You have probably encountered some of the more typical relapse prevention strategies, such as suggestions like these:
1) Get phone numbers from people in 12 step programs and call them before you use.
2) Go to a meeting if you feel like you might use and share about it.
3) Call your sponsor if you think you might use.
And so on and so forth. All helpful resources that help you to reach out and find ways to prevent yourself from relapsing.
But really, all of those types of ideas are not strategies. In fact, those are all tactics. There is a difference.
Instead of short term tactics that can be used to help you out in a pinch, let’s consider some long term relapse prevention strategies that might actually help you to build the sort of life in recovery over the long run that is better suited to avoiding relapse altogether:
1) Exercise on a regular basis. What does this have to do with relapse prevention? Just ask anyone in recovery who happens to exercise a lot, and they will tell you that it is absolutely critical for their recovery. They might not be able to explain why, exactly. That’s fine. The why is not important. Just do it. It will feel great and you will help to prevent relapse. There are probably studies out there that back this up. I don’t really have time to go find those studies because I am too busy running every day! A bit of a joke there, but you see my point. If you exercise on a regular basis it will benefit your recovery greatly.
2) Help others on a regular basis. This is actually borrowed from the 12 step program if you will, as this parallels step 12. If you get into the habit of helping others, you will help insure against your own relapse. Simple as that. The key is “on a regular basis.” Notice that I said that about the exercise stuff too. It is all about establishing healthy habits for daily living. What do you think they mean by “working a program?” Just doing this stuff every once in a while? No, you have to do it every day! That is when it gets really powerful.
3) Focus on holistic growth and personal development. This is recovery in action. And, this point encompasses the other two suggestions. Don’t limit yourself to spiritual growth. Branch out and grow in many areas of your life. Recovery is not just spiritual. It is holistic. It is about your whole entire life, every part of it. Treat it as such.
At any given time in your recovery, you should have one major goal on your plate. You should have one thing that you are striving to achieve in your life. Perhaps it is quitting smoking. Or maybe you are training for a marathon. Or perhaps you have gone back to college. Whatever. You should be pushing yourself to grow in one area.
Once you achieve success with that goal, move on to your next goal. One at a time.
These are long term strategies that you should turn into habits. Live them. They will keep you sober.
They keep me sober anyway….