How to Create a Relapse Prevention Plan

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Addiction is a chronic disease with no existing cure, meaning that treatment and relapse prevention are vital aspects of staying sober. Even if someone has been sober for over a decade, they still run the risk of relapsing due to how addiction modifies the brain. However, creating a relapse prevention plan can help a person avoid this from happening as they continue with life after treatment. A relapse prevention plan will help you manage cravings, identify your triggers, use coping mechanisms, and connect you with the necessary resources you may need in a time of crisis. When you come to that crucial point of relapsing or continuing with your sobriety, a relapse prevention plan can help you stay on track and get the proper help. 

What is a Relapse Prevention Plan?

For those in recovery, a relapse prevention plan can mean the difference between falling back down the rabbit hole of addiction or getting the proper help and staying clean. The plan is a tool to help those in recovery identify habits and behaviors to be aware of a potential future relapse. It includes coping mechanisms to deal with cravings and temptations, as well as phone numbers of hotlines, treatment centers, and individuals you can call if you are having a crisis. Relapse often doesn’t occur out of the blue but rather slowly creeps through various signs and symptoms that can be recognized, so the relapse is stopped. 

When Should it be Made?

A relapse prevention plan is generally a physical document created when a person is finishing up their treatment program or rehab. It is made by the individual and their treatment staff to ensure it is practical and tailored to that person’s experience. 

How Do I Make a Relapse Prevention Plan?

The plan should be made with your treatment staff’s help because they know your weaknesses, triggers, and the other individual characteristics of your treatment process. However, you can begin to think about your plan on your own and what it should include. You should consider the following areas to include in your prevention plan:

Know Your Triggers and History

Try to remember the things that specifically drove you to addiction, such as your life at the time, your environment, your perspective, your relationships, and more. Think about certain people and if they may have had a hand in influencing you. You should also think about the thoughts that drove you to that point and think about why you may have relapsed before, if applicable. Make a list of potential triggers and cravings you may come into contact with. If you know what caused you to relapse or use in the past, you can learn to look out for it in the future. 

Know the Warning Signs

While recovery is a personal experience, there are general signs that can point to a person at risk of a potential relapse. Being aware of these warning signs can help you be prepared. If you recognize any of these warning signs in yourself, you can catch yourself and take the necessary steps to get help. Common warning signs of relapse include:

  • Lying
  • Isolation
  • Not attending aftercare
  • Secretive behavior and actions
  • Going to places where you used to use
  • Romanticizing drug or alcohol use
  • Hanging with people you used to use with
  • Expressing thoughts of relapse
  • Minimizing the consequences of relapse

Coping Strategies

Thinking of helpful coping methods at the moment can be difficult if you are on the brink of relapsing. Your prevention plan should include a list of coping strategies that can help you with triggers at the moment. Specific strategies could consist of deep breathing, journaling, exercising, or writing a gratitude list. Remember that not all coping strategies work for everyone, so be sure to include those that work for you. 

Step-by-Step Actions

When you are craving drugs or alcohol, it can be challenging to think of alternative activities to engage in that can distract you. Your relapse prevention plan should have steps you can take at the moment to keep you from using. This can include the phone number of someone you trust, such as your sponsor or a close friend, a list of local support groups, and the number of a treatment center. However, it is not enough to have these numbers or actions. You need to know what you will say so they can help you accordingly. Write down what you can speak to them at that moment to indicate that you need help. 

Lifestyle Changes

Keep in mind that your life will continuously be changing in and out of recovery. The things that bothered you initially may not be triggers for you after years of staying clean. This is why you should revisit your relapse prevention plan every so often to ensure it is up to date and matches the lifestyle you are leading now. Update your plan according to your current lifestyle and separate your life into areas such as your career, education, relationships, finances, and legal concerns. This way, you can keep track of your life and know what to look out for in these different areas.

Creating a relapse prevention plan can be lifesaving for individuals in recovery that may be struggling and at risk of a potential relapse. Creating the plan is not difficult and can be done with your treatment team or therapist’s help. Together you can come up with ways that will help you slow down and identify specific triggers in your life and ways to cope with them. Your plan should include a list of your triggers, the common warning signs of relapse, coping strategies, and step-by-step actions. Within each area of the plan, you will create ways to prevent relapse, such as coping mechanisms or a phone number of someone you trust that can help you at that moment. The most important thing to remember, though, is that you must be honest with yourself when creating your plan. This way, you are better prepared for the possibility of relapse in the future and can successfully prevent it. For more information, contact Everlast Recovery Centers today at 866-DETOX-25

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