Relapse Prevention Plan

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Relapse is the absolute last thing that you want to do after becoming sober. When you are in recovery from addiction, it’s important to take the appropriate measures to ensure that you don’t relapse. The best way to do this is to create a relapse prevention plan for yourself. A relapse prevention plan is a plan of physical, emotional, and mental measures that you’ll act out each day that you’re in recovery to help prevent you from having a relapse.

The process of addiction recovery includes everything that you do from the time that you admit that you have an addiction problem to the time that you reach a stable place of sobriety. Because there is no cure for addiction, there truly is not an end to your recovery. This means that relapse is always possible.

Although it is possible for you to relapse at any stage in your recovery and life, the more diligent that you are in following a relapse plan, the less likely that you will relapse after becoming sober. To learn how to develop a relapse prevention plan for yourself, you must first understand the different stages of recovery itself, the things that can trigger a relapse, and the stages of relapse.

The Elements of Recovery

Addiction recovery is a life-long journey. To give yourself the best chance of maintaining sobriety after addiction, it’s important that you go through each stage of addiction recovery.

Stage #1 of Addiction Recovery: Admitting That You Have a Problem

man overcoming drug addictionMost people with a substance use addiction, spend years of being in denial about having a problem. One reason why the denial of a problem is so common among addicts is that they do not want to give up the use of substances. The shame and negative stigma that people associate with substance use addiction also do not help. That is why admitting that you have a problem abusing substances is such an important step in the recovery process.

Often times, people that chronically abuse substances do not admit to having an addiction until a horrific life experience or negative consequence occurs because of it. Examples of these negative life experiences or consequences include losing a job, relationship, or loved one due to their addiction. As a result, people tend to be at their lowest when they finally admit to having a substance abuse problem.

Stage #2: Finding Support

To change your life for the better, find people who support and encourage you. No person can achieve anything as difficult as recovering from addiction on his or her own. Therefore, it is important that you gather a tribe of people to be around you that support your mission to become sober.

These people can include family members, close friends, doctors, members of addiction support groups, and more. As long as the people in your support group are genuinely supportive of your goal to become sober and do not abuse substances themselves, they are great to have around you. The purpose of a support group is to have a group of people that you can turn to for assistance throughout addiction recovery.

Stage #3: Detox

After you find your support group, you must detox your body of drugs and alcohol. Some people are capable of detoxing themselves on their own without the help of medication or professional help. Still, the most effective way to detox yourself from substances is to attend treatment at a detox center.

While receiving treatment at a detox center, you’ll gradually cleanse your body of all substances. Detoxing your body of substances that you once were dependent on may cause you to have withdrawal symptoms. Examples of withdrawal symptoms that you may experience while detoxing include nausea, upset stomach, headaches, shaking, and tremors.

If your withdrawal symptoms are severe, you can take medication to help you manage them. When a person receives medication to help manage withdrawal symptoms, it is called medication-assisted treatment.

Stage #4: Receiving Addiction Treatment

Once you detox your body from all drugs and alcohol, you should receive some form of addiction treatment. The best way to receive addiction treatment is to attend an inpatient or outpatient program at a rehab facility.

You should decide which rehab facility and treatment program to attend based on your individual needs. For example, if you suffer from severe alcohol addiction, you should try to receive treatment at a rehab facility that specializes in inpatient alcohol addiction treatment.

Residential treatment allows you to live in the rehab facility that you are attending. That way you can get 24/7 monitoring and a highly structured treatment model. Outpatient treatment allows you to live at home when you aren’t receiving treatment. This type of program is often best for people who have a healthy home life. You should also receive outpatient treatment if you are stable enough in your recovery to not need 24/7 monitoring.

Addiction treatment should educate you about addiction and how to manage it. Addiction treatment should also include different forms of therapy. Some forms of therapy that occur while in addiction treatment include individual therapy, family therapy, and group therapy.

Stage #5: Attending AfterCare

Once you complete your addiction treatment program, you should start attending aftercare. Aftercare is addiction recovery support groups that you can attend around once or twice a week. Aftercare support groups usually are 12-step programs such as alcoholics anonymous and narcotics anonymous.

Stage #6: Finding New Routines

Once you finish treatment, you should find new, healthy hobbies and routine things to do. That way you can develop a new way of life that will help you remain sober. An example of new routines that you can do after treatment is exercising at a certain time each day.

Stage #7: Avoiding Relapse

This is the stage of addiction recovery that you should make a relapse prevention plan for. That way you won’t relapse and have to start your addiction treatment recovery all over again. Not creating a relapse prevention plan can cause you to stumble into a situation that will trigger a relapse.

The Triggers of Relapse

Triggers are anything that hit a nerve inside of you and cause you to act out in a certain way. There are several different relapse triggers. To stop these triggers from turning into an actual relapse, come up with ways to manage these triggers in your relapse prevention plan.

1. Stress

Research shows that there is an increase in the desire to take drugs and alcohol when you are stressed. This is especially true if you used to use substances to cope with life’s stresses. To avoid this trigger, you should eliminate any people or things in your life that you give you unnecessary stress.

Because stress in general is unavoidable, you should also learn how to manage your stress. Some things that you can do to help you manage your stress include giving yourself self-care and practicing mindfulness. Other things that you can do to help you manage stress include exercising on a day-to-day basis, eating healthy, and better managing your time.

2. People or Places That Are Connected to Your Past Addictive Behavior

When in addiction recovery, you should avoid all people that you used to abuse substances with. You should also avoid all places where you used to abuse substances. Otherwise, you will make yourself vulnerable to relapsing.

To remove past toxic people and places out of your life, you must set boundaries between you and others. For example, you must make it clear to everyone that you know that they cannot partake in substances around you.

3. Negative Challenges and Emotions

Negative emotions such as anger or sadness and negative life challenges like not receiving a job after an interview can trigger people into relapsing. To prevent this from happening to you, decide to use your negative emotions and challenges as an opportunity to grow as a person.

For instance, you can journal, meditate, or pray after experiencing negative challenges or emotions to help you self-reflect. Ultimately, you should release any negative emotions that you’re feeling in a healthy manner that works for you.

4. Seeing or Sensing the Substance That You Are Addicted To

One of the easiest ways to trigger a relapse is to be in the presence or space of the substance that you have an addiction to. This is particularly true if you’re early on in your recovery.

An example of this trigger would be if you were to go into a place that smells like alcohol. Another example of this trigger would be seeing people drinking and smoking in the distance. Even seeing a picture of an alcoholic beverage or a particular drug can act as this type of relapse trigger.

You can’t go through your entire life avoiding any sight or sense of a substance. Therefore, to help you deal with this relapse trigger, take a moment to think about the new life that you are building and all the negative ways that using substances again can ruin that new life. You can even think about healthy behaviors that you enjoy, like going to the movies or taking a bubble bath. That way your mind will be distracted and seeing or sensing substances will not trigger you.

You can even distract your mind by reciting positive mantras or performing relaxation exercises. Whatever you need to mentally do to think positive, healthy thoughts and keep you from becoming triggered, do it. For more ideas to help you avoid becoming triggered when you see or sense substances, talk about this trigger with a counselor or therapist.

5. Attending Celebrations

Whenever there is a celebration, it is common to see people drink alcohol or partake in other legal recreational substances. Holiday parties, graduation parties, and birthday parties are just some examples of celebrations in which alcohol and other legal recreational substances are often broken out.

Celebrations are also the time when social pressure is at its finest. It is in times like these that you may start thinking to yourself, “what if I just have one drink tonight?” As much as you want to participate in the fun and have a drink like everyone else, as an addict, one drink can turn into a night of binging and a terrible relapse.

Therefore, when attending celebrations, try bringing a responsible and caring friend with you. That friend can help monitor you and make sure that you don’t give in to temptation or social pressure. Feel free to come up with other ways to avoid giving in to temptation at celebrations when you’re creating your relapse prevention plan.

About the 3 Stages of Relapse

Relapsing from addiction to substances does not just happen out of nowhere. There are usually signs that a relapse might occur prior to it fully happening. In fact, relapse occurs in three stages. These stages are emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse.

Emotional Relapse

During the emotional relapse stage, you aren’t even thinking about abusing substances yet. Still, during this phase, your emotions are setting you up for a relapse to occur in the future. The symptoms of emotional relapse include poor sleeping and eating habits, anxiety, anger, mood swings, isolation, intolerance, and defensiveness.

The signs of emotional relapse are very similar to the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome is the stage of withdrawal that occurs right after the physical sensation of using substances has gone away.

To prevent yourself from experiencing the entirety of this early stage of relapse, recognize the stage of relapse that you are in. Then, make an active decision to change your behavior. You can also ask for help from your support group at this time if you feel that you need it. One of the best ways to stop this stage of relapse in its track is to practice self-care. By working on your sleeping and eating habits and practicing self-care, you will be less likely to be irritable and emotional.

Mental Relapse

During this relapse stage, a part of you wants to start using substances again and a part of you doesn’t. Lying, fantasizing about using, glamorizing times of past use, and hanging out with old friends that you used to use substances with are some key signs of mental relapse.

To prevent yourself from romanticizing your drug-abusing past, remind yourself of all the things that you’ve suffered from in the past due to your addiction. You can also distract yourself and relax.

Physical Relapse

Once you’re in the physical relapse stage, it means that you’ve officially relapsed and are abusing substances again. It is hard to come back from the physical relapse stage. Therefore, once you are in the physical relapse stage, you should seek out help and addiction treatment immediately.

The Importance of Having a Sponsor Ready

A sponsor is an addiction recovery mentor. Sponsorship is a very popular concept among 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Sponsors are usually senior members of AA or NA that have been in recovery themselves for at least a year.

Sponsors are there to answer any addiction treatment and recovery questions that you have. Sponsors are also there to keep you accountable for your actions and provide assistance navigating the 12-step program. That way you will be less likely to relapse when you have a sponsor.

Most people use sponsors in the early to middle stages of recovery, right out of rehab. Other people use sponsors throughout their entire addiction recovery journey.

If you’re starting your addiction recovery journey, you should get a sponsor. Doing so will make your addiction recovery journey run more smoothly. Also, getting a sponsor is a great way to prevent yourself from relapsing.

To obtain a sponsor, request for one at an aftercare program. You should also make sure that your plan to obtain a sponsor is in your relapse prevention plan.

When to Reach Out to Family and Friends for Support

You should never be ashamed to ask for help with your addiction recovery. This is especially true if you’ve already assembled a support group of close family members and friends. Either way, as long as you’re asking for help from people that really care about you and respect your recovery journey, it shouldn’t be a problem.

You should reach out to family and friends for support for your addiction recovery anytime you feel that you need it. This is especially true if you feel that you will relapse without the support.

Recovery support comes in many ways. For example, having someone accompany you to a celebration to help keep you from drinking is a form of support. Answering your phone calls and talking with you when you feel that you are on the brink of relapse is also a form of support. Regardless of what type of support you need, if it’s for your recovery, you shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask for it.

Whether you’re early in your recovery journey or not, you will always need a support group. Even people that aren’t addicts do not go through life’s challenges without support from family and friends. Thus, if you’re in recovery and want more support to help you from relapsing, have the courage to ask for help and be honest about your needs.

Negative Influences That You Need to Stay Away from to Avoid Relapsing

When you’re in recovery from addiction, it’s important to stay away from negative influences. To ensure that you don’t relapse due to bad influences, incorporate ways to help you avoid the following negative influences into your relapse prevention plan.

Friends That Use Substances

When people are in the midst of substance abuse, they usually have a group of friends that they abuse substances with. People with substance abuse problems also likely have multiple contacts with drug dealers that they can purchase substances from.

When you decide to go into recovery and become sober, you must cut all of these friends out of your life. Otherwise, you will relapse and fall back into old habits. Once you’re in recovery, you should only surround yourself with family and friends that support your addiction recovery journey and do not use drugs.


The music, movies, and books that we entertain ourselves with often have images and references to drugs and alcohol in them. Having constant images and references to drugs and alcohol can make you crave them and think that abusing drugs and alcohol is no big deal. Over time, such imagery and references can trigger you into having a relapse. That’s why it’s important for addicts in recovery to avoid music, movies, and books that promote drugs and alcohol or constantly show substance abuse.

Family Members That Use Substances

Sometimes, even our family members are bad influences over our lives. In fact, many people develop addictive behaviors due to addictive behaviors that they previously saw in the home.

When you’re in recovery, you need to cut out all negative influences. This includes family members. Therefore, you shouldn’t associate with any family members that use substances and abuse alcohol. You should also not associate with family members that do not respect your recovery journey and needs.

How to Reach Out for Help If You Do Relapse

If you ever do relapse from addiction and need help, you should call your support group for any assistance that you need. When you contact your support group, it’s necessary to swallow your pride. Be honest about your situation and what you need from them. Once you’ve notified your support group, you should then contact an addiction treatment center to re-enter rehab.

Attend Rehab at Free by the Sea to Prevent a Relapse

If you’ve relapsed after being in addiction recovery, re-enter rehab at Free by the Sea. Here at Free by the Sea, we provide a wide variety of high-quality treatment and therapy services for people of all genders and age groups.

From treatment programs for seniors to treatment programs for young adults, Free by the Sea has you covered. At Free by the Sea, our mission is to help people find their way to a new way of life that is free from addiction. With a proven high rate of members that have successfully transitioned from our treatment programs to long-term sobriety, it’s clear that we know how to prevent relapse.

Therefore, to learn how to develop a relapse prevention plan, come to Free by the Sea. You can also contact us here at Free by the Sea anytime that you want to learn more about our addiction treatment and therapy services.