How to Make a Relapse Prevention Plan That Works

How to Make a Relapse Prevention Plan That Works

As you go through addiction treatment, you might be informed that relapse is a normal and expected part of the recovery process. In a recent survey of over 2,000 American adults who wanted to stop drinking, less than 30% were able to stop without relapsing. The longer you stay sober, the smaller risk you have of relapsing. However, it’s important to have a relapse prevention plan in place for both your early years of recovery and later down the road.

A relapse prevention plan can make the difference between lasting sobriety and consistent relapse encounters.

What Is A Relapse Prevention Plan?

A relapse prevention plan is something that you’ll likely create with your treatment provider or counselor. The purpose of a relapse prevention plan is to identify your own personal behaviors that could put you at risk for relapse. The relapse prevention plan also drafts strategies to combat these behaviors. Your relapse prevention plan might be very detailed with a full outline of behaviors and responses. However, it can also be very general and simple with easy techniques to help you overcome the stages of relapse.

What Is Relapse?

When a person goes into treatment for substance abuse, they may end up relapsing during the recovery process. Relapse usually occurs after a period of sobriety. That period can be anywhere from a few weeks to months or even years. Relapse usually doesn’t happen suddenly. Instead, it’s a three-stage process, which includes the following:

• Emotional relapse
• Mental relapse
• Physical relapse

In the first stage, something triggers you emotionally that reminds you of your previous substance abuse. When you continue to entertain these thoughts and even imagine yourself engaging in drinking or using, you’ve reached the mental relapse stage. Once you actually physically drink or use drugs, then it becomes a physical relapse.

As it’s generally impossible to fully avoid an emotional relapse, your relapse prevention plan should be crafted to keep you from reaching the next two stages.

About half of people going through addiction treatment experience at least one relapse. The most dangerous thing about relapsing is that it can make you more susceptible to an overdose because your former tolerance is gone. That’s why a relapse prevention plan is so important.

Why Is Relapse So Common?

Considering how dangerous relapse can be, it might be hard to understand why it happens so often with those in recovery. It can even happen when the person is fully committed to leading a sober lifestyle. The primary reason for relapse is a trigger that clashes with undeveloped coping skills. A life of sobriety often comes with a number of challenges and responsibilities that the person isn’t accustomed to after a long period of substance use. Failing to meet these challenges can make the person feel like they’re unsuited for a substance-free life.

Another common reason for relapse is the immense pressure from all sides to succeed in recovery. You may have your own self-imposed pressure on top of pressure from friends and family. This pressure can eventually turn into intense feelings of stress and a fear of failure. That, in turn, can damage your mental health, which may lead to relapse in an attempt to cope.

How To Create A Relapse Prevention Plan

Although it’s possible to make a relapse prevention plan by yourself, it might be more helpful and effective to craft a relapse prevention plan with the help of a therapist involved in your treatment program. Your relapse prevention plan can be verbal, but it should also be written in order to give you a clear visual of the steps you should take to avoid relapse. Let’s take a look at a basic strategy for making a relapse prevention plan.

Think About Your Substance Use History

When crafting a relapse prevention plan, it’s important to think about your history of substance use. For example, ask yourself the following questions:

• Were there certain times when you were more likely to drink or use?
• Were there specific people involved when you used?
• What thoughts or emotions made you more likely to use?
• Have you relapsed before and do you know why?

Identifying what caused a previous relapse, or the factors that led to your use of substances in the first place can help you avoid another relapse.

Think About Relapse Scenarios

Spend some time brainstorming possible scenarios that could lead to relapse. Take into account the common relapse warning signs like the following:

• Heightened anger and anxiety
• Trouble sleeping or eating
• Urge to self-isolate
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Having nostalgic thoughts about your past substance use

Warning signs can vary by individual, but the above signs are very common.

Make An Action Plan

The next step in your relapse prevention plan creation is to think about a course of action when you begin to have warning signs. It’s also important that your action plan is very specific and not vague so that you know exactly what to do. Take a look at the following outline:

• Know who you will call first whether a family member or a friend
• Know what you will ask them
• Know whether you will attend a support meeting or go back to rehab

Make sure that anyone included in your plan has the necessary knowledge to help you if necessary.

Relapse Prevention Plan Template

Once you have ideas down on scenarios and people to contact, it’s time to make a template. You should include the following in your relapse prevention plan template:

• Triggers
• How to manage cravings
• Prevention tools
Support groups
• Lifestyle changes

Make a list of all the things that could possibly trigger you into thinking about drug or alcohol use. These can be certain thoughts, emotions, places, dates and people. Next, make a list of things that can distract you from cravings and/or people you can call to help you through it. These are healthy coping methods versus the unhealthy method of substance use.

Next, make a list of prevention tools that you’ve used during your recovery. Some examples of these tools might include the following:

• Journaling
• Exercising
• Attending support meetings
• Listing the consequences of relapse
• Listing things that make you happy or grateful

Finally, make sure you have a support group that you can turn to if things get rough. It’s important to stay positive and remind yourself of the reasons that you decided to get sober in the first place. If you look at the areas of your life damaged by substance use, you can often find insight and motivation to stick to your relapse prevention plan.

New Method Wellness is a dual diagnosis treatment center with extensive support for substance use disorder recovery and aftercare. Take the first step towards a sober lifestyle by getting in touch with us today.

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