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How to Avoid an Alcohol Relapse After Treatment

Lisa Taylor
Lisa TaylorAddiction Counsellor

Few things are as disappointing to those in the alcohol recovery community as seeing someone complete a 12-week residential rehab programme only to go on to relapse within a month or two of leaving the treatment facility. Yet it happens. Statistics show that recovering alcoholics who relapse are most likely to do so within 12 months of completing a treatment programme. And, unfortunately, relapses tend to be harder to treat than the original problem.

Relapse occurs when the recovering alcoholic returns to the former practice of drinking. Like alcoholism itself, relapse starts with just one drink. The recovering alcoholic decides he or she either needs to drink, for whatever reason, or that he/she can drink just a little bit without any adverse effects. That one drink turns into two, and then three, and so on.

Avoiding alcohol relapse is so important for obvious reasons, not the least of which is the fact that alcohol is a dangerous drug that ruins lives. But how do you do it? How does the recovering alcoholic reintegrate into normal life without succumbing to the temptation to drink – especially in a modern culture that leans so heavily in favour of alcohol consumption?

There is no magic formula we can offer you for avoiding alcohol relapse. However, here are five strategies you can employ as necessary. Each of these strategies provides for one of the components you experienced during rehab. By picking up where rehab left off, you can increase the chances that you will get through that first year without relapse.

1. Join Local Support Group

While you were in rehab, you were surrounded by other alcoholics going through the same process. If you recall, you spent time talking with one another in group counselling sessions. You may have even spent time in one-on-one conversations as you wandered around the grounds or worked out in the gym. Whether you know it or not, the time spent bonding with others provided an extra measure of accountability and support that helped to see you through rehab. Local alcohol support groups provide the same sort of experience.

Support groups typically offer weekly meetings and group discussions. Some offer regular visits by counsellors as well as special presentations, group outings, and other opportunities to build one another up. Joining a local support group is one of the first things the recovering alcoholic should do upon leaving treatment.

2. Establish a Support Network

Establishing a support network of friends and family members can be very helpful in preventing relapse. What is a support network? It is a group of people you can call on to help you whenever you are experiencing the urge to drink. For example, you may run into a crisis at work that results in a strong desire to head over to the pub at the end of the day. If you had someone you could call, like a family member, that person could talk you through your problem and help you settle down. You would then find it easier to choose not to go to the pub after work.

3. Adapt Your Social Environment

Our third strategy for avoiding alcohol relapse is to adapt your social environment. In other words, change what you do and where you go so that you never place yourself in a position where alcohol is present. You may not have to do this for the rest of your life, but it is important you do so within the first year.

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You obviously did not have access to alcohol while you were in rehab. There is a very good reason for that: you had to be physically and psychologically separated from alcohol in order to break its power over you. What you may not realise is that some of that power may still exist during that first year after treatment. There's no point in tempting fate in this regard. Adapt your social environment so that you can avoid alcohol at all costs.

4. Seek out Regular Counselling

Your rehab counsellors helped you a great deal in identifying the causes of your addictive behaviour and teaching you how to avoid such behaviours in the future. But guess what? It never hurts to keep going to counselling after you leave treatment. We recommend that recovering alcoholics continue to seek out regular counselling to avoid relapse during that first year.

One option is to schedule time with an independent counsellor running a private practice. You will have to pay for this form of treatment, but it will be well worth it if counselling prevents relapse. If you desire counselling but cannot afford it, look around for local alcohol charities in your area. Charities sometimes employ staff or volunteer counsellors who are available to meet with clients on a regular basis.

If all else fails, check with your local alcohol support group. Often there are former alcoholics who have chosen to remain as members for years – specifically for the purposes of offering counselling to new members. They can help you through their experience as well as the knowledge they have gained over the years.

5. Establish New Hobbies and Interests

One of the downfalls of alcoholism we do not often talk about is the reality that drinking becomes the all-consuming passion of the alcoholic. Simply removing drinking from a person's life only addresses the alcohol itself; it does nothing to address the time spent drinking. This is time you can use to establish new hobbies and interests after treatment.

As one example, devoting oneself to a regular exercise routine is a common choice among recovering alcoholics. They find exercise not only helps reinforce a healthy living mindset, but it provides a measure of personal satisfaction and achievement that is more satisfying than drinking. Exercise becomes a replacement for drinking in such cases.

If exercise is not your thing, or you have health issues that prevent you from strenuous exercise, there are plenty of other things to choose from. What do you like? What kinds of things pique your interest? Some people turn to art, others begin taking music lessons, still others will devote themselves to learning and studying about a particular topic. You might even invest yourself in your local support group to help others. This is certainly a new interest that can help prevent alcohol relapse.

Rehab Therapy Aftercare Services

Clients who contact us looking for treatment for alcoholism are often referred to private rehab clinics throughout the UK. One of the benefits of working through us is that most of our clinics provide a full compendium of aftercare services that include many of the things listed above. Aftercare services are considered a critical link between treatment and permanent sobriety.

Statistics show that recovering alcoholics who take advantage of aftercare services are significantly less likely to succumb to alcohol relapse during the first year after treatment. If you are offered aftercare services, take advantage of them. If not, you can provide your own aftercare by implementing the strategies listed above.

Alcohol relapse is a very real concern among those of us in the recovery community. We desire that our clients get well in treatment and that they stay well for the rest of their lives. We are heartbroken to learn of any client that relapses after treatment.

If you want more information about avoiding relapse, please do not hesitate to contact us. One of our trained counsellors will be more than happy to answer any questions or provide further information about aftercare services. We do what we do because we want you to succeed.

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