Updating My Relapse Prevention Plan

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When you first go through treatment for substance misuse, you likely came up with a relapse prevention plan with the help of your treatment provider. This is essentially a plan that involves identifying and managing triggers as well as life changes to make to help prevent relapse. While your relapse prevention plan may have worked very effectively for an extended period of time, there may come a time when you need to update it. 

As you go through recovery and have new experiences in life, you learn more about yourself and your unique journey with sobriety. You can then use these things to build upon the relapse prevention plan that you already have and ensure it is the best that it possibly can be. Our team at Pathways Recovery Center can help guide you through this process. 

Understanding Why a Relapse Prevention Plan Is So Important

If you've been in recovery for an extended period of time now, you may think that you are good to go and that your relapse prevention plan is serving you well. While that may be the case, there is always room to improve it and make it even better. We know that continuing to take active steps to avoid relapse, even many years into recovery, is very important. This is because relapse can sneak up on you out of nowhere. 

Relapse often occurs in three stages: emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse. With emotional relapse, you may have no intention of turning back to substance misuse at all but may be doing or thinking things that could eventually lead you to that point. For example, you could be skipping support group meetings and canceling therapy sessions. This can eventually lead to mental relapse. 

With mental relapse, you are actively thinking about engaging in alcohol or drug use. You may be romanticizing past memories of when you were in active use, or spending time with the people you used to party with. Perhaps, you are even coming up with a plan to obtain or use a certain substance. This can lead to physical relapse. 

Physical relapse involves actively turning back to substance misuse. If you've reached this point, it is important to reach out to your treatment provider right away and get back on the path to recovery. Relapse can happen very quickly and with little warning. This is why continuously updating your relapse prevention plan is so important. 

Tips for Updating Your Relapse Prevention Plan

When updating your relapse prevention plan, you're going to take your initial plan and build off of it. You'll adjust it and enhance it to ensure it best fits your current needs. Just because this plan was effective in the past, it doesn't mean that it is the best fit for you now. 

You can start by thinking about your history in recovery and considering what triggers you've learned you have. For example, there could be certain situations or certain people that in some way threaten your recovery. Or maybe you've noticed that you experience certain cravings on particular holidays or anniversaries. There could also be certain locations that bring back your thoughts of substance misuse. 

Once you've identified these things, you can then learn how to address them in the future. For example, maybe there are certain people that you need to distance yourself from in order to protect your own sobriety. Or maybe there are certain days when you know you may feel particularly vulnerable. On those days, you can take action, like attending an extra peer-support meeting or surrounding yourself with people you know will support you. 

Next, you can consider other ways you can take relapse prevention action. Maybe it's time to try out a different 12-Step recovery group so you can meet some new people. Or maybe you're ready to consider being a sponsor for the first time. If you haven't already found a good therapist, this could be a great time to try. 

Part of your relapse prevention plan could also include continuing to work toward improving your mental health. This may mean trying new stress management techniques such as yoga, breathing exercises, or meditation. It could also mean trying out new methods of self-care to include in your daily schedule. These things, though seemingly simple, can go a long way toward preventing relapse. 

Finally, you'll want to consider what your current relapse emergence response may be. For example, if you find yourself in a situation where you think you might be tempted to relapse, who are you going to call? Who is the emergency contact that you will reach out to in order to talk you off the ledge? Are you aware of all local support group meetings and locations in case you find yourself in need at an unexpected time? 

Taking the time to think about these details can really help improve your relapse prevention plan. For more tips, our team at Pathways Recovery Center can help. 

When you've been in recovery for a while, you probably think that you have your sobriety pretty well under control. But that doesn't mean that a future relapse still can't happen. That is why it is so important that as you grow, heal, and begin to know yourself better that you update your relapse prevention plan. It doesn't matter if you've been sober for one year or decades; there are still positive improvements that you can work to incorporate into your life. If you're interested in learning more about continuing to live a healthier and happier life in recovery, our team at Pathways Recovery Center is here to help. Call (888) 771-0966 today to learn more. 

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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