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What Effective Relapse Prevention Looks Like

A relapse is not one single event that occurs within your recovery. Relapse tends to be a long-term process that starts with just one thought and eventually leads to action. Many red flags can occur in your thinking process that lead to a danger zone in recovery. These red flags or warning signs can result in a person turning to their substance of choice. Effective relapse prevention can be utilized as a wonderful tool to acknowledge and resist red flags. Having a relapse prevention system will help you live your best life in recovery.

What Does Effective Relapse Prevention Mean?

Relapse prevention consists of building a plan based on healthy coping skills. These skills will be ones you can identify when cravings occur during your recovery. This plan will remind you of how far you have come with your substance use disorder (SUD) and help you to make positive choices to avoid falling back into old habits. Your relapse prevention plan will change over time. That is the beauty of effective relapse prevention: as you transform, so will your prevention plan.

According to a publication by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “nearly two-thirds of all relapses occur during the first six months of recovery.” It is important to recognize that addiction is a brain disorder and chronic disease that affects the way you think and behave. Sometimes, relapse can be on the mind, and it can be hard to escape those pesky thought processes.

However, there is hope. Relapse prevention is about learning new skills and behaviors that will prevent you from slipping back into the old version of yourself.

What Are the Stages of Relapse?

At The Guest House, we understand that relapse happens gradually. The goal of effective relapse prevention is to help you understand the triggers and early red flags. This way, you can develop healthy coping skills to combat negative thought processes.

According to the Yale Journal of Biological Medicine, there are three stages of potential relapse and they are as follows:

  • Emotional: Even if you’re not thinking about using drugs, your emotions can set you up for possible relapse. Denial tends to be a part of the emotional relapse stage. For example, you may be bottling up your emotions up and not contacting your support system.
  • Mental: Part of you may be thinking about using substances and the other part is not. You may be weighing the benefits and consequences. For example, you want to escape and are avoiding connections in your sober communities.
  • Physical: This is self-explanatory, as it consists of you physically engaging in relapse or substance-using.

Even if you engage in relapse just once, it is important to return to treatment to address the problem thinking patterns that led to it. This will help you to avoid a recurrence.

How Do I Create an Effective Relapse Prevention Plan?

Creating an effective relapse prevention plan is important for living your best life in recovery. Although everyone’s effective relapse prevention plan will appear to be different, the following key concepts will be included in every effective relapse prevention plan:

  • Reflection and assessment of yourself. Take some time and reflect on the reasons you are in recovery. For example, what is your “why?” Write down the reasons that you stopped using substances in the first place. Think of this as an inventory of your feelings and a motivational tool for combatting unwanted feelings and emotions.
  • What are your triggers, red flags, and danger zones? A trigger can be people, places, and things that trigger the thoughts and emotions that you experienced in your previous way of life. Not all people will have the same triggers in their effective relapse prevention plan. Practicing awareness and writing them down can be an effective tool to avoid potential relapse. Your therapist can guide you with this.
  • What are thoughts and behaviors that could lead to relapse? Do you struggle with anxiety or depression? Or maybe you have a family member who negatively influences you. Self-reflect and think of all the thoughts and behaviors that could lead to a potential relapse. Remember to be as specific as you can.
  • Who are the positive supports that you can call when you are struggling? List the positive connections in your life that you can reach out to when you are struggling. Reflect on your allies and who you can lean on. Tell them beforehand that they are a specific part of your relapse prevention plan.
  • Be specific about the people, places, and things that can lead to relapse. These are absolute danger zones. When reflecting on this portion, be as honest as possible with yourself. Recognize that these people, places, and things need to be avoided at all costs.
  • Reflect on at least five healthy coping skills. What are some things that you can do that will put your mind at ease? For example, maybe you would like to learn more about mindfulness through yoga/meditation. At The Guest House, we believe in creating and engaging in as many healthy coping skills as possible. Anything at all that can be utilized as a healthy coping skill. It just depends on what makes your heart smile and brings you joy.
  • Set Small Goals. It is important to set yourself up for success. At The Guest House, we can help you to Identify small goals. This can mean a world of difference when striving for success in recovery. Small goals turn into big goals. If you reach a small goal then you are setting yourself up for success. You will feel amazing too!

After your effective relapse prevention plan is completed, you can continue to revise it as you move forward in your recovery. Your first effective relapse prevention plan will not look like your second or third. It is important to always have one, however, to live your best life in recovery.

Effective relapse prevention plans can be hard to wrap your head around. Understanding the reasons why relapse prevention plans are necessary within your recovery is half the battle. This form of self-assessment can lead you to a better understanding of yourself and prevent a relapse from occurring. Taking the time to reflect is not only good for effective relapse prevention but also important for self-awareness within recovery. At The Guest House, we place importance on your relapse prevention plan and want to help you build the skills to be your best self. We believe that connection is the key to effective relapse prevention. Give us a call at (855) 483-7800.