Keep Balance: Extend Abstinence by Preventing Relapse
An eight-year study of 1,162 addicts published in 2007 indicates that abstinence really does predict long-term recovery. Some takeaways from this research are:
- For those who achieve a year of sobriety, less than half will relapse.
- If you can make it to 5 years of sobriety, your chance of relapse is less than 15 percent.
This is a good reason to have hope. The study also reported that Only about a third of people who are abstinent less than a year will remain abstinent. Getting to that one year mark is more than a point of pride, it is an extended period of abstinence that is beneficial to the body, mind and emotional system.
The one year mark is also a time when those in recovery fear relapse. They have heard countless stories of others who have relapsed just as they approach, reach or pass one year of abstinence.
Fear of relapse causes stress in the body’s emotional system that can grow into high anxiety and lead to negative thoughts. The “I think I can” determination of “The Little Engine Who Could” waivers. The extreme of high anxiety can put the recovering addict at high risk of relapse, just as can the overconfidence some feel upon reaching a whole year.
Maintaining balance is very important to preventing relapse. If you find your thoughts are becoming more negative, or on the other hand, overly confident, this is a good time to reach out to your counselors and support groups and share these feelings.
As a health-oriented dentist with formal advanced education in addiction and recovery, I hope my recovery patients and other readers of this article trust my advice. This advice is echoed in recovery counseling blogs throughout the Web.
Maintaining a positive attitude and control over anxiety is supported by a balanced brain chemistry and healthy body. These are dependent on:
- balanced nutrition (Eat healthy meals and snacks on a regular schedule.)
- regular physical exercise (At least, get up and walk throughout the day.)
- regular nights of sleep (Go to bed on a regular schedule, early enough to get 8 hours of sleep.)
- interacting socially with others (Hopefully, you have cause to laugh often among others who support your efforts to remain abstinent.)
- feelings of self-worth (Having work to do that has value to others, no matter what you do, can help make this happen.)
- avoiding stress triggers (Through recovery counseling, you have come to recognize the environments and situations that trigger high stress and the desire to relapse. Sometimes, you just need to walk away, find healthy shelter and rest.)
- positive self-talk (When feelings of depression become frequent or chronic, they can be difficult to stop. Learn to recognize you have a lot of control over negative thoughts and nip them in the bud. Be honest with yourself, and get perspective from someone you trust.)
Trust is what I hope to achieve with all my dental patients. If you are in recovery, you can reach out to me to talk. Of course, as your dentist, I can help restore your self-esteem and overall health by restoring your oral health and smile. But, the listening ear and caring perspective I can give may be what you need more, at any one moment, to reduce your stress, rebalance your brain chemistry, and make it to your next abstinence goal while concurrently preventing relapse. If you want to talk about more than your mouth, I’ll listen and more. As my patient, we are in a relationship that goes beyond treatment of gums and teeth. I want to know you better and for you to know me better. Just reach out.
Wishing you a long life of abstinence,
Jamie J. Alexander, D.D.S., your Boynton Beach Recovery Dentist