Category Archives: Relapse Prevention

Returning to College in Recovery


One of the best things about seeking professional treatment for a substance abuse problem is that you have a second chance at life. This may include starting your dream job, raising your family or returning to school. Each path has unique challenges. By being honest with yourself, you can develop strategies for dealing with the hurdles you may face.

Some recovering addicts return to college a year or two after treatment. (It’s not recommended to make major changes in the first year of recovery.) A higher education can be an incredibly rewarding experience. But, it can also put a recovering addict at risk for relapse.

Let’s start by reviewing the potential dangers of returning to college in recovery and the best ways to enjoy a sober life in this environment.

Potential Concerns

College students spend a lot of time socializing with others. Some of this socialization is encouraged through drugs and alcohol. For example, binge drinking is a problem on many college campuses. If a student is working on their recovery and surrounded by their peers who are drinking, using drugs and attending parties, they could be tempted to do the same.

Another concern is the stress that college can create in a young person’s life. This is a time of independence. Young people are learning how to juggle a schedule, care for themselves and balance sports, leisure, work and academics. This stress could very easily tempt a person to use again.

Finally, there is the social aspect of college. When students fit in and have lots of friends, their college experience is more positive. However, not everyone is good at making friends and interacting with others. For someone who is going through recovery and then having trouble connecting with others, they may have the urge to drink alcohol to come out of their shell.

Tips for Attending College in Recovery

Even though there are legitimate concerns over returning to college newly sober, this does not mean that a person has to put their plans on hold. It’s all about the individual, where they are in their recovery and what they are comfortable pursuing. Fortunately, those who are committed to their recoveries and their education have a number of resources available.

  • Check the school to see if there are groups on campus for recovering addicts

  • Choose friends who don’t use alcohol or drugs

  • Attend on-campus activities where drugs/alcohol won’t be

  • Practice stress-relieving techniques daily such as meditation, journaling or mindfulness

  • Attend 12-step groups to stay connected to your network

  • Have a recovery sponsor for one-on-one support

  • Maintain positive relationships with friends and family back home

Remember, it’s not recommended to make major changes in the first year of recovery. After this time, you can decide (with your sponsor and counselor) if returning to college is right for you.

Breaking the Cycle of Codependency

Codependent relationship

When you’re close to someone who has a drug or alcohol problem, it’s only natural that the relationship has some level of worry, fear, stress and anxiety. What happens if your husband doesn’t come home? What will your daughter do if you stop giving her money?

With so much going on in these types of relationships, it’s hard not to become fixated on this person. Unfortunately, if you continue down this path, you will end up losing your own sense of self as well as some of the relationships you need right now.

Codependency is an important topic in addiction. Let’s talk more about how to recognize and stop this cycle.

Recognizing Codependency

A person who is codependent puts the needs of others in front of themselves. It’s kind of a catch 22, as many of us put our children before ourselves. What’s different about normal parenting vs codependent parenting is that you will do anything to keep the relationship going, even if that means enabling the addiction.

Even though the pattern of this behavior is understandable, it still needs to be stopped. Codependent relationships are not beneficial for anyone. You can still love your family member and support their sobriety without being codependent.

In general, these are the behaviors that go along with codependency.

  • Strong desire to please others

  • Attempts to “fix” others

  • Fear of being rejected

  • Inner need for control

  • Guilt and perfection

  • Not having clear boundaries

  • Low self-esteem

Stopping the Cycle Through Better Self-Care

One of the most difficult things about being in a relationship with an addict is not getting lost in their addiction. It is possible to stay connected to your loved one while also taking care of yourself. Here are a few ways to do that.

When you start feeling consumed by the addict:

  • Pause and take a deep breath. Deeply inhale and exhale a few times. This helps relieve stress from the body and refocuses your attention back on yourself.

  • Ask yourself questions. Think about how you are feeling and what you need in this moment. Are you hungry? Thirsty? Do you need to take a nap or call a friend?

  • Practice mindfulness. Take in the sights and sounds around you. Remind yourself that you are separate from the addict and have separate needs.

To be most effective in stopping the cycle of codependency, seek professional counseling. Both family therapy and individual therapy can be helpful. Above all, you must learn to put yourself first. Self-care gives you the strength and power to be a positive role model for your loved one without being dependent on their choices.

New Study Documents the Importance of Continuing Care

At The River Source, we have always believed in the importance of continuing care following treatment. While time spent in rehab is vital, it’s not enough to continue lifelong sobriety. An effective treatment plan should always include aftercare and support services.

Addiction is Chronic. Continuing Care is Necessary

A recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that nearly 2.15 million Americans have a diagnosable substance use disorder. Because addiction is a chronic disease, it’s crucial that we continue to seek effective methods of treatment that support long-term recovery.

The same report highlights that while residential care is highly effective, relapse rates are between 37-56 percent. This means multiple trips back to treatment as well as the continued risks of overdose, jail time and death.

Aftercare services can significantly improve a recovering addict’s chance of staying sober. Unfortunately, only half of addicts who have gone through treatment participate in the necessary continuing care programs. We must continue to work on these programs to make them accessible and practical for recovering addicts.

Reducing Barriers to Long Term Sobriety

At the 2016 Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers of New York State conference, NYU researchers presented the results of a study that analyzed the hurdles to a successful transition from inpatient rehab. Participants in the study reported that unmet personal needs, limited sober support networks and returning to stressful environments all negatively impacted their sobriety.

Knowing this, researchers are encouraging treatment centers to offer more services that reduce these barriers. Specifically, treatment centers must connect with patients as much as possible and make known the various resources available in the community.

The River Source Offers Continuing Care

The River Source has always seen the benefits of continuing care, and we continue to adjust our program so that it better meets the needs of our patients. Here are a few features included with our program.  

  • Use of our naturopathic clinic

  • Sobriety checks

  • Alumni accountability

  • Weekly groups and 12-step meetings

To learn more about our continuing care program, call The River Source today.

The Link Between Relapse and Overdose

Relapse can be an unfortunate part of the recovery process for some individuals. Those who struggle with sobriety can find it difficult to stay away from drugs and alcohol, especially when experiencing stressful situations. Relapse carries a lot of emotion for the addict and their support team. However, it also carries something else that many people fail to realize: the risk of overdose.

Tolerance and the Progression of Addiction

When a person uses drugs or alcohol on a regular basis, their tolerance for it increases. This means that they need more of the drug to feel the same effects. In the case of opiates, repeated use causes the opioid receptors in the brain to become desensitized. The brain is used to being high on heroin, so it adapts to it. Tolerance is the reason why people increase their dosage as they progress through addiction.

When an addict seeks treatment for a drug problem, they must first go through the withdrawal process. Withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable, and sometimes fatal. This is why it’s recommended to seek detox in a medically supervised environment. Medications and therapies are available to manage some of the symptoms and prepare the addict for residential treatment.

Higher Risk of Overdose During Relapse

Whether a person has stopped using drugs or alcohol for one month or 12, their tolerance has gone down. Unfortunately, addicts don’t know how to “adjust” their drug of choice to meet their current tolerance level. If they relapse, they usually go right back to using the same amount as they were currently using, except for that they don’t have any tolerance to the drug.

Without tolerance, the body is at risk for dangerous side effects, including overdose. Harmful side effects can happen with any drug, but some are so strong (i.e., opiates), they carry an even greater risk of danger. Also, accidental overdose is more likely to occur when mixing drugs and alcohol. Heroin and alcohol are both depressants that slow down respiratory functions.

Relapse Warning Signs

No single person can stop a person from relapsing. However, being familiar with the signs of a potential relapse allows you to step in and get the recovering addict more support. Some of the most common warning signs of relapse are:

  • Strong emotions, such as anxiety, depression, fear, anger or loneliness that are uncontrolled

  • Engaging with people and places that are associated with drugs and alcohol

  • Dealing with a high level of stress and not having coping mechanisms to deal with it

  • Celebrations such as holidays or birthdays – relapse isn’t always tied to stressful events

Be vigilant in your loved one’s recovery. Their tolerance is much lower from the time they return home from treatment. Encourage your loved one to work closely with their sponsor, attend support groups and follow their continuing care plan. While not guaranteed, these steps can greatly reduce the risk of relapse and accidental overdose.

How to Spot an Addict in Relapse

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When your loved one returns home from treatment, the recovery process is not complete. Recovery is an ongoing process that has its fair share of good and bad days. In time, things get easier, but relapse is never out of the question. When recovering addicts face stressful situations, it’s possible for them to return to the practice they know best: using drugs or alcohol.

Relapse is not failure, and it’s certainly not giving up. In fact, some people relapse several times before they stay sober. It’s important to realize this, as a loved one who has relapsed needs immediate care and continued treatment. The best approach, however, is to spot an addict before they relapse. It’s a small window, but if you can act early, you may be able to prevent your loved one from actually using.

Warning Signs of Relapse 

Here are some ways to spot an addict who is heading for relapse.

They are getting too comfortable.

Some recovering addicts get a false sense of security when it comes to their recovery. If your loved one is overconfident in their progress, remind them that they are still recovering and need to take things slow. Otherwise, they may be willing to put themselves in difficult situations, such as going to nightclubs or hanging with old friends.

They stop following their treatment plan.

When your loved one returns from treatment, they will be given a continuing care plan to follow. If you find that your loved one is not doing what they’re supposed to – skipping meetings, shutting out family members, spending time at old hangouts – they are at risk for relapse.

They start reminiscing about their drug using days.

Drugs and alcohol have a way of changing the brain, so it takes time for addicts to heal and see their drug use for what it was. In the meantime, some addicts will associate drugs and alcohol with fun, relaxation and enjoyment. If your loved one starts reminiscing about the “good old days” and forgetting all the misery they had, relapse is a possibility.

They start acting selfish and moody.

Sometimes called a “dry drunk” this happens when a person is sober but they haven’t changed their attitude. The reason why it’s important to shake the negative attitude is because this way of thinking can lead right back to substance abuse. Your loved one needs to do more than simply stay off drugs and alcohol. They must learn coping skills, develop strong interpersonal skills and have outlets for stress and anxiety. Twelve step groups are helpful for developing these skills and keeping people away from drugs and alcohol.

Most importantly, listen to your gut. You know your family best, and you don’t need a clear warning sign or validation that your suspicions are correct. If you feel that your loved one is at risk for relapse, bolster the recovery regimen. Talk to the treatment center, their sponsor or a therapist for the best ways to do this.

Best Addiction Recovery Apps of 2017

If there’s one benefit to being in addiction recovery today, it’s technology. Thanks to a wide range of apps that can be downloaded in a few seconds, you never have to be alone in your recovery. Mobile apps provide ongoing support, resources and tools. Though they are not a replacement for attending your support groups and counseling sessions, these apps are effective at complementing your current recovery plan.

Below are a few of our favorite apps. Check them out and see which ones might offer the support you’re looking for as you transition into your sober, healthy life.


Cassava is an intuitive app that lets you track your progress in recovery such as nutrition, stress levels, sleep quality, moods and physical activity. It also has a recovery meeting directory that connects you with support groups anytime, anywhere. Use it daily for the best experience.

Available On: iTunes and Google Play, Cost: Free

Quit That!

Quit That! is a simple app that can be customized to just about any bad habit you want to stop, from smoking marijuana to watching too much TV. You can track your progress to the minute and track as many things as you’d like. The best part is, you can look back at the progress you’ve made and feel proud of your accomplishments.

Available On: iTunes, Cost: Free

AA Big Book Free

AA Big Book Free lets you take the Big Book with you wherever you go. With the free version, you get a vast amount of information, including the full text of the Big Book, prayers, personal stories, podcasts, meeting finders and more. It’s great reading material that you have on hand whenever you need it.

Available On: iTunes and Google Play, Cost: Free

The Mindfulness App: Meditation for Everyone

The Mindfulness App is used by millions of people worldwide. It’s designed for both beginners and experienced meditators, so everyone has something to gain. The focus is to help you become more present in your daily life, which is important in early recovery. The app features statistics, guided and silent meditations and health app integration.

Available On: iTunes, Cost: Free **For a similar app on Google Play, check out Headspace. Cost is free.**

Sober Tool

Sober Tool is an app that is geared toward relapse prevention. Its goal is to help you identify feelings and thoughts that can lead to relapse. By identifying these feelings, the app guides you toward healthier, “sober” thinking. Sober Tool also shows you how much time and money you’ve saved by being sober.

Available On: iTunes and Google Play, Cost: Free


These are just a few of the apps available to help complement your current recovery plan. Discover the ones that work for you and incorporate them into your daily life. By tracking your progress, managing stress levels and keeping connected to resources, you can significantly decrease your risk for relapse.