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Recovery and Relapse Prevention Plan

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relapse prevention plan and support 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.

What is a Relapse Prevention Plan?

A relapse prevention plan is a written document that is used to help people in recovery from substance abuse maintain their sobriety. The plan typically includes a list of trigger situations and coping skills and mechanisms that can be used to avoid relapse and maintain sobriety.

For example, someone who is trying to stay sober may include in their relapse prevention plan a list of people, places, and things that they associate with using drugs or alcohol. They would then develop a set of strategies for avoiding or dealing with these high-risk situations.

A relapse prevention plan can be an effective tool for maintaining sobriety, but it is only one part of a comprehensive treatment plan. When utilizing a relapse prevention plan in conjunction with well-rounded substance abuse treatment individuals have a much stronger chance to prevent relapse.

Recognize the Three Stages of Relapse

When people think of relapse, they think of the physical activity of drug or alcohol abuse after a period of abstinence. But, relapse actually occurs in stages. As part of developing solid relapse prevention strategies, you’ll need to understand the warning signs for each stage and develop coping skills for each one. Understanding the different stages of relapse is key to maintaining sobriety and getting help if needed at any point along this journey.

Emotional Relapse

Emotional relapse is a particularly difficult type of relapse to manage because it is often preceded by a period of feeling low or stressed. During an emotional relapse, individuals will start to feel things that they used to avoid with drug and alcohol addiction.

They may also withdraw from friends and family, stop participating in activities that they enjoy, and generally start to slip into old patterns of behavior. Emotional relapse can be difficult to identify because it happens slowly and can be masked by other stressors in one’s life. However, it is important to be aware of the signs of emotional relapse so that you can take steps to prevent it from occurring.

Mental Relapse

Mental relapse is the process of relapse that unfolds before a person actually starts using drugs or alcohol again. During this phase, a person may begin to experience cravings and start to notice things in their environment that remind them of past drug or alcohol use. They may also start to have negative thoughts about their efforts to maintain recovery, which can weaken their resolve and make them more vulnerable to temptation.

To prevent a mental relapse, it is important to create a solid relapse prevention plan that outlines strategies for managing cravings and overcoming setbacks.
Additionally, it is important to remain vigilant about avoiding situations that could trigger drug or alcohol use, such as socializing with people who still use substances or spending time in environments where drugs are easily accessible.

By being proactive about addressing potential triggers and using proven coping strategies, you can mitigate the risk of experiencing a mental relapse and protect your long-term recovery from substance abuse.

Physical Relapse

At this stage of relapse, substance cravings can become severe and difficult to resist, and substance use begins again. This pattern of substance abuse is common and that’s why addiction is considered a chronic disease. This is why creating a relapse prevention plan is so important.

Common symptoms associated with physical relapse include increased substance use, changes in priorities and behaviors, poor concentration and attention, irritability, poor self-care, anxiety and depression. If someone starts experiencing these symptoms, it may be time to seek professional help again in order to get recovery back on track.

Techniques to Help You Stay on Your Addiction Recovery Plan

Utilizing relapse prevention techniques is going to be a crucial part of your relapse prevention plan. While you’re in addiction treatment they will cover each technique more in-depth so you can better understand when you should use them.

Identify Your Triggers

Again, there are certain people, places, and situations that can drive you back into substance use disorder. Knowing your triggers will be important. This way you can avoid them or develop healthy coping skills to process them. These are some common relapse triggers:

  • Withdrawal symptoms (some people relapse during the withdrawal process)
  • Bad relationships
  • Friends or family members who enable you
  • Seeing drug paraphernalia and other things that remind you of using
  • High-risk places where you drank or used drugs
  • Loneliness, negative self-esteem
  • Negative thoughts or thought patterns
  • Stress
  • Poor self-care like not eating, sleeping, or managing stress well
  • A social gathering where substance use may be taking place

Identify situations that led you to start a 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.

Take inventory of the healthy lifestyle and solid support system you’ve developed as part of your recovery. By ultimately weighing the pros and cons of substance use disorder you’ll recognize you’re on a much better path with a new life.

Don’t try to do it alone. Getting support will make it easier to prevent relapse. 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.

As part of your relapse prevention plan, you likely developed a list of individuals that can help you when you encounter high-risk situations or recognize early warning signs. Don’t be afraid to reach out to these people! They want you to maintain your healthy habits and prevent any future relapse.

Look for healthier ways to reward yourself. Develop a solid 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.

Moving forward with your life and finding positive experiences will help you steer clear of old habits that led to substance use. Self-care can also include rewarding yourself by getting a massage or buying new clothes. This will help you see more positivity in everyday life and aid in preventing relapse.

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. There are many aftercare treatment plans that can include medications as part of your relapse prevention therapy.

Medication-assisted treatment is commonly used in relapse prevention for those that qualify. Health professionals will determine if using medication will be best for your recovery.

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. As part of your relapse prevention plan, you’ll create a list of activities that you enjoy. At this point, you’ll want to review those to help you keep busy.

It’s important to remember that most cravings only last for a short time. If you can distract yourself for 15 to 30 minutes, you can beat a potential relapse.

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. They can also distract you from thinking about relapse opportunities.

Give yourself credit for each small gain you achieve. Buy yourself something you’ve been wanting. Staying sober in the early stages of recovery, after addiction treatment is extremely difficult. Don’t let yourself feel guilty for spending money on something that you might otherwise deem as “frivolous.” Recovery isn’t easy — you deserve a reward.

This is also a common technique used as part of mindfulness-based relapse prevention therapy. It helps people focus more on the reward they will receive by avoiding substance use disorders. And ultimately helps individuals in staying sober.

If you aren’t sure how to go through the recovery journey, creating a relapse prevention plan is the first step. Be sure to 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 recovery network, women can get practical help in the development of their own relapse prevention plans. 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:

  • Awareness of emotional triggers and the three stages of relapse
  • Recognizing high-risk situations like social interactions
  • Developing positive coping mechanisms and a self-care routine

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 recovery 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.

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.
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 treatment program can present some stressful situations. Be aware if you begin to have mood swings and exaggerated feelings, whether positive or negative.
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.
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.

You might begin to change the 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.

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.
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.
At this point, you might 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.
You may 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 recovery.
In this stage, 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.
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, and mental and physical health. You need professional treatment again.

We Support All Women

 therapy for relapse preventionAt 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 Teaches Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention Techniques

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. You can build a new life in recovery and we will help you do so. We are waiting for you to contact us now. And stay in the loop with New Directions for Women by connecting with us on Twitter, Facebook, or any of our other social media platforms.

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