Avoiding High-Risk Situations
Anticipating and Preparing for Situations that May Pose a Risk for Relapse
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What Is a High-Risk Situation?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines high-risk situations as “those that threaten your recovery or trigger a strong craving to use substances.” These may be internal or external.
Internal High-Risk Situations
- Negative feelings such as sadness, boredom, anxiety, guilt, fear, or loneliness
- Positive feelings such as joy, excitement, or happiness
- The belief that you can handle getting high or drunk every so often
- Isolating yourself physically or emotionally from family, friends, and other loved ones
- Dwelling on thoughts about getting high or drunk
External High-Risk Situations
- Feeling physical pain
- Being in the presence of other people who are using drugs or alcohol
- Getting a paycheck
- Being in a place where you used to drink or get high
- Attending a celebratory event
A high-risk situation is anything that is likely to lead to drug use, whether it involves a person’s internal emotional state or their external surroundings. Identifying high-risk situations can help individuals in recovery prepare for unplanned occurrences and may also provide insight into why they resort to drug and alcohol use in the first place.
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Seemingly Irrelevant Decisions and Relapse
A person in recovery may make a decision or a series of decisions that increase their vulnerability to substance abuse. These unwise decisions are often the result of distorted thinking, denial, or rationalizations. In order to avoid and resist high-risk situations, individuals in recovery should be able to recognize decisions that may seem irrelevant to their sobriety but that carry a high risk of relapse.
Examples of seemingly irrelevant decisions include:
- Keeping alcohol or drugs in the house
- Maintaining relationships with people who are active drug or alcohol abusers
- Attending social events or gatherings where alcohol or drugs are likely to be present
- Using alcohol or drugs on “special occasions”
- Keeping drug or alcohol abuse a secret from family members
Decisions such as these increase a person’s risk for relapse because they may make a substance more accessible, make relapsing much easier, or reduce the accountability they receive from others.
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Anticipating Triggers and Developing a Plan to Manage High-Risk Situations
One of the best things individuals in recovery can do for themselves is to anticipate high-risk situations before they actually occur. This provides an opportunity to develop a plan of action for how they will respond.
Although not all high-risk situations can be anticipated, clients can still make predictions about what may occur in the near future and work with their therapist or recovery specialist to develop a plan of action.
Coping plans should include a detailed plan of action for how the client will respond to the given situation. At the very least, the plan should encompass the following things:
- Contact information for reliable sober peers, family members, or mentors
- A list of reliable distracting activities
- A written set of positive thoughts that can be reviewed at any time and used to combat negative thoughts associated with cravings
- A list of safe places where the client can go to ride out the cravings or escape the high-risk situation, such as a sober peer’s home or a trusted family member’s home
Individual and group sessions during drug and alcohol rehab may focus on developing coping strategies and plans for dealing with high-risk situations. These sessions will also provide valuable opportunities for clients to practice these coping skills in a controlled environment before they are faced with high-risk situations in the real world.
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Nova Recovery Center is dedicated to helping you or your loved one get help. Please call or fill out this form for a confidential consultation. One of our understanding, dedicated advisors will contact you about your options. Begin healing today.