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Relapse prevention doesn’t have to be complicated; in fact, the more complicated relapse prevention efforts are, the more likely it is that something could go wrong. Most people in recovery have heard of; “KISS,” or Keep It Simple Stupid. Addicts and alcoholics in recovery use this aptly-named phrase often because it works for them. These resolutions to help prevent relapse in 2013 follow in that tradition; they are simple but effective and can be put into immediate action.
1. Build a Bigger, Better Support Network
A support network is critical for people in recovery. It’s not necessarily important that your support network be large or feature prominent people in the recovery community; it’s more important that your support network be of very high quality. This means that it must not grow stagnant; you must develop your recovery networks a little more each year. This can be as simple as introducing yourself to a newcomer at a group meeting, or taking part in a recovery-oriented social event. Friends, family, counselors, healthcare professionals and anyone else that will have an interested and concerned role in your recovery can become part of this network.
However, it’s not about just having some names and telephone numbers; active relationships are important in order to make a support network strong and consistently beneficial.
2. Spend Time with Animals
Even if you already have a dog or a cat or other domestic pet, you should consider spending time with some other types of animals. Many people find large animals like horses and cows to be extremely peaceful, which some say allows for a meditative state when in their presence. Others enjoy feeding or watching birds and claim it has therapeutic value, while for others the serenity of marine aquarium fish provides the same benefit.
Many healthcare professionals claim that spending time with animals can improve the quality and longevity of our lives (1), and it can also teach us something about mutual respect, speechless communication and stress management.
3. Volunteering & Service
Service is not only one of the most important things that a person can do in recovery; it’s one of the most important things that a person can do in his or her entire life. But service doesn’t have to be stressful; it can be something as simple as cleaning up after a group meeting, offering someone a ride to a meeting or therapy, or donating your time in a wide variety of ways.
4. Take Time for Yourself
All too often we become trapped in our schedules and take little free time for ourselves. However, doing so is vital for all humans and especially for addicts and alcoholics in recovery. This is because one of the most valuable things that an addict can do is to take an honest self-assessment, and it can be challenging to do so in the midst of the hustle and bustle of daily life. Therefore, making a little time for you is required and not extracurricular.
5. Save a Little Money
You don’t need to set aside 10% of your paychecks, invest in a 401K or an IRA or buy bonds; even if you only set aside 5 or 10 dollars per week, you’ll be accomplishing two things:
a. Developing a small fund for emergencies or something special: at $10 per week saved you’ll have $520 at the end of the year, plus interest if you place the money in a savings account or Certificate of Deposit.
b. Saving is a sign of stability and forward-thinking; a good indicator that your recovery program is strong.
6. Try Something Green
This doesn’t mean to go out and get a loan for a new electric car; it simply means to try something different that will help reduce your impact on the earth and the community you live in. Change your notebook or copy paper to recycled content, install a couple of solar panels, drive less, turn off lights and lower the heat/AC in rooms that are not in use, use biodegradable detergents and household products, and so on. Even if you only choose one “green” thing to do this year, and one the next year and one the next, it’s easy to see how you can quickly build up to making a real difference.
7. Exercise More
Many people in recovery recognize how important exercise is – especially in the fight against the symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawal – and consequently some set these huge, unattainable New Year’s resolutions for themselves that only lead to failure. Instead, KISS: Keep it Simple, Stupid! Assuming that you are physically fit enough for exercise, you should start out slow; perhaps only stretching and minor exercises for a few weeks, then some strength and resistance training, perhaps a walk or jog once per week.
When it comes to exercise and people in recovery, it doesn’t take much to make a difference. And often once that initial difference is felt, exercise is then indulged in much more freely, with significant physical, emotional and mental benefits resulting.
8. If You Love them, let them know it
Sometimes life can become so hectic that there’s little time to actively appreciate the people we love. As a simple and easy resolution for 2013, make it a point to let them know you love them. A short card, a small gift, a special dinner or just a direct “I love you” can mean a lot not only to the person you care about, but for you as well. Expressing affection and love makes us feel good, and it makes our friends, family and romantic partners feel good as well.
9. Eat Better
No one expects you to go from a meat-eating caveman to a pure vegan; that’s extreme behavior and if addiction has taught you anything, extreme behavior of any type should be avoided. Instead, start eating better by eliminating the things that you just don’t need in your diet. You can start by restricting or eliminating soda and candy and work your way up to eating less red meat and more fish, poultry and lean protein sources like nuts and beans. Little changes can go a long way when it comes to diet, and if you go slowly, one step at a time, it’ll be much easier to adjust if eating better means straying from what you’ve been used to your whole life.
10. Doing Something Every Day for Your Recovery
Relapse prevention requires doing something for your recovery every day. Whether this consists of attending a 12 Step meeting, visiting a therapist, talking with your sponsor, taking an honest self-inventory and assessment, helping someone else in recovery, writing in a journal or reading daily affirmations, it takes a daily effort in order to keep a recovery plan alive.
Relapse prevention methods should be a primary focus for most addicts and these simple resolutions can provide a substantial barrier against a break in your recovery. However, it’s important to understand that sometimes we falter and “fall off the wagon” and require relapse treatment despite even the best efforts. If this sounds like you or someone you love, getting immediate help is vital even if the relapse just began. Taking action now could mean the difference between a short relapse episode that is quickly treated and one that continues for months at a terrible cost.