Relapse is an unfortunate reality of recovery from drug and/or alcohol abuse. Looking at the numbers, you may get scared and think there is no way to beat addiction. Statistically, 50-90% of people will relapse after a period of recovery. It is important not to use that number as a justification to keep going in your addiction. One of the key parts of NOT becoming one of those numbers is to have a solid relapse prevention plan in place. With a little work and planning, this prevention plan can be your safety net if you ever feel like a relapse is imminent.
No one is bullet-proof when it comes to relapse, but there are certain things you can do to help prevent one. If you look at the numbers a different way, you have a 50% chance of not relapsing too. The difference of what happens relies on your recovery and planning for the worst.
How to Build a Relapse Prevention Plan
Your relapse prevention plan has to be entirely personal and based on your own history, substance abuse, and other life factors like medical needs, mood disorders, etc. There is no one single recovery story that is identical to another, so it is important to never follow the advice of your peers if it doesn’t sound right for you.
Going to rehab should always be step number one, and this doesn’t mean going to a detox for a few days and leaving. A proper treatment program will take over a month of full-time work and dedication to your own well being. More than anything, you have to want a sober lifestyle. While there, you have the opportunity to find out about yourself and your needs and work with your team of doctors and therapists to come up with a perfect long-term treatment plan for you, which also includes a relapse prevention plan.
The earlier you can start working on this, the better, You don’t want to find yourself in the position where you are about to relapse, looking desperately for someone or something to help you. At that point, it is usually already too late. A plan should be developed over time and documented so that you always have something to refer to when you need it. A notebook or box is a good option.
Here are the key parts of a relapse prevention plan:
- Identify your triggers. Know what sets you off and what makes you want to use drugs or drink. Then, do absolutely everything you can to avoid them. Triggers usually consist of people, places, and things. So to keep yourself safe, stay away from the people who may tempt you to drink or get high, the places you used to do so, and anything that reminds you or getting high. Especially in early recovery, you have no business being around these things or people so focus on yourself and surround yourself with happy, healthy individuals instead.
- Create your own safety net. In other words, have a group of people that you know you can rely on when times are tough. You can also choose an activity to keep you occupied so that you don’t get bored and let your mind wander. In 12-step groups, they often give out phone numbers to newcomers so that they have a person to call when they are in need. While you can certainly use one of those, you can also come up with your own list so that you know you have a strong support system behind you.
- Have a long-term treatment plan in place. One of the worst things you can do for your recovery is stopping treatment cold turkey. In other words, it is not a good idea to go to rehab for a month or more and then just go right back into the world like nothing ever happened. Instead, wean yourself off of treatment by going to an outpatient program for a few weeks, and working your way down to a once-weekly therapy appointment. This way the process is gradual and you still have support every step of the way.
Relapse prevention planning is all about thinking ahead and making sure you are equipped to handle any and all challenges that life throws your way.