How to avoid a drug relapse

In Health and Healing, Health and Nutrition by Jost SauerLeave a Comment

10 key practices for those wanting to avoid a drug relapse and move on to an empowered addiction-free future.


Addiction is not a disease, it is the result of not knowing how to quit drugs. Most people want to quit long before they actually do, simply due to a lack of information. They quit and change nothing about their lives afterwards and then stress, anxiety, anger, loneliness, boredom, purposelessness, or the memories of great drug-highs drive them to relapse. Then there are relapses triggered by people or places or by unrecognized triggers that can instantaneously overrule the conscious mind and the intent to not do drugs. The latter leads to actions, which in turn, leads to shame and confusion and further relapses.

Cravings can also lead to relapse. These can be of the ‘medicinal’ kind, where life after drugs is such an emotional and physical mess that people desperately need drugs to take away the pain and to make sense of life again. Or cravings can be a longing for peak performance or altered states, because life after drugs is too ordinary, mundane, or plain boring. The key to recovery is to prevent relapse and this requires changing everything in life after addiction – the environment, the body, the mind, spirit, work, friends, and future.

Additionally a lifestyle change to a therapeutic way of living in which each day builds health, creates an ongoing momentum for change, constantly introduces ‘the new’, and creates a rich inner world, as well as a functional interaction with the physical world is needed.

The following are 10 key things I advise for those wanting to quit drugs or alcohol and move on to an empowered addiction-free future.

Spring clean your home, car, and phone

Drug vibes (what we call ‘chi’ in Chinese medicine) can attach to places and things and become one of the subconscious triggers for relapse. Do a big spring clean of home and car. Destroy any drug paraphernalia and even replace furniture, clothes, or objects associated with past drug or alcohol use. Make your home look and feel as much like a nurturing health retreat as possible, use soothing colours (blue and green), lots of plants, and hang optimistic imagery or mantras on the walls. Delete all drug-related contacts from your phone, or ideally, get a new phone.

Get regular treatments

Get acupuncture, remedial massage, and Chinese herbal formulas once a week for at least three years, because that’s how long it takes to get the drug chi out of your body, mind and spirit. Friday after work is an ideal treatment timeslot as it prevents anxiety about a weekend relapse. Acupuncture and remedial massage balance yin and yang so you won’t feel the need to ‘correct’ imbalances with drugs. You’ll just want to go home, watch a movie, or chill out. Traditional Chinese medicine combines psychology and medicine so regular treatments also resolve emotional issues.

Take nutritional supplements

Excessive drug use creates lethargy, depression, anger, emptiness, lack of motivation, pessimism, and emotional reactivity as well as aches and pains, which can create cravings. Good quality supplements will alleviate these symptoms and lift your mood.

They also repair organ damage and create the basis for people to be able to experience peak performance and altered states again without drugs. Drugs are a concentrated intensified substance that deliver instant results, and that functionality needs to be matched in the efficacy of the supplements. I recommend practitioner ranges, not supermarket or chemist supplements.

Eat nutritious cooked meals (no fasting, no raw foods, no juice cleanses)

Making every aspect of life, including food, medicinal is a key to preventing relapse. The post-addiction diet needs to nourish body, mind, and spirit by building ‘jing’. Jing is the internal force that powers us physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. Drug use takes a toll on the digestive functions creating food intolerances after quitting so slow cooked food (like congees, stews, or soups) are ideal. They build jing and are easy to digest.

Avoid fad ‘healthy’ diets like green smoothies for breakfast and raw foods. These require lots of energy to digest and aggravate the digestive system. They can also contribute to the development of obsession and depression. In Chinese medicine vegetarian or vegan diets, detox diets, juice fasts, or raw foods are not recommended for most people, and never for depleted or chi-deficient people, which is the common state after addiction.

Exercise every morning

Users usually wake feeling depressed, angry, anxious, or even nauseous. This can continue for many years after quitting and it can lead to a drug relapse. Physical movement quickly changes this and shifts negative states. Do a therapeutic exercise routine of core exercise, a chi practice (yoga, tai chi etc), and weights. This instantly deletes negative emotions and cravings and ultimately sets you up to access altered states more powerful than those generated by drugs. Trying to control urges or emotions with your mind doesn’t work, if it did there would be no relapse. Focus on building your body and you have the most effective anti-relapse strategy in existence.

Take up yoga and or tai chi

There are multiple reasons to get into a chi practice. It makes chi move, so it makes you feel good and if you feel good you don’t crave drugs. It builds health and strength and is anti-ageing. Excessive drug use accelerates ageing internally and externally and creates skin issues including rashes, dark spots, and lesions, but work with chi practices in the morning along with a medicinal diet and supplements, and you can return your skin to clarity and suppleness.

A regular chi practice is also the counter for those subconscious triggers for drug relapse. Addiction is a compulsive or impulsive disorder. When you are faced with a stimulus you may suddenly and impulsively react. Some triggers for relapse are so fast that your conscious mind may never even recognize what has set you off. This means you have to be on guard all the time, you can’t afford to relax because you don’t know when or where you might lose it. Attempting to control these triggers with your mind is unreliable. Chi practices harness your subconscious processing power and will automatically neutralize those split-second triggers. Additionally, taking up yoga, tai chi, Qigong, martial arts or meditation is also an opportunity to connect to other people who are on the same path. Expand your peer group and move towards the new in the social sphere, but with people who will support a different future.

Avoid guilt and shame

Most ex-addicts are tormented by feelings of guilt and shame after they quit. This is of no value, don’t go there. Shame is at the lowest end of the emotional range, drug highs are at the top. There is no point discussing shame in the context of drug use. Attempting to do so is the path to relapse because you will never resolve this with the conscious mind and the ensuing frustration will lead to cravings for drugs so that things feel like they ‘make sense’ again.

Get into bibliotherapy

After quitting it is normal to feel demotivated, trapped in the old. Reading is an immediately accessible way to access new horizons. You can turn a page and enter other worlds, learn, expand your horizons, make discoveries. Reading may sound boring but to prevent relapse you need to throw every change switch possible and ‘bibliotherapy’, the therapeutic power of reading, is an easy one. Read about people who have broken down barriers, changed the world, and overcome massive, endless obstacles to pursue something beyond normal. This will help motivate you and keep you on track. Sunday is a great day to read as it imprints a new purpose over what was probably a hangover day.

Routine not random

Addiction is a lifestyle that revolves around drugs. It provides a sense of purpose (getting drugs), offers rewards (drug highs), and there is a motivating drive of something to move towards (the next high). When you quit that is all gone and life quickly becomes purposeless, random, chaotic, and an emotional minefield. Relapse is the outcome. To avoid this follow  a set routine every day, so there is no randomness or confusion. Remember, planning prevents drug relapse.

Do vision boards of your future

To prevent relapse, and to be happy in life in general, you need to keep moving towards your visions, towards something new. Get a big whiteboard and write whatever comes to your mind about how you see your future on it. Do it spontaneously and regularly. When the whiteboard is full, take a photo. Never wipe the board before you have recorded the content somewhere. Start generating new ideas whether you feel inspired to do so or not. This gets that mechanism functioning again and creates that feeling of ‘moving towards’ which prevents cravings and relapse.

Combine all of the items above and you will forge new routines, memories, habits, and a new future so you won’t be looking back and longing for the good old days of drug highs. You will be heading instead to an addiction-free and happy life.

About the Author
Jost Sauer

Jost Sauer


Jost Sauer is an author, acupuncturist and therapist, with a passion for health, fitness and lifestyle medicine. He shares his health insights in his books, blogs, workshops, treatments and retreats. Jost is on a mission to put hope and happiness back into the health mix.

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