3 Tips For Avoiding A Relapse

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Avoiding a Relapse
Avoiding a Relapse

This article is geared towards the problem drinker who has already quit drinking and already has a few days or weeks of sobriety.

Once you or your loved one has gotten past the withdrawals from alcohol, what can they do to start building a happy and healthy life free from drinking.

We will discuss three things the former drinker can do to feel better and stay in a good mood so that they will be less likely to feel the need to drink.

The 3 strategies are exercise, meditation, and spending time with friends who are not drinking.

#1. Exercise

Excessive alcohol consumption is very damaging to the body, and it’s vital that healthy habits are established to get the former drinker’s body back to proper health. An exercise routine should be established and practised daily.

Exercise has been proven to improve mood, brain function, and physical health. Physical exercise causes the release of endorphins, a feel-good chemical which is the cause of “runner’s high”. Seeking out endorphins with exercise is a healthy way for the former drinker to pursue pleasurable feelings.

One should consult with a doctor before beginning an exercise routine, just to make sure there are no health risks such as heart issues. After approval, the former drinker should immediately begin by walking or biking when they need to go somewhere nearby. Establishing this habit will begin the process of increasing energy levels.

The former drinker should, for the first two weeks or so, try jogging or walking for at least one mile every day. In early human history, people had to walk everywhere they went.

Walking places is a return to healthy and natural human living after long periods of often being inside and drinking all day. Being outside and seeing the trees and sky will also improve the former drinker’s mood and decrease any depression they might be experiencing during this difficult time in their life.

Another part of an exercise routine can be weightlifting, as long as the former drinker is healthy enough to do so. The former drinker can either buy weights for the home (expensive gym sets are unnecessary, dumbbells will do just fine) or get a gym membership.

Lifting weights and building muscle will begin a programme of self-improvement that will improve the former drinker’s self-image and give them healthy goals to work towards. Lifting weights will also make the former drinker feel much better physically. It’s important to avoid overworking oneself in weightlifting, to take regular days off, and to eat plenty of food.

Weightlifting and aerobic exercise may serve other important purposes in the former drinker’s recovery by countering the effects of extended alcohol withdrawal: it can increase appetite by burning calories and combat insomnia by tiring the ex-drinker out.

A balanced exercise program will help the former drinker’s body to recover and regain its natural metabolic and sleeping rhythms.


#2. Meditation

Meditation, or quieting the mind, is a great way to improve mental health, increase the ability to focus, and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.

Buddhist monks meditate for long periods of time every day, and those who have been studied report consistently high levels of well-being and happiness.

The benefits of meditation could take up an entire article of this size but suffice it to say that meditating twice a day will make the former drinker a more balanced and healthier human being.

How does meditation work?

There are a wide variety of methods, but a basic method on which variations can be based is as follows. Sit down with your legs crossed and your spine erect, with your hands flat on your legs. Close your eyes either halfway or completely.

Breathe in deeply and slowly, hold it for a few seconds, then breathe out deeply and slowly. As you breathe out, count 1 in your head. Repeat this all the way up to five, then restart. This counting functions as a mantra, or repeated phrase which quiets the mind, and a way to maintain focus.

When thoughts occur, simply acknowledge them and let them pass by. Thoughts are natural, and you don’t need to force yourself not to think, but don’t grasp onto your thoughts and continue them.

You are working to clear your mind. Clearing your mind with meditation will relax you and allow you to think more clearly. If you find yourself falling asleep, open your eyes for a while.

With practice, you’ll be able to meditate for longer without getting sleepy. When you begin meditating, do it twice a day for five or ten minutes at a time, and work your way up over a few weeks to doing it for twenty to thirty minutes at a time, twice a day.

If you are not a fan of counting, there are alternative mantras you can use. A good rule for mantras is to make them relevant to the goals of meditation, for example, repeating in your head with every breath, “Empty mind” or “Pure peace”.

Take meditation seriously and practice it regularly. It will help you find balance in your life and it will reduce the urge to drink. There is a vast array of literature which demonstrates that meditation is useful in overcoming addiction.

Once you establish a meditation habit, you will look forward to it as a time of peace and calm in a life which can often be stressful and hectic.

Regular meditation = stronger sobriety.


#3. Spending Time with Friends Who Aren’t Drinking

To be clear, a former drinker working to stay sober doesn’t need to exclusively have friends who never drink.

But their friends must be people who don’t have destructive drinking tendencies, and their friends must be willing to not drink when they’re spending time with the former drinker.

Recovering alcoholics who are advanced in their sobriety can be around people who drink sometimes, but those who are early on in their sobriety are best off if they avoid being around drinking altogether.

This means not hanging out at bars or parties with heavy drinking.

AA has a saying: “Avoid wet places and wet faces.”

Being in places where alcohol is abused and being around people who abuse alcohol is to risk a relapse and all the devastation that can bring.

If you are a former drinker and have a friend who wants you to drink with him after you explain why you shouldn’t, that is not really your friend. If you explain to your friend why you must stay sober and they immediately stop trying to tempt you and don’t do it again, that’s a real friend.

If a friend is willing to avoid bringing alcohol around you and to give up drinking it around you, that’s a real friend. You need real friends if you want to stay sober. Real friends will be supportive of your life choice and work with you, not against you.

As a former drinker working to stay sober, you’ll need to meet new people with whom you have common interests to spend time with.

Being around friends will make you feel better and happier, and it will prevent the loneliness which has caused many a relapse. Good places to make new friends are at AA, community events, online and via social media, and in church or other community buildings. Reach out and talk to people you don’t know well.

Interacting with strangers can be tough or awkward, and you won’t have the alcohol to ease social anxiety, but it will be well worth the effort once you make new friends.

You may want to get involved with a sports league or other group that does physical activity. Volunteering is also a great way to meet new people. Be involved with positive group activities, and you won’t want to numb your mind with alcohol.

Get together some friends and go to the movies, go bowling, or go to a concert. Write these suggestions down and do them! If you are reading this because someone you care about is getting sober, show these suggestions to them with helpful hints on how to implement them.

During recovery from addiction, isolation is dangerous. A recovering alcoholic or addict must connect with other human beings. Spending time with other people will make any person healthier, happier, and give their life a sense of purpose.

Doing good deeds for others has been shown to be especially powerful in supporting sobriety. Problem drinking is inherently selfish behaviour, and by helping others on a regular basis and developing generous habits, the former drinker becomes the kind of person who wouldn’t act selfishly.

Isolation is bad



Getting help early can prevent experiencing severe consequences of drinking or disrupting the lives of loved ones.

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About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.