What is a Relapse Prevention Plan and How Does it Work?

Sobriety is no easy feat. Voluntary work is needed to get there and a focus on doing the work, one step at a time. One of the biggest fears of going into substance use treatment is facing life sober. These fears are not without warrant. Relapse statistics are alarming. However, it is possible to learn to live without substance use and experience joy and success. With a combination of supportive services, backed up by a strong prevention plan, there is hope and promise for people to recover.


Prevention Is Key

The difficult work of recovery does not start and end when the person decides to attend the program. It begins when the person finishes detox and starts to process the experience of a substance use disorder. Through therapeutic work, there are ways to look at the experience, uncover the issues, and identify triggers to avoid in the future. The goal is to complete treatment with the right tools and confidence necessary to make healthier life choices. The proper aftercare and staying focused on goals helps ensure success.


Hitting Relapse Prevention Goals

Leaving a residential program may feel like going out into the world without support and it can cause some anxiety. It is important to connect with a network of people and continue with needed therapies to provide adequate support. Recovery is one day at a time, assisted by friends and supportive people who understand the journey and are available in times of need. Defining and following a concrete plan that helps achieve set goals and instills self-confidence will only make success easier. Recognizing when these goals are met is added support on the journey. A relapse prevention plan is worked on in a group setting, sharing experiences, and receiving feedback. It is a formal, written plan, but it may be hard to follow at first. Committing to the prevention of relapse takes intention. The person has to want to stay sober. Some common goals outlined in a relapse prevention plan include:

  • Changing thought patterns and behaviors.

  • Identifying and avoiding triggers.

  • Knowing how to handle cravings.

  • Managing life’s pressures.

  • Facing life’s ups and downs efficiently.

Counseling helps people reflect on the mindset that builds dependence. It helps to formulate a plan in which major targets are identified with a clear plan for reaching them. The family can be part of the process, along with learning specific tools developed through cognitive behavioral therapy, role-playing, and other practices.


Three Stages of Relapse

Relapse does not happen overnight. It evolves slowly, beginning with emotions and ending in action. With the three stages of emotional, mental, and physical relapse, it helps to understand how each stage sets the foundation of relapse prevention.


Emotional Relapse

Emotions are a huge part of recovery. There is no escaping emotions; sometimes, they bubble up out of nowhere. Those relapse triggers are red flags. The emotional relapse plan can include how to deal with post-acute withdrawal symptoms, along with breathing exercises, meditation, and finding support during times of sliding into old patterns. It makes a big difference for someone to find healing in recovery if they can manage their emotional states better.


Mental Relapse

The intention is key with a mental focus on relapse prevention. Minimizing life’s ups and downs will not help. Focusing on mental preparation and trying to avoid a situation that may present surprise triggers requires planning. Actions often follow thoughts when there is no redirection and support. Going back to the old days where the beast is, will result in a person finding themselves on the doorstep of addiction again. The last thing people need is to focus on the past. Keep focused on the present and future to find hope again in recovery.


Physical Relapse

During the mental collapse, the thought process jumps to “one drink won’t hurt,” and “I've done the work to drink like others.” Without a plan, it is just a short hop towards using drugs again. One slip can lead to feeling guilt, shame, fear, and failure. Physically the body is going through a lot. Give it time, rest, eat well, and get enough sleep to help in the healing process.

If a person finds themselves isolated, skipping meetings, and dropping out of their recovery lifestyle, they may be at risk of relapse. Finding the best place to get help means strategizing who to call when the flags are flying, and the warning signs are there. Ask friends to be aware of any issues and to help pull the person out of the pit they’ve found themselves in, which will help them get support when they need it the most. The following keys will help practice as much as possible mindfulness, healthy habits of living, and being around positive people who support recovery. Without this, it will be difficult to stay clean and sober. With the right help, the person in recovery can find hope. Completion of a program is a start, but plugging into the community, finding a mentor, and seeking support are key to encourage the journey forward.


Steamboat Springs, located in the Rocky Mountains, provides a setting for the natural stimulation of mind and body allowing for a return to our innate senses and a new foundation from which to build. Foundry Treatment Center’s vision was formed through personal experiences and continues to grow through the dedicated compassion of the Foundry team. We share a commitment to provide a comprehensive, whole-body treatment program that encourages each to seek their own values and beliefs through innovative and evidence-based treatment modalities. For more information on how we can help you or a loved one, call us today at 1-844-955-1066.

(844) 955-1066

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