relapse prevention plan

In the alcohol and drug recovery process, relapse is common. More than 90% of people in recovery have at least one relapse before they reach the goal of lasting recovery. However, a relapse sometimes called a “slip,” doesn’t start when you pick up a drink or drug. Relapse is a slow process that begins way before you actually start using again.   

Many people believe that relapse prevention is only about being able to say no to a certain addictive substance. The reality is that saying “no” is incredibly difficult, particularly if you’ve been an addict in the past. This is why relapse prevention needs to be in place before a recovering addict is exposed to any kind of temptation. A good relapse prevention plan should always be maintained. 

Ten Techniques to Help You Stay on Your Addiction Recovery Plan

Recognize the Three Stages of Relapse

  • Emotional Relapse: In this phase, you aren’t thinking about using, but your thoughts and behaviors are setting you up for a relapse. You are isolating yourself, bottling up emotions, feeling anxious, and not eating or sleeping properly.
  • Mental Relapse: You are at war with yourself. Part of you wants to use it, but the other part of you doesn’t. You may begin thinking of the people and places associated with your substance use and the good times you had.
  • Physical Relapse: This is when you start using again. It begins with one slip and leads to regular use.

Know Your Triggers

As mentioned, there are certain people, places, and situations that can drive you back into alcohol or drug use. Know your triggers so you can avoid them. These are some common relapse triggers:

  • Withdrawal symptoms (some people relapse during the withdrawal process)
  • Bad relationships
  • People who enable you
  • Seeing drug paraphernalia and other things that remind you of using
  • Places where you drank or used drugs
  • Loneliness
  • Stress
  • Poor self-care like not eating, sleeping, or managing stress well

Remember Your Reasons for Quitting

Remember why you started the path to recovery. Think about how out of control or sick you felt. Remember things you did and people you hurt while using. Consider how much better your life will be without using drugs or alcohol.

Ask for Help

Don’t try to do it alone. Getting support will make the process easier. Support groups and 12-Step programs can be helpful. You might want to talk to your counselor, or even family or friends can offer a friendly ear.

Take Care of Yourself

Look for healthy ways to reward yourself. Get into a self-care routine. Try to sleep seven to nine hours a night. Eat a healthy diet with lots of lean protein and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Relax and take time to do things that make you happy. 

Manage Withdrawal Symptoms

You may have ongoing withdrawal symptoms or symptoms that reappear during times of stress. Use your recovery team to help with medications to manage withdrawal symptoms before you relapse.

Distract Yourself

When your thoughts drift to using drugs or alcohol, gently steer them away and focus on healthy subjects. Take a walk or run. Walk the dog. Go out to dinner with friends. Most cravings only last for a short time. If you can distract yourself for 15 to 30 minutes, you can beat it.

Call a Friend

Have someone you trust to call on for weak moments when you might slip. A good friend can remind you of the wonderful things in your life without drugs or alcohol.

Reward Yourself

Give yourself credit for each small gain you achieve. Book a massage. Buy yourself something you’ve been wanting. Recovery isn’t easy — you deserve a reward.

Follow a Model

If you aren’t sure how to go through the recovery journey, follow these 10 techniques, and watch out for the relapse warning signs that follow. Continue therapy. Join a support group. Make a plan and follow it. The longer you receive treatment, the better your chances of long-term abstinence.

The Importance of Support Networks in a Relapse Prevention Plan

By being part of a support network, women can get practical help in the development of their own relapse prevention plan. Furthermore, the social interactions in these groups help to reduce stress and alleviate signs of depression. Developing true friendships with people who understand the difficulties an addict goes through is very important. It’s through these methods that women can become empowered and control themselves.

“Most drug addiction treatment and recovery programs focus on making positive changes in a person’s life, to get that person out of their old habits and away from their old friends, and into a new happy and healthy outlook on life. However, when a person stops focusing so intently on these things, relapses do occur.”

Relapse Prevention Factors

Indeed, the elements that should always be included are: relapse prevention plan

  • awareness of emotional triggers
  • social interactions
  • positive coping mechanisms

We know from the National Institute on Drug Abuse that certain factors are of influence in relapses: “Men experience relapses more frequently than women do after completing treatment programs for drug addiction. The main reason for this difference seems to be that women are more likely to seek outside assistance in the form of group counseling.”

At New Directions for Women, we ensure group counseling is available to provide strong support networks. We also have an array of alumnae activities. We make sure that no woman feels isolated during any part of her recovery process.

Recognizing Alcohol or Drug Relapse Warning Signs

A vital component of a relapse prevention plan is to learn how to detect the warning signs that often lead to a lapse in abstinence. It is very important to be aware of these relapse signals so that a woman can seek help (be that for herself or a loved one) before it is too late.

Change in Attitude

For no good reason, you decide that taking part in your recovery program just isn’t as important as it used to be. You know something is wrong but can’t pinpoint what it is.

Increased Stress

A major change in your circumstances or just a buildup of little things can increase the stress in your life. Returning to “real life” after being in a residential program can present some stressful situations. Be aware if you begin to have mood swings and exaggerated feelings, whether positive or negative.

Renewed Denial

This doesn’t mean denying that you have a substance use disorder (SUD). This is a denial that the stress is getting to you. Trying to convince yourself that everything is okay won’t make everything okay. Maybe you’re scared or worried, but you reject those feelings and stop sharing with others.

Reappearance of Withdrawal Symptoms

Long after you quit drinking or doing drugs, anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and memory loss can continue. These are known as “post-acute withdrawal symptoms” and they can return during stressful times. This is dangerous because you may feel like you want to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs.

Behavior Changes

You might begin to change your daily routine that you developed early in your recovery. This is the routine that helped you replace your compulsive, harmful behaviors with healthy choices. You might begin to avoid or become defensive in situations that need an honest evaluation of your behavior.

Social Breakdown

You might start feeling uncomfortable around other people and make excuses not to socialize. You might stop going to your support group meetings or cut way back on attendance. You begin to isolate yourself.

Loss of Structure

This is when you begin to totally give up on your daily routine or the schedule you constructed in your early recovery. You might begin sleeping late, skipping meals, or ignoring personal hygiene.

Loss of Judgment

At this point, you have trouble making decisions or the ones you make are unhealthy. It might be difficult to think clearly and you are easily confused. You feel overwhelmed for no good reason. You can’t relax and become annoyed or angry easily.

Loss of Control

You make choices that aren’t logical and aren’t able to stop or change them. People who can help you are cut off from your life.  You begin thinking that you can return to social drinking or recreational drug use and remain in control of it. You might begin to believe there is no hope and you lose confidence in your ability to handle your life.

Loss of Options

You begin limiting your options. All attendance at meetings with counselors and support groups are discontinued. You might begin to feel loneliness, frustration, anger, resentment, and tension. You also might feel helpless and desperate.

Final Stage: Relapse

You try controlled social or short-term alcohol or drug use, but it doesn’t work out and now you feel shame and guilt. Now you will quickly lose control and your substance use will spiral further out of control. This will cause the expected problems with relationships, jobs, money, mental and physical health. You need professional help again.

We Support All Women

relapse prevention planAt New Directions for Women, we ensure group counseling is available to provide strong support networks. We also have an array of alumnae activities. We make sure that no woman feels isolated during any part of her recovery process.

We create individual relapse prevention plans, as we understand every woman is different and unique. Through our work, women will be given the tools they need to stop themselves from returning to their substance of choice. This includes support networks and the ability to speak to their peers whenever they feel they are having a difficult time. It is one of the reasons why we include spirituality in our treatment.

New Directions is Waiting for You 

New Directions for Women is a treatment facility located in California that offers help to women of all ages, pregnant women in any trimester, and women with children. Founded in 1977, our courageous and visionary founders asked for the help of Newport Beach Junior League members to fulfill their vision of a tranquil home-like facility that would treat women with dignity and respect. 

Our caring admissions counselors are available 24/7 to take your call and answer any questions you may have about getting help. We are waiting for you to contact us now. And stay in the loop with New Directions for Women by connecting with us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.