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What is A Relapse Prevention Plan?

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You need to be aware of the potential for relapses when you are in recovery for a substance use disorder or co-occurring disorder. Planning and preparing for a relapse is highly recommended with a relapse prevention plan. Having a plan can better prepare you to identify triggers and warning signals and reduce the likelihood of relapsing.

What is Relapse Prevention?

Relapse prevention is learning and identifying your triggers and the warning signs that go along with them to develop coping skills and strategies to reduce or prevent relapse. Relapse can mean different things depending on your recovery

For example, someone recovering from a co-occurring disorder can have both substance use and mental health triggers. Additionally, these can be related to symptoms of the mental health disorder returning or worsening. 

Relapse prevention must be customized to fit your individual needs and recovery. In addition, relapse prevention should empower you and encourage you to maintain your overall health and well-being.

How Do I Learn Relapse Prevention?

You initially learn relapse prevention through training while being treated for your substance use disorder or co-occurring disorder. Relapse prevention training should continue as you transition into your aftercare. Your training should include the following:

  • Identify and link coping skills and strategies to your triggers and relapse warning signs.
  • Helps you focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses. 
  • Allows you to define your recovery to fit your specific needs to reduce the risk of relapse.
  • Helps you increase your motivation and hope for living a sober and fulfilling lifestyle.

What is A Relapse Prevention Plan?

A relapse prevention plan is a customized plan you create to help you reduce and prevent relapses. There are specific steps you will follow to create your personalized plan, including: 

  1. Review your known triggers. 
  2. Identify other personal triggers. 
  3. Identify the early warning signs that occur before your triggers.
  4. Identify, develop, and practice coping skills that help you overcome early warning signs and triggers.
  5. Work with your therapist or counselor to finalize your personalized relapse prevention plan. 
  6. Write your plan in a journal or notebook that you can easily access in case you start to notice early warning signs or triggers. 
  7. Share your plan with those who are a part of your support networks, such as friends, family, and your sponsor. 
  8. Continue to practice your coping skills through role-playing to enhance your abilities to use those skills should the need arise. 
  9. Adjust and alter your relapse prevention plan as needed as you identify new early warning signs and new triggers and develop new strategies and coping skills.

Signs of Relapse

There are three stages of relapse – Emotional, Mental, and Physical. Each stage has its own warning signs that could increase the risk of a relapse. 

Emotional Warning Signs

  • Isolating yourself away from friends and family, as well as skipping meetings and your aftercare programs. 
  • Not practicing self-care routines, such as eating healthy meals, exercising, and maintaining personal hygiene. 
  • An increase in anxiety, stress, irritability, discontent, or frequent mood swings.
  • A loss of interest in your recovery routines, aftercare plan, and social activities. 
  • Difficulties making decisions, making impulsive decisions, or making unhealthy choices. 

Mental Warning Signs

  • Glamorizing your previous substance use and how using made you feel.
  • Bargaining with yourself that it is okay to use just once and no one has to know.
  • Downplaying the seriousness of the consequences if you relapse. 
  • Experiencing intense cravings for your substance of choice. 
  • Planning to relapse by convincing yourself you can handle using and will not fall back into addiction. 

Physical Warning Signs

  • Developing substitute addictions in place of drugs and alcohol. For example, you substitute video games, shopping, or pornography to take the place of your preferred substance.  
  • Re-engaging with your formal social circle of friends who misuse substances. 
  • Revisiting places where you used to drink or use drugs. 

Once you reach the physical warning signs, you will probably lapse or go into a full-blown relapse unless you take steps to correct your behaviors. A lapse is a single occurrence where you immediately feel guilty about using and return to your recovery. A full-blown relapse is where you fall back into your substance use habits and completely disregard your recovery plan.

Reasons Why Addicts React

Each individual can have their reasons why they relapse, which can vary. However, you should be aware of some common causes for relapse to develop your relapse prevention plan further. 

Exposure to High-Stress Situations

In the past, you may have coped with high-stress situations by drinking or using drugs. However, now that you are sober, being put into high-stress situations and not having effective coping skills could cause a relapse. 

Having Unrealistic Expectations

You may think recovery is not as difficult as you imagined. As a result, you might attempt to place too many expectations on yourself and your progress. Unfortunately, when you are not progressing in your recovery, you may question why you are even in recovery and relapse. 

Slipping Back into Former Routines and Habits

If you allow yourself to slip back into former routines and habits, such as frequently visiting places where you used to hang out with people who use, this can cause you to give in and relapse. You could also relapse if you return to poor eating habits and stop following your structured daily routines.

What Should I Do If I Relapse?

Should you relapse, do not feel like you are alone. Many people in recovery have experienced one or more relapses on their recovery journey. It is essential to remember addiction is a disease, and not everyone is successful the first time. 

A relapse is not the end and should be treated as a learning experience to help you better develop the coping skills and support system you need. Try not to be discouraged and find support to help get you back on track.

Find Treatment After Relapse In Orange County, CA

If you are contemplating relapse or have already relapsed, Pacific Sands Recovery Center in Orange County, CA, can provide the support you need at our IMS and JCAHO-accredited treatment center. Contact us today or visit our admissions page to take the first steps in your recovery journey.

Finding an appropriate facility and recovery program for you is vital in your recovery. Addiction is a serious disease that can be managed. With the right balance of support from peers and mental health care professionals, you can learn to live a sober life. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, our programs focus on each client who comes through our doors. We offer support and aid as needed in order to help our clients make changes in their lives. For more information on our programs, how we can help you, or to speak with a staff member to learn more, call us today at (949) 426-7962. Begin your journey of recovering from addiction with Pacific Sands Recovery Center. 


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