Recovery from alcoholism is a lifelong process, and stress can tempt you to return to your old ways and pick up a drink. Don't panic or despair if you feel like drinking. Although all alcoholics face temptation, you can resist relapses with appropriate help and support. Consider calling 1-800-861-9454 or filling out a quick contact form so that you can get the assistance you need to remain sober.
Alcohol Relapse Prevention
One of the benefits of going through rehab is that you learn tools and strategies that you can use to help yourself stay sober when things get difficult for you. Every alcoholic has different triggers - situations or feelings that make him want to return to drinking. However, if you have enough tools at your disposal, you'll be able to successfully engage in alcohol relapse prevention most of the time. The following strategies will help you stay sober when you're tempted to drink again:
- Focus on the consequences of drinking rather than your desire to drink. When you're tempted to drink, you generally start thinking about how good drinking will feel. Some alcoholics focus on the buzz they want to get, while others think about the taste of their favorite drink. Focusing on these positive feelings make drinking seem like a good idea. However, if you focus on the negative consequences of drinking instead, you might not be as tempted. For example, if you think about the argument you always have with your spouse after drinking or how bad it feels to get hung over, you might conclude that drinking isn't the right answer to whatever's bothering you. Make a list of the negative consequences of drinking so that you can read it over when you feel tempted or ask a friend to remind you why drinking isn't a good idea.
- Think about the positive aspects of sobriety. Sometimes sobriety seems difficult and you might not like it. It may feel to you like there's no point to staying sober or that sobriety only leads to negative consequences such as painful feelings or not getting what you want. When you engage in this kind of negative thinking, picking up a drink seems like it makes sense. Make a list of all the good things about sobriety so that you can remember why you want to stay sober. This can sometimes help get you out of a funk and lower your temptation to drink.
- Remind yourself of the progress you've made. If you have chips or other tokens that you received when you stayed sober for a certain number of days, take them out and look at them. Count how many days you've been sober and ask yourself whether you really want to throw away all that progress. Remind yourself that when you come down from the alcohol, you're going to have to start again at day one. If you've been sober for 30 days or more, sometimes the thought of having to start again can help you get back on the right path.
- Read over any literature you got at rehab about how to stay clean. If you've been through a rehab program, you learned tools to help you avoid drinking. Read over notes you've written while at rehab or handouts your rehab counselor gave you. Try some of the suggestions in your literature to help you overcome the temptation to drink.
- Call your sponsor, your counselor or a friend who understands how alcoholism works. When you feel like relapsing, you need to talk to someone who is nonjudgmental enough to accept your feelings but strong enough to discourage you from drinking. An AA sponsor or counselor is ideal. These people have experience dealing with alcoholism and know what to do to help you shift your focus away from drinking. If you don't have these types of people for support, talk to a nonjudgmental friend.
- Attend an AA meeting or schedule an appointment for outpatient treatment. It's important to continue to get support and help after you leave rehab. The outside world can be difficult to navigate on your own and it can be tempting to return to your pre-rehab habits. Make sure you have a support system in place to help guide you back onto the right path.
- Be gentle with yourself. Alcoholics often have unrealistically high expectations of themselves. You may feel that you're not supposed to want to drink anymore, but that's not realistic, and beating yourself up over having a desire to engage in alcoholic behavior will only make things worse. Treat yourself with compassion and do your best to use your tools rather than give in. If you do relapse, acknowledge it was a mistake, make amends to anyone who you harmed and then recommit yourself to your program.
"Treat yourself with compassion and do your best to use your tools rather than give in."
If you have already put the time and energy into rehab, you don't want to return to alcoholic behavior. Sometimes your alcoholism relapse prevention tools need to include extra support. Call 1-800-861-9454 or fill out a quick contact form to get the help you need to stay sober.