You may have already taken your first step toward recovery by reaching out to Dream Recovery. This is an exciting phase in the stages of change. However, recovery may not always go smoothly. To prepare for the hardships you will face, you and your team should create a relapse prevention plan.

This plan can help you remember what skills you have in place to avoid relapse. You can use it to avoid high-risk situations as much as possible as well as cope with them when they are unavoidable.

Strategies to Implement in Your Relapse Prevention Plan

There are various strategies you can implement in your relapse prevention plan. Consider the following to ensure you have all of your bases covered.

Define Abstinence

A great way to begin your relapse prevention plan is to write down your definition of abstinence.

Abstinence may seem simple. It is the act of not engaging in substance use or addictive and problematic behaviors. However, this can look different for each individual. After all, people have different addictive and problematic behaviors they want to avoid.

Try writing down what practicing abstinence means in your situation. The more specific you can be, the better. Your picture of abstinence can go beyond a standard textbook definition by including your personal sobriety goals.

Identify Your Triggers and High-Risk Situations

When developing a relapse prevention plan, you should identify your relapse triggers. Triggers include situations, emotions, or people that lead to increased cravings or desire to engage in substance use.

Try to identify your internal triggers (such as feelings of anxiety and stress) and external triggers (such as seeing old drinking buddies at bars/liquor stores/evidence of drug paraphernalia etc.). Being aware of your triggers can help you to recognize them early on and avoid reaching a state of relapse.

It is also important to identify the situations that may put you at higher risk for relapse. While some of these may overlap with your external triggers, this step is can help you be more specific about locations and scenarios that may be problematic for you. For example, high-risk situations may include the loss of a loved one, a breakup, a change in jobs, traveling, or any major event.

Plan What to Do When You Encounter a Trigger or High-Risk Situation

Once you know your triggers and high-risk situations, devise a plan to avoid them as much as you can. This is not always possible, of course. However, limiting your exposure to high-risk situations and triggers can help you avoid a dangerous build-up of stress.

For instance, if socializing with old drinking buddies is something that triggers you, consider inviting a sober friend along. If seeing drug paraphernalia is triggering, avoid certain areas altogether and ask a trusted friend to remove these items from your home. It can be difficult to take the step of getting rid of anything that you associate with your substance use. However, doing so can help to limit the triggers in your surroundings. 

Include a Coping Toolbox in Your Relapse Prevention Plan

While it would be ideal to completely avoid any triggers, that is nearly impossible to do. That is why you also need a plan for what to do when you inevitably encounter a trigger or high-risk situation.

Include a toolbox of coping strategies in your relapse prevention plan. Coping strategies provide healthy ways of managing stress, emotions, and cravings without using substances. Your toolbox may have different strategies than the ones listed below, but it should apply to your needs. 

  • Mindfulness-based interventions
    • Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help people remain present while alleviating anxiety or stress.
  • Exercise
    • Physical activities such as running, walking, and bicycling can release endorphins that reduce cravings and facilitate mental well-being.
  • Find enjoyable hobbies
    • Engaging in creative pursuits like painting, writing, or playing music can provide a welcome diversion from cravings while giving a sense of achievement and self-fulfillment.
  • Engage with support groups
    • Engaging with others recovering can provide motivation and accountability. Utilize your process groups and other forms of group therapy at Dream Recovery to assist you during times of difficulty. 
  • Attend individual therapy
    • Individual therapy can assist you in uncovering any underlying issues contributing to your addiction. It can also help you develop other healthy coping mechanisms.

Utilize Your Support System

Utilizing your support network effectively in your relapse prevention plan is a huge advantage for success in long-term recovery. Your support system could include family, friends, therapists, support groups, and any other resources available through Dream Recovery that offer encouragement, guidance, and accountability during recovery.

Make a list of individuals that you would feel comfortable calling or reaching out to if you feel that you cannot manage your desire to use on your own. While you may have a mental list of individuals, it is important to write this list out and have it ready for when you need it. During high-stress situations, your mind may go blank and you may not think to call these individuals when you need them most. Outlining this plan can also reinforce the feeling of support.

Address Aftercare in Your Relapse Prevention Plan

An aftercare plan typically is separate from a relapse prevention plan. However, it is important to address what your next steps are if a relapse does occur.

Write down who you will contact and set a time frame that you agree to contact them. For example, write that you agree to contact your case manager or therapist at Dream Recovery within 48 hours of a relapse occurring. This will help hold you accountable for your honesty and ensure you get back on the right track immediately if this does occur.

If you or someone you know is in addiction recovery, developing a relapse prevention plan is essential to increase your ability to stay sober and achieve lasting recovery. Take the time to identify your triggers, create a toolbox of coping strategies, and utilize your support system. Don’t wait until a relapse occurs to start planning; start now. Having a relapse prevention plan can help you stay on track and feel prepared to handle unexpected obstacles throughout your recovery. This plan is individualized to your needs and experiences to cover your personal points of concern. To learn more about strategies that you can implement into your relapse prevention plan, reach out to Dream Recovery at (657) 216-7218.

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