Buy the Book: Recovery Options
(tips below are taken from the above text)
"The majority of American treatment centers use relapse-prevention materials based on a system (the CENAPS model, promoted by Terry Gorski) that has never been subjected to controlled study."
"G. Alan Marlatt of the University of Washington--Seattle is the leading scientific expert on relapse. He found that one of the biggest contributors to serious relapse is a view of it as the end of recovery."
"Marlatt's work suggests that it is this perception, not the 'first drink' or 'first drug' itself, that often allows a small lapse in vigilance to develop into a full-blown relapse."
Basically, if you do have a small slip it isn't the end of the world and there is no need for the 'in for a penny, in for a pound' attitude. Just try to alleviate the situation as soon as you can to avoid falling back into a full-blown addiction.
"Maintenance people [those in the maintenance stage of change] cannot prevent all breakdowns--but if something goes wrong, they are prepared with the right equipment."
Since you've been through treatment, whether formal or not, and since you have successfully quit for any length of time, you know some steps already to quitting again. Practice makes perfect and most people don't get it right on the first try. Why should learning a whole new lifestyle be any different?
"One important technique for handling urges is to disconnect yourself from them. Rather than saying, "I feel like getting high now," reframe the feeling by saying, "I'm experiencing an urge to get high now," and ask yourself what might have prompted it."
This also works for most every other thing, from "I want a piece of cake now" to "I need to buy something." Remember HALT? That's right, Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired? Which one are you? Because that's often the reason for relapse. Fix HALT problems and you are well on your way through the recovery process.
"The more you deprive yourself, the more likely you are to eventually erupt into excess. If you fill your life with pleasurable things as much as possible (as he puts it, increase the ratio of things you want to do, compared with things you should do), you will be far less likely to relapse."
"Treat yourself as much as your finances will allow--now is not the time to suddenly get frugal, give up sweets, renounce sex, and give up trash television. If you have compulsive problems in these areas, you can deal with them later."
This is something we learn about in harm reduction--that it is okay to switch one addiction for another one if it is less harmful. So in other words, if you can switch your drug use to a method that is less harmful (such as going from IV drugs to smoking or snorting), good . If you can switch to a drug or behavior that is less harmful (such as going from heroin to weed), great. Abstinence-based programs would tell you this is a terrible idea, but harm-reduction providers will encourage you. When I quit drugs, my compulsive shopping was initially considered a positive thing, partly because it was better for my body physically, and partly because there were real things I needed to buy and having them improved my mental and emotional state. Yes, it did quickly get out of hand (becoming more of a financial burden than drugs). But then I found medication to reduce the compulsions, so in effect I've switched from drugs to an addictive shopping behavior to non-harmful dependence on medication. It might not have been possible for me to jump right from drugs to medication, who knows? What I can say for a fact is just the ideological shift from 'all or nothing' thinking, to 'it's okay to step down little-by-little' was a tremendous help for me and for many people I've encountered.
"Seemingly irrelevant decisions are those decisions you make, which don't appear to you to be setting you up for relapse at the time, but which in retrospect are clearly necessary for relapse to happen. Learning relapse prevention means recognizing these decisions earlier--before the chain reaction has started."
"In order to avoid such situations--which frequently involve such things as going into a bar for a soda or visiting an old friend whom you know will have drugs in his house--you need to spend a great deal of time watching your own thoughts and motivations."
This is especially true if you are anxious, stressed, or if people who trigger you (family reunion come to mind?) are around. Remember, stress is a big factor in more than half of all relapses.
"One special note about alcohol: This drug, more than most others, reduces inhibitions. If your drug of choice is heroin, and you decide to 'have a few drinks,' you may really be deciding to relapse into heroin use, because once the alcohol is in your system, your resistance to urges can be greatly reduced."
In other words, switching addictions to alcohol isn't a good idea, because not only is it NOT less harmful (alcohol is, in fact, one of the worst and hardest addictions, in part because it is everywhere), but it may also not be removing your primary addiction at all!
"You have to have a clear image of where you stand, before you can tell if you are moving forward." -- Jade