Once you’re on the path of recovery from addiction, the only enemy is relapse. Avoiding it might even become the central focus of early recovery. Although it’s very common for people to relapse in the first few years of recovery, making it a learning lesson for most recovering addicts, it is still the one thing someone in recovery is attempting to avoid. However, recovery can easily become a slippery slope. Depending on a person’s life circumstances, it can be easy to fall into a series of events that lead to relapse. Stress, resorting to old patterns, not enough support, symptoms of mental illness, and other circumstances can push someone over the edge and cause them to use drugs or alcohol in order to cope.

However, when a person is feeling the relapse edge get closer and closer, there are some steps that he or she can take in order to avoid relapse and strengthen their sobriety. Five of these steps are:

Avoid tempting situations. If you already know that you’re moving closer and closer to relapse, then it’s a great idea to avoid parties, celebrations, and other events where there might be alcohol or drugs. You might also avoid spending time with anyone that is going to trigger the desire to get high or drunk. Also, you may even need to send a spouse or family member to the grocery store for you, or have them accompany you, so that you don’t end up buying alcohol and later regret it. When you’re feeling vulnerable to relapse, avoiding any situations that can tempt it will keep you sober.

Strengthen your support. While you’re avoiding risky situations, you’ll also want to boost the supports you have in your life. Start attending more 12-step meetings, visit with friends who are sober, participate in support groups, and talk with your sponsor more often. You might also want to let your family members know that you’re vulnerable and that you need their support. Do everything you can to boost the level of support you have so that you can continue to make the choices that keep you sober.

Create a busy but healthy schedule. Keep yourself busy until you’re through this period of vulnerability. You might exercise before work, take a walk during lunch if you’ve got some extra time, visit with friends after work and then attend a 12-step meeting in the evening. And if you’re not working, then you’ve got plenty of time to participate in activities that can keep you sober, such as support groups, AA meetings, therapy, and other activities that promote your well being. Continue to choose healthy activities to keep your schedule full at least until you feel less vulnerable to relapse.

Reconnect with the reasons you got sober. You got sober for a reason. Although a part of you might have enjoyed the experience of getting high or drunk, you might have noticed the negative effects on your family, career, and/or children. Addiction can be a hard experience, and there are likely parts of the experience that prompted your decision to sober up. Reconnect with those reasons to help find the motivation to stay sober.

These are some tips for staying sober when you feel vulnerable. Avoiding relapse can be challenging. In fact, recovery in general can be difficult at times. Yet with the right support, commitment, and perseverance, a person can turn early recovery into long-term sobriety.

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