Preventing Alcohol Relapses with Vivitrol
The road to recovery is a rocky one – and relapse can be a part of it.
A relapse is when a person returns to using drugs or alcohol after maintaining sobriety for an extended amount of time. It is, unfortunately, common to relapse after being clean for a while – so much, that it is considered an actual part of the process with an estimated 90% of those in recovery having at least one relapse. The road to recovery takes significant time, nurturement, and a certain level of awareness to pre-existing and situational triggers. Common triggers to be aware of include:
- Feelings of withdrawal
- Mental health
- Celebratory events
- People or places associated with addiction
Stages and Symptoms of an Alcohol Relapse
Relapsing is often thought to be an abrupt, downward spiral, but actually stems from the seeds of unhealthy thoughts, feelings, and situations beginning weeks prior, sometimes longer. Think of it more as a subtle progression rather than a single, cataclysmic event. While there are many phases of a relapse, there are three distinct, overarching stages:
This is the first stage and begins well before a person is even thinking about using substances again. This stage is mostly subconscious but shows itself through negative actions and behaviors. Healthy coping mechanisms begin to hang in the balance as unhealthy emotions begin paving the way towards a relapse. Since the individual is not actively entertaining these thoughts, denial plays a huge factor in the overall admittance of these behaviors. Other signs of this stage include:
- Avoiding emotions
- Increased isolation and levels of irritability
- Poor sleep and eating habits
- Abandonment of self-care regimen
When the warning signs of an emotional relapse are ignored and go uncared for, there is an increased risk of elevating to the second stage of mental relapse, further opening the door for the third stage. This stage feels like being at war with yourself, as part of you wants to maintain lifelong sobriety, while the other part battles the conscious decision to actually use again. As resistance decreases, the brain’s stimulation to triggers increases. Signs of this stage include:
- Cravings and urges to use drugs or alcohol
- Minimizing negative consequences of past use
- Bargaining or substituting addictive substances
- Actively planning or looking for opportunities to use again
The final stage arrives when you neglect the warning signs that something is not okay. This is the stage when you begin using again, made easier when you are presented an opportunity coupled with the feeling of either getting away with it or justifying the act. This initial lapse can often progress to a complete relapse and feelings of no longer being in the driver’s seat of recovery.
How can Vivitrol Help?
Vivitrol (naltrexone for extended-release injectable suspension) is a monthly injection proven to help reduce the urges connected to excessive drinking. By blocking the euphoric effects caused by alcohol and opioids, Vivitrol clings to certain brain receptors over time, curbing desires and dulling the effects of the substance. This prescription medicine is designed to treat alcohol dependence and prevent relapsing to opioids after detoxification.
Combine Vivitrol with These Strategies
Vivitrol works at its best when you quit substance abuse beforehand, and in addition to other relapse preventive strategies, such as:
- Self-care: taking care of your health by eating well, exercising, and getting adequate sleep can help you avoid defaulting to negative behaviors.
- Ask for help: whether it’s clinical, friend, or familial support, a strong network of people rallying behind your success will help you stay with healthy habits and feelings.
- Meditation: holistic approaches like meditation and deep breathing are great to add into your recovery routine to increase self-awareness and provide a deep inner strength to push through cravings.
- Think it through: taking the idea of using again and mentally seeing it through to the end will help you see the short and long-term risks you could potentially put your future through.
Is Vivitrol Right for Me?
Vivitrol can be right for you if you are currently being treated for alcohol dependence, but it is important to consult with your healthcare provider to see if it’s ultimately right for you. Asking questions about your treatment goals and options, and maintaining full disclosure about your relationship with alcohol will help you customize a plan that fosters and smoother recovery.
Vivitrol may not be right for you if you are:
- Using or have an alcohol or opioid dependence
- Having opioid withdrawal symptoms
- Allergic to naltrexone or any of the ingredients in Vivitrol
Recovering from alcohol abuse is a difficult process that doesn’t have to be done alone. Relapsing is a potentiality in every recovery journey, and all treatment options should be considered to find what’s best for you. If you would like to supplement you current treatment process and benefit from the most advanced and comprehensive treatment in adult psychiatric and psychology services, call Neuro Behavioral Center in Walpole, Massachusetts, at (508) 660-1666 to make an appointment. You can also schedule an appointment online.