I have been working in the field of addiction since 1984 and at some of the best treatment centers in the country. My experience has taught me that when a patient discharges from treatment there are still so many stumbling blocks to their recovery in the real world. There are also many issues to address during treatment, so the topic of relapse prevention can easily fall by the wayside.
As an interventionist I wanted to focus on not just getting someone into treatment but continuing to be there to work with family and friends during the treatment process and after discharge.
When I accept an intervention case I immediately try to xpleain that it is not just about getting someone into treatment, but it is how you get someone into treatment so that they are accessible to the treatment process.
If you are thinking, &ldqo;let's just get them to treatment and everything will be alright,&rquo; then you are mistaken. When families think in this way your patient´s risk for relapse has already started. I try to teach that the illness of addiction is not just about the patient but that it is also about the effect it has on your entire family and friends.
If recovery begins in the family while a patient is in treatment, then the patient is walking into a recovery environment after treatment that will improve their chances for long-term sobriety and recovery many times over.
Relapse is an insidious process. Usually the recovering person is the last one to know it´s happening and never sees it coming until it is too late and willpower alone can't stop it.
Here are some simple suggestions to help reduce the risk of relapse post discharge from treatment or in any recovery plan.
1. Be very cautious about the use of medications, prescription and/or over the counter as they can increase the risk of relapse greatly. Tell your support group about any medications that you need or want to take.
2. Be very cautious about the use of sleep medications, prescription and/or over the counter, as they are highly addictive to recovering people.
3. Become a part of a 12-step program of your choice, find a group that you are comfortable in and give yourself a chance to fit in.
4. Chronic pain management. Use board certified Addiction Medicine physicians to treat you, as they have special knowledge and training in Addiction Medicine. Allow a trusted family member or a member of your support group to dispense the medication to you as advised by your physician rather than allowing yourself to be in control of it.
5. If you are a person who needs to use antidepressant medication, make sure you are seeing a physician that is board certified in Addiction Medicine. Allow and insist that your Psychiatrist has regular communication with your therapist to monitor your progress. I don't think it is alright to just take an antidepressant and not do therapy; otherwise it supports old thinking that all we need to do is take a pill to change the way we feel and everything will be alright. This may be the difference between processing feelings and just medicating them.
6. Ask the medical team in your treatment center to refer you to an Addiction Medicine doctor who understands the recovery process.
Recovery is an amazing adventure and one that will bring you many gifts, turns and twists, stay close to those you trust and give as much back as you can.
I have been very fortunate to work in the field of recovery and helping others has strengthened my recovery over and over.
Be well and live life.