A Relapse Prevention Plan for Your Spouse: What Are the Next Steps?
Although relapse can be devastating and discouraging, you and your partner can discover a relapse prevention plan that really works. Together, you can identify the warning signs of addiction relapse and the therapeutic strategies to manage triggers. You can maintain a well-rounded system of clinical, family, and peer support. And you can keep in perspective those goals and motivations that encourage each step forward.
James wanted to get better. He wanted his wife to be happy again. He wanted to be rid of the stress that his prescription drug addiction brought into their lives. But he couldn’t seem to stick with his sobriety. Whenever things got stressful, a pill bottle always seemed to provide the quickest and surest way to calm down and handle life.
It was when he got connected with a new therapist that everything changed. She asked him, “Why do you want to stop using?” He explained all of the things in his life that weren’t working and how he couldn’t stand to live that way anymore. She replied, “Okay, so that’s what you don’t want. But what do you want?” She helped James to realize that the motivations he had been focusing on were more like stressors than goals. This had him turning to drugs instead of real desires that would inspire him to seek more constructive coping methods.
James started to focus on the job growth, the relationship goals, and the life story he really wanted. He hadn’t thought about things like this in a long time—not since before he’d started using. His therapist invited James’s wife to join them for a few sessions as they developed a relapse prevention plan together. The therapist helped them to recognize a very important truth. Relapse is a common part of the recovery process—but, with the right tools in hand, they could keep moving forward.
How Can You Design a Relapse Prevention Plan Together?
Recovery from alcohol or drug addiction begins with a comprehensive treatment program. If you and your spouse are just starting out on this recovery journey, making that call is your next step. In the meantime, you’ll be developing a plan to help keep your spouse on track. But make no mistake: you’ll have some important responsibilities on this journey too. Treatment specialists can guide you both through active recovery strategies and a long-term relapse prevention plan.
Addiction is a family disease, and it takes a joint commitment to sustain recovery. Rest assured that you’re not walking this path alone. When you connect with a professional treatment team, they will help set you on the right course now and into the future. Interactive family programming can shine a light on relapse triggers as well as the support systems and motivations that will keep your spouse moving forward.
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Knowing the Addiction Triggers
Before you can move forward, it’s important to take a look at what has been holding your spouse in this cycle of addiction. Relapses occur for the same reasons the addiction took hold in the first place. Triggers can be people, places, or events, such as witnessing others using drugs or alcohol, hearing about it, or experiencing highly emotional situations.
It’s important to understand that these triggers won’t necessarily go away. Ultimately, your spouse will need to develop a new relationship to their particular triggers with therapeutic coping strategies. You can help them to recognize warning signs that signal a potential relapse. These can include:
- missing therapy appointments
- fantasizing about drug or alcohol use
- spending time with people or in places that are associated with drug or alcohol use
- feeling increasingly depressed or anxious
- exhibiting compulsive or obsessive behavior, such as focusing heavily on one thing in life
You can help to keep the communication open between you. Even when things get stressful or warning signs surface, remember to listen with compassion and patience. Know that you always have support from your partner’s treatment team. They are the people who will help your spouse to transform this cycle of addiction in the end.
Building a Solid Support System
When recovery is the goal, isolation is not the answer. You cannot be your partner’s only supportive ally. Addiction takes hold because of a powerful web of triggers and mental health issues. Treatment and recovery must draw from a well-rounded system of expertise and support. This includes your presence, love, and perspective, but not exclusively. This includes clinicians and counselors, who can introduce proven recovery strategies—but the help doesn’t stop there. A complete support system also necessarily includes a community of peers who understand your spouse’s struggles and who are also working to overcome addiction and relapse.
Addiction doesn’t exactly go away. That’s why a long-term commitment to treatment is absolutely critical. Through time, individuals who have successfully restructured their response to the triggers and addiction have found that a community of peers helped to sustain their recovery as well as any other support system. The best way to keep the challenges of addiction in perspective is to talk about them. Especially when shame is involved, it helps to talk to people who understand from firsthand experience—even more than it might help to talk to you or to a therapist. Of course, all the pieces of the recovery puzzle are important for the long haul. But there are certain lessons and revelations that can only come from this peer network.
Focusing on Personal Motivations for Recovery
Living with addiction tends to be a vulnerable and volatile existence. But if you and your spouse can build up support and progressive action, life can become more stable for you both. Experts in addiction recovery know that one’s motivations must be aligned with the direction in which they want to go. Focusing simply on what you don’t want will keep you bound to those disruptive anchors. Focusing on what someone else wants can increase feelings of shame, guilt, and overwhelm. The sooner your partner can identify the motivations that light the way forward, the better.
Relapse can be devastating and discouraging, especially once you’ve already covered some hopeful ground in recovery. But you can break the cycle of chronic relapse and learn from these experiences together. Sometimes you do have to take a step backward before you can take a couple of steady steps forward. You and your partner will feel confident when your relapse prevention plan reflects the real hopes and challenges in your life.
Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Bay Area programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward lasting recovery.