How to Prevent Opiate Addiction Relapse


By Anne Watkins

If you’re recovering from an addiction to opiates, you probably already know how challenging the recovery process can be. An opiate habit is among the most serious and life-threatening addictions there is, and quitting is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do.

Withdrawal is long and painful, and even opiate replacement therapy is not a complete solution. That’s why so many addicts end up going through opiate detox several times before they get it right. The addiction stays with you, and making it through moments of weakness and temptation can be a real challenge.

Relapses do happen, but they don’t always have to. By taking the right steps and having the right attitude, you can help ensure the long-term success of your recovery.

Leave the past behind. Now is the time to break the ties with unhealthy people, places or things from your past. Are there people from your past life who, unlike you, refuse to seek treatment for drug abuse or addiction? If so, it’s time to go your separate ways — but, if they’re good friends, let them know that you’ll be there for them when they’re ready to start their own recovery.

Also, set aside any aspects of your life that remind you of your past or that put you into drug-related states of mind. If there is some lingering part of you that still likes your old addicted way of life, put it to rest.

Seek people who can be positive influences. As you break off unhealthy relationships, try to cultivate new ties with people who can have positive effects on you. Support groups can be a great way to find people who fulfill this need, but positive influences can be found everywhere. Keep an eye out for coworkers whom you may enjoy spending time with. If you have a family member or a friend from your non-drug life whom you consider to be a particularly positive person, go out of your way to make plans with them.

Move to a new place. Not everyone can just pick up and move, but if you have the will and the opportunity, why not go for it? Sometimes a change of scenery can help a recovering addict get on the right path.

Move somewhere that is fundamentally different from your accustomed locale. Move to a different part of the country with a whole different climate. Think about where you would be the most happy, and go there. There are opiate recovery clinics all over the country, so you don’t have to worry about ending your therapy.

Don’t rush your opiate replacement therapy. Of course, this is between you and your doctor, but in general there’s no need to rush opiate replacement therapy. Methadone and Suboxone are approved for long-term use, so if you feel that trying to end your therapy might destabilize your recovery, trust your feelings. You don’t have to make this leap until you’re fully ready.

Find other “highs.” For the first few weeks after opiate detox, it’s normal for recovering addicts to feel deeply depressed and demoralized, as if there’s nothing in the world that can give them pleasure or make them happy. This is because your addiction has, in fact, desensitized you to other sources of pleasure. But the good news is that your old feelings for life will begin to come back after a few weeks.

So seek other sources of natural pleasure — exercise, eat delicious foods, earn a paycheck, create and experience art, or do good things for the community. All of these activities can give you a natural rush of pleasure. And once you learn that real non-drug-related pleasure is possible, you’ll be on your way to a better life.

Stay busy. The best way to keep drugs off the brain is to fill your mind with other things. Work hard at your job. If you have a creative talent or a hobby, focus on this with a new intensity. Read books. Watch good movies. And since boredom can be the recovering addict’s worst enemy, change up your activities whenever they start to get old.

Know the triggers, and have a strategy to deal with them. Over time, you’ll notice that certain things give you thoughts of drugs. Some of these triggers may be directly related to your old life, while others may be new things. Learn to recognize what these triggers are, and come up with solid steps you can take to deal with each of them. If you’re having trouble, work with your therapist to come up with a strategy.

Treat the root causes of your addiction. There’s a good chance that your recovery process includes a therapy component. If not, find a good therapist who specializes in addiction and recovery, and work to get to the bottom of why you are the way you are. It may be that you have psychological problems that cause you to be addicted, in which case it’s important to treat those problems directly and along with your addiction.

Be open with your doctors and therapists. In order to give you the best possible care, your treatment professionals need to know exactly what is going on with you. Don’t keep them in the dark about your cravings, your physical symptoms or any moments of weakness you may have had.

It’s a good idea to avoid doing things that you wouldn’t want your doctor or therapist to know about. But if you do have moments of weakness or temporary relapses, know that your doctors aren’t there to judge you. Let them know exactly what happened, and you can work together to adjust your treatment accordingly.

Be open with your loved ones. If you have a long-term spouse or partner, it’s essential that he or she knows what’s going on with you. Let them know that they can trust you. Share your feelings, and talk openly about any cravings you may be experiencing. And don’t be ashamed to ask for support from your family and friends. Remember, that’s what they’re there for.

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