A relapse prevention plan is a written plan that helps you recognize the warning signs of relapse, avoid triggers, and prevent a return to substance abuse.
This can include people to contact if you feel like using, self-care techniques, coping strategies, and any warning signs that may tell you you’re in danger of using.
After your time in addiction treatment, either a treatment provider, therapist, or your sponsor should help you make a detailed relapse prevention plan. Here are five tips you may want to consider when putting together your plan.
Taking time for self-reflection is the first step to starting your relapse prevention plan. Think about why you used drugs or alcohol in the first place. Were there specific moments where you used more than others? Were certain people around when you used?
Making a list of times you used or relapsed in the past and what was going on during those times can be very helpful. You may also want to list behaviors or thoughts that started to appear before the relapse. Knowing the signs of a relapse can help prevent it before it occurs.
2. Know Your Relapse Triggers
A relapse trigger is any experience, event, or person that causes you to use. What will increase your risk of relapse?
Everyone has different triggers and knowing what your specific ones are can be vital to sober-living. Listing out your triggers for your relapse prevention plan can help you avoid those people, places, and events on a regular basis.
A potential trigger may be a person you used to do drugs with, a party where you know alcohol will be served, or even a particular level of stress or loneliness.
While it’s not possible to avoid all triggers all the time, knowing what yours are and having a plan to deal with them is crucial for prevention.
3. Plan For The Most Stressful Times
It might sound pessimistic, but try to plan for the worst of times. Having a plan for relapse can ensure the relapse is dealt with before it becomes a habit again.
You’ll want to be on the lookout for the stages of relapse, which include:
- Emotional relapse: You may begin hiding your emotions, not going to support group meetings, avoiding people, and not practicing good self-care.
- Mental relapse: You may begin thinking about using drugs or alcohol, searching for opportunities to relapse, and looking back fondly on the days when you used.
- Physical relapse: You actually use drugs or alcohol again.
It’s hard to remember what to do during these stressful times when relapse signs are popping up, so write an action plan ahead of time. What are you going to do if you relapse? Who will you talk to? How will you get back on track?
This could mean going to more support group meetings or going back into an inpatient treatment center or outpatient treatment program.
4. Ask For Help
To ensure your sobriety lasts as long as possible, it’s important to include others and ask for help when you need it.
Whether it be a family member, a therapist, or someone from your support group, knowing you have a support system to lean on when you need it can be the difference between relapsing and staying sober.
If you have a sponsor, this is definitely when you want to reach out to them. That’s what they’re there for.
If you’ve relapsed or come close, spending more time in support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous can also get you back on track. Being around people who know what you’re going through can push you to recommit to your recovery journey.
5. Set Achievable Goals & Reward Yourself
Another important part of any relapse prevention plan is setting specific goals you can meet. Whether they are daily, weekly, or yearly goals, achieving something can keep you motivated to stick to a healthy way of life.
The goals could be anything from running a mile each morning, trying a new hobby, practicing mindfulness, or making a new recipe every week. One of your goals could even be to fix a relationship that was damaged by addiction.
Whatever way you want to make sure you’re focusing on your physical and mental health can go on your relapse prevention plan. Besides getting things done and staying sober, achieving goals can give your self-worth a boost as well.
Make sure to also reward yourself in healthy ways when you achieve these goals too. You deserve to celebrate your achievements.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, help is available. Call our helpline today and find the addiction treatment program that is right for you.
Indian Journal of Psychiatry — Relapse Prevention
National Institute on Drug Abuse — Cues give clues in relapse prevention
National Library of Medicine — Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources — Initial Relapse Prevention Plan