who entered rehab wasn’t necessarily the real him or her, but rather a person molded by the negative influences—usually a drug-abusing peer group. The point of rehab isn’t to change anyone into a new person; it’s about getting the old one—the happy one—back.

    Drugs and alcohol are not necessary for being creative or for having your own unique personality–not for anyone, period.


    The Cognitive Dissonance

    Often, as a way of justifying their drinking or drug use, an adolescent may develop a highly critical view of life in general and view the whole foundation of sobriety as a bunch of crap. This is extremely common in youth clinics; the patients are mentally drained and exhausted. This where behavioral therapies come into play. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for example, teaches addicts to stay sober not “just because,” but by highlighting all the real, logical reasons why they will be happier this way. Programs like these have been a staple of virtually all addiction treatment programs ever since they were invented.


    The only real chore is suffering from addiction; treatment is the real relief.

    To get you or your adolescent help ASAP, call Sustain: 949-637-5499

  7. Avoiding Relapse During Crisis

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    Avoiding Relapse During CrisisRecovery is a process of gaining the awareness, tools, mindfulness, and skills to maintain sobriety through any of life’s circumstances. Life is not always easy. That is why one of the mantras in recovery mentions learning to “live life on life’s terms.” One of the alcoholic’s and addict’s primary struggles is the marked inability to cope with living life itself. Life is full of difficulties, challenges, responsibility, and pain. On the other hand, life is full of beauty, love, purity, celebration, and joy.

    A relapse will typically occur as a result of two things. First, is neglecting to place recovery first. Minimizing meeting attendance, not participating in therapy, or refusing to attend group results in spiritual deprivation. Recovery is maintained by staying spiritually fit. All the components of a comprehensive recovery program are geared toward developing and sustaining a manner of spiritual living. Correlating to a lack of spiritual centeredness is the adverse response to stresses or crises. Without that spiritual foundation for living developed through recovery, young adult addicts find themselves lacking in resource to handle what comes their way.  They turn to the patterns of behavior and action which comes most naturally to them: get drunk and get high. Using and drinking as a solution to life’s problems is the most innate programming an adolescent in early recovery has. They’ve only just begun to learn how to react differently. When we drop the tools we’ve learned to pick up, it’s easy to forget how to access them. Right when we need them most, we find ourselves in a struggle of choices.

    Every difficult situation presents opportunities for growth, development, and change. In fact, the “serenity prayer” often used in recovery advocates for meeting stress with exactly this philosophy. We ask for the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference between the two. Most wise, of course, is choosing not to return to drugs and alcohol as a way of responding to crisis in life.


    Recovering adolescents suffering from addiction will learn to develop many other tools  for managing relapse prevention. Sustain Recovery Services in southern California provides extended care services to young adults and adolescents in recovery from drugs and alcohol. We offer a comprehensive and structured program as a foundation for building a life of long term sobriety. Please visit our website or call us at 949-407-9052 for more information.

  8. 12 Step Prevention Strategies for Avoiding Relapse

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    12 Step Prevention Strategies for Avoiding RelapseEven if a recovering drug addict or alcoholic has reservations about some aspects of 12-step recovery programs, the one aspect of those programs that can help him or her is its success in preventing relapses. Addicts and alcoholics can go through a painful physical detox and “get clean”, but they often find that staying clean is more difficult than the physical detox ravages that they might have suffered. 12-step programs instill tools and philosophies that a recovering addict or alcoholic can use when the psychological urge to use drugs or alcohol strikes, even years after a last use of those substances.

    12 Step Programs for Avoiding Relapse

    The strength of a 12-step program in preventing relapses is best understood in the context of the pressures that recovering addicts and alcoholics face after they have completed their initial recoveries. Initial recovery is necessarily focused on stopping drug and alcohol use and abuse.  An addict or alcoholic might start a counseling program during recovery, but a few days of counseling will rarely be adequate to address any unresolved psychological or life issues that catalyzed a person’s addiction. Because 12-step programs address an entire life arc that extends beyond initial recovery, they provide a platform to deal with those issues that continues well beyond the initial recovery.

    Addicts or alcoholics that do experience one or  more relapses can find themselves wracked by guilt or shame over their inability to stay clean and sober. 12-step programs are ideally structured to address these emotions. Steps four and five guide a recovering addict through the process of taking an emotional inventory, followed by a process in which an addict faces and goes past any negative emotions that might come to bear in a relapse or that might otherwise be holding him back.  Steps six through twelve help a recovering addict to establish a life plan in which he takes steps to resolve issues that he may have with himself and others, and sets a program with a non-judgmental support community to help him maintain his recovery over the long term.

    Support for Active Sobriety

    12-step programs also remind recovering addicts and alcoholics to do common-sense things that help prevent a relapse. For example, addicts and alcoholics who participate in these programs are reminded to avoid situations that can tempt them to use drugs or alcohol, they surround him with a strong support group, they help him to establish a healthy routine and schedule, and they keep him vigilant to the risks and threats to his sobriety that he might otherwise ignore if he fell into complacency. Lastly, if an addict or alcoholic does experience a relapse, rather than treating that a person as a failure, a 12-step program will welcome him back with instructions and suggestions to avoid further relapses.

    Every recovering addict’s and alcoholic’s journey to sobriety will be different, and 12-step programs may not be the best solution for every addict.

    If you have questions about whether a 12-step program is right for you or if you have concerns over a risk of relapses, please call Sustain Recovery Services at (949) 407-9052. We can provide a confidential consultation and direct you to a 12-step or some other program that will best help you to recover and to avoid relapses.

I first met Sayeh in November of 2013 just after my 15 year old daughter had been admitted to a residential treatment program. As part of the program I was required to attend 2-3 AlAnon meetings a week. Sayeh attended the same AlAnon meetings as well as Alumni events as I. It soon became apparent to me that Sayeh had a heart for recovery, program, and God. When I was encouraged to get a sponsor I didn’t hesitate. Dependable, respectful, kind and generous of spirit, she exudes an inner peace that I hope to achieve with her loving guidance, as I work my own program. She is patient, & full of wisdom that she is always happy to share with her sponsees and fellow parents. I am so grateful our journeys brought us together.

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