One of the greatest tools you can have in your toolbox as a newly sober individual is a relapse prevention plan. Often crafted with the help of a sponsor, therapist, or recovery coach, a plan is most helpful when it is unique and tailored to the individual.
The goal of a relapse prevention plan is to have a path to recovery laid down ahead of time. With a plan in place, you can live comfortably knowing what you will do in the case of temptation, cravings, or relapse.
In general, a relapse prevention plan can be divided into three categories:
- Prevention – Recognizing warning signs, addressing risky situations, and knowing triggers
- Intervention – Addressing a relapse quickly and efficiently, creating a plan to approach the individual
- Treatment – Crafting a plan for treatment, social support, and taking necessary steps to find help
The first component to a plan is the prevention of relapse. This stage, relapse prevention, can include a few important pieces.
First, you should recognize the warning signs of relapse. These may vary from one person to another, so get in touch with your own experience. As you may already know, relapse is a process. There are often physical, mental, and emotional signs of a relapse to come.
A few examples of warning signs of relapse may be:
- Discontinuing self-care routine (meetings, therapy, etc.)
- Change in priorities or behavior
- Depression or other mental health disorder
- Increased isolation
- Talk of using
- Increased cravings to use
- Change in social structure
Next, there are many different possible triggers for relapse, and some may impact one individual more than others. Specific situations can increase the likelihood of a relapse. Triggers may include things like spending time around certain people, high-stress situations, trauma, or traveling.
You can take the time to write down your own warning signs and triggers, in order to familiarize yourself with your habits. This way, you can catch them when they come up. It also may be helpful to share them with a loved one.
The next part of a relapse prevention plan is intervention. This portion of the plan aims to create a method of intervening and taking action. To learn more about professional interventions, you can read our post What is an Intervention at https://thevitalitygroup.net/recovery/what-is-an-intervention/.
The intervention component of your plan may be though of as an emergency plan for when relapse does happen. What’s the course of action in this case? This is an important one to discuss with family and loved ones ahead of time.
Ask yourself questions such as:
- Who will take you to treatment/meetings?
- What counselor, treatment center, or meeting will you reach out to?
- Can you authorize someone else to dispose of substances?
Consider what may be important, given your past history of abuse. Having a plan like this can help stop a relapse right when it happens, rather than waiting until you go further downhill.
Finally, you need to have a plan in place for treatment. This doesn’t necessarily mean inpatient treatment, but you do need a plan beyond the initial intervention stage.
Consider what you can do to help keep yourself on the right track. Especially immediately after a relapse, you will need to have a clear path laid out before you. There may not be one answer that works for everyone, so consider your own experience.
You can include things like meetings, friend groups, therapy, exercise and diet, and anything else you find that serves you in your quest toward recovery and health. Set out specific goals, such as taking a walk every day. The more specific you are, the more you will be able to achieve your goals and gain the benefit of marking them off the list.
We recommend reading our post 5 Things to Say to Someone Who Relapsed (and 5 Things to Avoid) for more ideas about working with someone who relapsed.