It’s often been said that failing to prepare is preparing to fail; and this can be especially true when you try to avoid relapse from alcohol and drug addiction. Relapse prevention plans will always be part of recovery no matter how much they may change over time. Whether you’re new to recovery or have years of uninterrupted sobriety, a realistic, dynamic and proactive relapse prevention plan can be the single most effective tool in your kit to stay clean and insulate yourself from the threat of a setback. With that in mind, here are some tips to developing a solid relapse prevention plan, based on where you are in your recovery experience.
Early-Recovery Relapse Prevention Plans
When you’re getting ready to leave treatment, your case manager and therapists should work with you or your loved one to make sure you have the supportive resources and coping strategies you need to maintain progress as you rebuild your life. Join recovery groups, practice your coping strategies, get involved in your recovery community and take proper self-care, such as eating right, maintaining proper physical fitness and managing your emotional health.
Keep working with an addiction-trained mental health professional and get the help you need for any co-occurring illnesses. Keep working with your doctor to manage your withdrawal symptoms and gradually curtail your medication-assisted treatment program (if applicable). You may also want to avoid gatherings where alcohol and drugs are likely to be present if you don’t feel entirely comfortable yet. Let your friends and family know how serious you are about your recovery and what can trigger you, so there’s a baseline of respect, sensitivity and recognition. Keep your therapist and support system on speed-dial for more vulnerable periods, which there are sure to be.
One-to-Three-Year Relapse Prevention
At this point, you might be getting more comfortable in your long-term recovery, so much so that you may be inclined to take your foot off the gas and stop working key aspects of your plan. It’s natural and common to make bigger changes during this period, like starting a relationship, getting married, having a child, changing jobs, moving away from family and friends, etc. It’s important to realize that while these big changes can be exciting and represent opportunity, they can test the fabric of your mental health and recovery.
Lean on loved ones for help, do breathing exercises during stressful times, talk to your therapist and friends about the pressures you’re feeling. Research recovery meetings in your new area if you’re moving and see how you can get involved with your community. Start doing more to help others, as well.
Relapse Prevention Three Years and Beyond
At this point, your relapse prevention plan can become more fluid and be deployed, according to your lifestyle, values and ongoing emotional needs. Perhaps this means continuing to help others at AA meetings and seeing your therapist; perhaps this means continuing to be involved with your church. By now you probably have a pretty firm grasp of what works for you, what your triggers are and where you can find strength and support and what you need help with. Keep working with your therapists and doctors and using your new and evolving coping strategies—they never go out of style.
When Relapse Prevention Fails
Don’t panic. Be transparent, let a loved one know and make arrangements to get back into treatment. You didn’t “fail”; you relapsed, and you just need a little more help. You’re not alone. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that the national average for relapse rates are between 40-60 percent. Recovery Unplugged has helped many clients who have relapsed from drugs or alcohol find their way back to long-term recovery. Call us today to get back on track if you or your loved one have experienced a sobriety setback.