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A recent study published in the Scientific American showed that alcoholic men and women relapse for different reasons.
It is common knowledge that relapse rates are high for those in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. That is why addiction treatment programs work with clients on relapse prevention before they leave treatment.
John Kelly and Bettina Hoeppner with Massachusetts General Hospital collected and assessed data that revealed new insights for relapse prevention. For 15 months they looked at the social networks and drinking habits of 1,726 members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). They presented them with hypotheticals and asked them how confident they were in their ability to stay sober if those situations happened.
They found that male alcoholics are at greatest risk of relapse when they are in social situations where others are drinking. AA helps them stay sober by being around non-drinking friends. After some time in recovery with fellow members of AA, they learn coping skills to handle situations where friends or colleagues are drinking around them socially. The classic depiction of men bonding in business or personal life over a glass of whiskey seems to be all too triggering for men.
Kelly and Hoeppner found that women alcoholics are at greatest risk for relapse when they feel strong emotions. When they are feeling depressed or anxious, fellow female AA members can help them recognize that they can have emotions, but they don’t have to react to them by picking up a drink.
While in alcoholism treatment, clients often identify their own relapse triggers – be it business dinners, breakups or celebrations. Those in early recovery are cautioned to avoid those situations because the integrity of their recovery should come first. Clients also have opportunities to play out the triggering situations in an individual or group therapeutic setting while in treatment. They can role-play how they would react to identified triggers by utilizing the new tools they learned in recovery. Over time when they are strong in their recovery they can handle triggering situations with grace.
What are your triggers? How do you handle them?