Relapse Prevention Plan: Strategies and Techniques

What Is a Relapse Prevention Plan?

A relapse prevention plan is an action plan using strategies and techniques learned during addiction treatment to prevent relapsing at any stage of recovery. These prevention plans are developed towards the end of treatment and serve as a tool afterward to remind you how far you have come and what you will sacrifice if you relapse.

The relapse prevention plan is developed and shared with your treatment team and support system outlining your goals, triggers, healthy coping skills to manage cravings, and support groups or people to reach out to for help staying on track.

Relapse happens in three stages—emotional, mental, and physical. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), up to 60% of people in recovery will relapse during the first year of recovery.

A good relapse prevention plan can help stop relapse during any phase or help someone recommit to recovery after a full-blown relapse.

What Are the Five Rules of Recovery?

The five rules of recovery are: 1) change your life, 2) be completely honest, 3) ask for help, 4) practice self-care, and 5) do not bend the rules.

Simplifying and breaking recovery down into easy-to-understand, achievable guidelines help it seem less overwhelming and within grasp. The following is a brief explanation of each of the five rules of recovery and how they help prevent relapse:

1. Change Your Life

Change is inevitable, and recovery is a chance to make positive changes. Many believe they can go back to living exactly how they were, just without using drugs, but that’s unrealistic. Doing the same things you always did will lead you right back to drug addiction.

Change can start small and lead to more significant changes down the road. The goal is to change the people, places, and things associated with your past and reshape how you think about them in the present.

2. Be Completely Honest

Addiction involves lying to yourself, strangers, friends, and family members. This rule requires facing truths, including uncomfortable ones, and opening the door to change and healing.

Self-honesty is probably an essential part of this rule because if you cannot be honest with yourself, there is little hope you can be honest with others. Being honest is not a pass to be rude or hurtful to others; it is not worth it if being honest with someone will bring more harm than good.

3. Ask For Help

There is a lot of guilt and shame for people who have struggled with addiction; many feel they need to prove themselves and do everything independently. But asking for help shows strength and humility in recognizing it is okay to rely on others.

There are a wide variety of support groups available, all of which offer judgment-free environments that provide opportunities to hear how the voice of addiction sounds coming from others, learn from their recovery journies, and become a part of a community without the stigma of addiction.

4. Practice Self-Care

The core of self-care is being kind to yourself, promoting healthy habits, and staying in touch with your needs. Self-care involves maintaining habits like exercise, a good diet, health checkups, and attending appointments and meetings related to recovery.

Finding and taking time for enjoyment and fulfillment in new hobbies and activities with new people helps overcome negative thinking and avoid romanticizing past substance abuse.

Self-care does not mean you get to be selfish and put your needs and wants first; it means reframing how you stay in touch with yourself and prioritize good decisions that support your mental health and recovery.

5. Don’t Bend the Rules

It is always tempting to look for shortcuts or loopholes when recovery becomes challenging, but skipping or ignoring steps puts you at a high risk of relapse, no matter how long you have been in recovery.

Some people believe once they have reached a certain amount of time in recovery, they can test themselves by skipping meetings or returning to habits from when they engaged in drug or alcohol abuse. Straying from the rules comes with a high risk of relapse.

Following the rules of recovery and making positive life changes makes the difference between recovery and sobriety. During your time in a treatment program, you will learn the skills and discipline to better understand and adhere to these rules.

what is a relapse prevention plan

Creating a Relapse Plan: Strategies and Techniques

When you create a relapse prevention plan, you should do it with a treatment professional who can help you stay honest about identifying triggers and approaches you will be receptive to when you struggle.

Strategies and techniques to consider when creating a relapse prevention plan include:

  • Identify triggers such as people, places, or times of year that make you want to use drugs or alcohol.
  • Plan and be proactive about avoiding triggers or how to overcome them if they are unavoidable.
  • Set goals that you want to achieve and reminders of how substance abuse makes them harder to achieve.
  • Know the warning signs and stages of relapse and educate your support system about recognizing yours.
  • Have an action plan and resources available, like a list of people to call, meetings to attend, or things to divert your energy and distract you from cravings.

Treatment and recovery are full of obstacles and challenges; as you conquer some and face new ones, you can modify and update your relapse prevention strategies.

Relapse Prevention Plan Example

A relapse prevention plan should be straightforward and put everything you learned during treatment into practice quickly and efficiently to avoid relapse as soon as possible. Relapse prevention plans are highly individualized to each person and what approaches they respond to best.

You can share your plan with your treatment team, support groups, friends, and family members to help them understand the best and most supportive ways to help you maintain sobriety when you are struggling.

This is an example of what a relapse prevention plan may look like:

  1. Create a list of your reasons for seeking recovery and the things it will allow you to accomplish.
  2. List feelings and behaviors that can trigger you.
  3. List healthy coping skills to overcome those feelings and behaviors.
  4. Name the people, places, and social gatherings you associate with using.
  5. List a course of action to avoid or cut ties with those people, places, and events.
  6. Make a list of warning signs that I am heading toward a relapse.
  7. Make a list of people I can call when I feel triggered or have cravings.
  8. List self-care practicings to overcome cravings.
  9. Write down the consequences and costs of a relapse.
  10. List of meeting times and locations you can attend.
creating a relapse prevention plan

Preventing Relapse With Northridge Addiction Treatment Center

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) stresses the importance of self-efficacy and empowerment to avoid relapse, stick to your customized treatment plan and the relapse prevention model, and overcome substance use disorders.

At Northridge Addiction Treatment Center, we use evidence-based treatments and therapies to address the roots of your addiction and provide you with a personalized relapse prevention plan along with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to achieve long-term recovery.

Contact us today. Our treatment specialists are eager to speak with you and help you take your first steps on the path to recovery.

Find Meaningful Recovery

Our caring and compassionate specialists are eager to help you comfortably navigate this journey to recovery. Our individualized treatment plan, programs, and therapies may be a perfect match for you or your loved one. Let us assist you in living the happy life you deserve. It starts with a phone call.

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