4 Tips for Relapse Prevention During a Pandemic

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Coping mechanisms

Recovery from substance use disorders can be challenging at any point in time, let alone during a global pandemic. Telephone appointments or support groups may not be appealing, lacking the immediacy of in-person connection, which can be so important in recovery. The stresses we’re all experiencing right now are most likely amplified for those with substance abuse and mental health disorders. This disorder in our lives may make our triggers stronger or more prevalent. Our emotional wellbeing may be suffering. Our motivation may be depleting. It’s important to find ways to cope and prevent relapse when our routines are disrupted.

Recovery from substance use disorders is a perpetual process for some as they come to understand there is always a chance of relapse, whether it is immediately, months, or years after their treatment ends. Addiction is a progressive disease, and without proper support, relapse is always possible. Here are some tips to help prevent relapse if you’re not able to participate in therapy at this time:


Develop Healthy Routines

A lot of people find it helpful to develop a healthy routine or schedule. The schedule can consist of tasks that you wish to complete, self-care activities, or exercises to help relax and destress. Finding constructive ways to stay busy may help fight off urges. The brain needs activities that produce healthy amounts of dopamine in order for it to relearn healthy behaviors and habits. Simple activities like exercise, healthy eating, or engaging in different types of artistic expression help people deal with triggers. Try using the same techniques used in therapy even when you are alone. If you don’t keep a journal, now is a good time to start. If you do, keep writing!


Talk It Out

If you have the urge to use and feel that relapse is possible, talk to someone about it. It doesn’t have to be a medical professional. It is important to find people you trust that you can confide in. Your support circle is there to help you navigate the journey of recovery. They may simply listen to your feelings, or give advice on how to process emotions or feelings that seem strange and unusual. Having strong support is crucial to all steps in the recovery process. Journaling is also a good technique for talking it out, without the actual talking. It can be hard to find someone we trust to confide in or vent to. A journal is always available to you and it presents no judgment. Sometimes we just need to talk without someone giving advice or trying to speak over us. No one can do that better than your journal. Journaling is a good way to keep track of how our recovery changed during the pandemic and what new triggers we may have discovered during this time.


Play the Tape

Another way to prevent relapse is to “play the tape through.” This simply means thinking about your past experience and how their impact on your life. Some people think they can control drug use after participating in treatment, because they may have learned some tips and tricks to prevent addiction. But remember, that was your initial thought when you began using but now you know you cannot control it on your own. If it helps, create a dialogue between you and your inner voice about relapse and your past use. This exercise can help you discover where you are mentally and if you may need more treatment. Again, write it down! Add it to your journal; when you return to your regular therapy sessions, you’ll have some fresh perspectives to talk with your therapist about. 


Absolute Sobriety

It’s always important to remember that you shouldn’t experiment with substances other than what you sought treatment for. If you sought treatment for opioid use, you shouldn’t drink. If you sought treatment for alcoholism, you shouldn’t try marijuana. Sometimes, using other drugs can cause cravings for drugs you’ve been addicted to in the past. Especially alcohol, which lowers your inhibitions and may influence relapse. Even if your addiction is not alcohol,  it is best to stay clear from all unhealthy or addictive substances.

We always urge you to remember that if you do relapse, you have not failed. You have just hit another bump in your road to recovery. Falling out of our healthy routines and habits for therapy, after we spent so much time and energy cultivating them, can seem like a catastrophic event. That feeling can be even more acute when brought about by a global event such as the COVID-19 pandemic. We may seem especially helpless since the enormity of the situation seems so beyond our control. In these times, we must remind ourselves that support is available. We just need to reach out for it.


At Avalon Malibu, we are acutely aware of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on those living with substance use and mental health disorders as well as those in recovery. We have put new policies in place to ensure we are able to remain open and give our patients the support they need in such an unsure time. Our dedicated team of mental health professionals can equip you with the right tools to cope with daily stresses, including social events, that you can use within and outside the facility. Located on the coast of Malibu, California, we offer complementary, behavioral and experiential therapies to treat your body, mind and spirit. If you or someone you love suffers from substance abuse or mental health disorders, call us at (844) 857-5992 to find out more about our treatment and relapse prevention services and our COVID-19 safety policies. We are open and able to accept new patients at this time.

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