Changing Negative Thought Patterns Key to Staying Sober
Drugs and alcohol have a strong hold on people. Even when people want to quit, it can be hard to break free from their grasp. For patients in treatment, relapsing is common with some breaking their sobriety within weeks or months. As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important to send out the message that patients who relapse are not failures. It just means they need to reflect on what has happened, and most importantly, keep moving in their recovery process.
Addiction, whether it is to alcohol, drugs or both, is a disease affecting millions of Americans. Admitting there is a problem and that you need help is a huge first step in fighting addiction. Falling back into previous habits, however, is unfortunately a part of the recovery process for many people. If you relapse, do not give up hope. It is not a sign you do not want to quit using alcohol or drugs or that you are incapable of doing so.
Repeated drug and alcohol use causes changes in a person’s brain, which affects self-control and the ability to resist cravings, which is why relapsing is common. The best way to fight relapse and break free of addiction is having a plan in place to resist cravings. As part of treating addiction, patients identify high-risk situations that might make them vulnerable to relapse. There may be people, places or activities that could make it tempting to drink or use drugs. For example, an alcoholic may find it hard staying sober if he goes to a bar with friends to watch a Packers game. Identifying what may trigger a relapse and coming up with ways to address the trigger – even if it means avoiding a situation or person all together – can be a big first step to stop people from relapsing.
If you relapse, the first thing to do is not focus on negative thoughts. Those thoughts can lead you to an all-or-nothing mentality, which can push you further into relapse. Instead, reach out for help, whether it is a sponsor from a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, or by seeing a substance abuse counselor or a mental health clinician. A therapist uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help patients change their negative thought patterns and develop healthy coping skills. Studies show using cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective way to prevent drug addiction relapse.
The first step to beat any addiction is asking for help. A therapist provides addicts with the tools and information they need to quit their use of alcohol and drugs and stay sober.
Caitlin Reider is a substance abuse counselor at ThedaCare Behavioral Health.