Relapse Prevention and Aftercare for Alcoholism

If you have been struggling with alcoholism - also known as an alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction - you would typically be diagnosed with a chronic psychological disorder. Even as you seek treatment for this condition, it is essential that you start working on your relapse prevention and aftercare plan. This is because this condition might cause you to relapse soon after getting discharged from a treatment program.

Relapse Prevention and Aftercare Tools for Alcoholism

As you seek assistance with overcoming your alcohol use disorder, you will typically benefit from various evidence-based treatment methods. These treatments can help you detox safely from the substance, as well as change your behaviors using counseling and therapy.

However, addiction is a relapsing condition. The risk of relapse is particularly high when you are addicted to alcohol. This is because alcohol is one of the substances that are widely available, relatively affordably, and socially accepted by most people.

To this end, you should start working on your relapse prevention and aftercare plan even while you are enrolled in a treatment program. By so doing, you will learn about some significant tools that you could use to reduce your risk of relapse.

These tools might include, but are not always limited to:

  • Attending therapy
  • Avoiding triggers that could cause you to start drinking again
  • Finding creative ways to manage your stress
  • Finding other enjoyable activities that you can engage in other than consuming alcohol
  • Getting emotional and moral support from your family and friends
  • Participating in peer support groups

Understanding Alcoholism Relapse

A lapse refers to the first time that you drink alcohol once you have been through a detoxification and rehabilitation program. This could happen accidentally or deliberately - such as when you start looking for alcohol for the specific reason of using it. Although the lapse might be brief, it could point to the fact that you are about to relapse.

Relapse, on the other hand, effectively means that you are no longer able to maintain your sobriety over the long term. While struggling with your recovery from an alcohol use disorder, a relapse would signify the fact that you would return to escalated alcohol consumption. Alternatively, you could start using substances that contain alcohol, such as mouthwash, or those that produce similar effects as alcohol, like benzodiazepines.

Signs of Alcohol Relapse

Some of the warning signs that you might be on the verge of a relapse include but are not limited to:

  • Being visibly intoxicated
  • Believing that it would be impossible for you to suffer a relapse
  • Bottles from drinking
  • Breath and clothing smelling of alcohol
  • Disappearing for long periods, or at random times or for long periods
  • Extreme and/or uncontrollable emotions
  • Losing your commitment to ongoing recovery
  • Missing alcohol
  • Money going missing
  • Skipping school and work
  • Spending time with the people you used to drink alcohol with in the past
  • Trouble accepting your life, and the various changes that have occurred in it, such as your renewed lifestyle of sobriety and recovery
  • Visiting the places where you used to drink in the past

Creating Relapse Prevention and Aftercare Plans for Alcoholism

Although you might not be able to avoid relapse, there are some things that you can do to ensure that your risk of suffering one is significantly reduced. Often, this would entail creating an effective relapse prevention and aftercare plan. It is recommended that you do so even before you have checked out of your chosen addiction treatment and rehabilitation program.

This plan should include some unique relapse prevention strategies and programs. It should also entail understanding how relapse occurs. By so doing, you will be able to identify the warning signs of an impending relapse, as well as finding ways to ensure that it does not happen in the first place.

While recovering from an alcohol use disorder, you might also benefit from using prescription medications that ease your cravings. Examples of these prescriptions include naltrexone and acamprosate.

Your relapse prevention and aftercare plan might also involve some form of behavioral therapy. Therapy would be provided both during your mental health treatment and alcoholism rehabilitation.

Through such therapy, you might be better able to understand all the causes of your addictive behavior, and learning how these behaviors are not aligned with your values. Further, therapy could teach you to develop new, sober behaviors.

In the long run, the relapse prevention and aftercare plans that you create should be all encompassing to ensure that you can predict relapse situations and know how to deal with them before they even occur.


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