Relapse Prevention Strategies

Relapse occurs when a person who stopped using drugs or alcohol begins to use again. There are many reasons this can happen. A key component of drug and alcohol addiction treatment is to empower individuals to avoid relapse. We do this through ongoing relapse prevention. By providing the tools and resources necessary, it may be possible to prevent relapse from occurring. At Lakeview Health, we work with each of our patients on an ongoing basis to make sure that we have taken every measure possible to avoid relapse.

Important questions as part of relapse prevention

Relapse prevention is a critical component of an addiction treatment plan. Learning the ins and outs of relapse prevention can help you prepare for the many challenges of maintaining your recovery, but it requires asking yourself some serious questions about what will be most difficult for you in the time to come.

Everyone has a unique relapse prevention plan, but starting by asking yourself a few common questions can help you determine what you need the most to be successful. Additionally, it’s important to check-in with yourself and to create a relapse prevention plan.

  1. Are you experiencing minor depression?
  2. What are your high-risk situations to relapse?
  3. What coping methods work for you?
  4. What permanent lifestyle changes can you make to resist relapse?
  5. Do you find yourself acting out in other ways? Examples can include eating more or less than usual, excessive shopping, or gambling.
  6. Who are your supporters in recovery? Have you stopped communicating with others in your recovery network?
  7. Are you isolating? Some say the worst thing someone in recovery can do is spend too much time alone.
  8. What are you substance use triggers?
  9. Have you stopped going to meetings, or are you becoming resentful of others in meetings when you do go?
  10. Are you becoming complacent, thinking that you no longer have to take action to protect your sobriety?
  11. Have you started to think about getting high or drunk more often?
  12. Are you telling or thinking about your “war” stories more often than normal?
  13. Have you started to have thoughts that maybe you are capable of drinking like a “normal” person?
  14. Is your overall attitude changing — does recovery not seem as important to you as it used to?
  15. Have you stopped expanding your spiritual connection?
  16. What are my long-term recovery goals?
  17. What are your daily negative behavior patterns?
  18. Do I need professional help to avoid relapsing?


Signs someone is relapsing

1. Lying

Do you make excuses for your behavior? Do you avoid telling the truth? Maybe you’re not honest about negative feelings and emotions. You know if you’re lying. At least be honest with yourself and work on it.

2. Depression

Everyone has ups and downs, but a prolonged period of sadness is serious. Signs of depression include a lack of:

If you notice these signs, don’t wait for them to subside. Contact a mental health professional today.

3. Thinking negatively

Don’t put yourself down or ask questions like “why me?” Saying “I can’t do this” doesn’t help you recover, either. Believing you’re unlucky and convincing yourself that you’ll fail only makes you more likely to do so.

4. Overconfidence

Do you feel invincible? Do risks not feel risky? Recovering addicts think they can put themselves in situations where drugs or alcohol are present because they’re cured. But staying strong doesn’t mean that you can be around substances and not feel a craving. It means that you can separate yourself from these situations.

5. Irritation

People who are addicted think that kicking drugs or alcohol out of their life is a sacrifice. They believe that this gives them the right to be angry, frustrated, and demanding.

6. Tunnel vision

Are you focusing on only one area in your life, like work? Someone who is on the verge of relapse may ignore other significant parts of his or her life. He or she may not pay any attention to health, family, or friends.

7. Inconsistent routine

Is your daily routine not like it used to be? Maybe your eating and sleeping schedules are off track. Appointment times aren’t priorities. Much of your day is spent doing absolutely nothing. You may start to daydream, and this takes your attention away from treatment and recovery.

8. Allowing a slip

Don’t convince yourself that it’s OK to have a little of something. Just one sip or hit will turn into “just two” or “just three,” and so on. A common misconception is that relapse means that addiction treatment has failed. Because addiction is a chronic disease, relapse is likely to happen, and it can happen more than once. If you relapse, more treatment or a different treatment method is probably needed.

What is relapse prevention?

The term “relapse prevention” describes the range of steps and strategies we utilize to help a person refrain from returning to drug and alcohol use. Relapse prevention strategies give you specific things to do to help you avoid giving in to cravings or responding negatively to triggers. There is no way to cure addiction, but with these tools and strategies, it is possible to minimize the risk of becoming dependent on drugs again.

How to develop a relapse prevention plan

The first point I want to make is this: A relapse is not the end of the world. Given the nature of the disease of addiction, relapsing is fairly common. Around 40 to 60 percent of people do so within a year after completing treatment, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. As with addiction in general, relapsing is not the result of moral failure, weakness of character, or because someone is a bad person. It’s part of the disease of addiction, and a normal part of recovery.

Why is this? Because addiction is a chronic disease, and like diabetes or high blood pressure, it requires constant monitoring and ongoing care. If you stop tending to it or think you can ignore it, it may come back to bite you hard.

If a relapse does happen, the key is to not let yourself wallow in self-pity and inaction. You need to get back into recovery pronto. Which doesn’t mean sweeping it under the rug like it didn’t happen. It’s important to take an honest inventory of what happened, so you’re better prepared to guard against it next time.

To protect yourself from cravings, triggers, emotional relapse, and anything else that may derail you, you need a plan. It needs to be tailored to you and ready to implement at the moment you’re feeling on the edge. This way, you’ll be ready to act more decisively and effectively to the relapse threat.

An example of a comprehensive, five-point, relapse-prevention plan:

  1. Go to a meeting (NA, AA, SMART Recovery, etc.).
  2. Call a sponsor/mentor/trusted friend or family member.
  3. Get help asap with your medications (suboxone, methadone, naltrexone, mental health meds, etc.).
  4. Get out of your negative head space with self-care, music, a long walk, or meditation.
  5. Call your therapist or doctor for an appointment and take that inventory of what led to the relapse.

Each of those components can have a positive impact, and could be the difference maker. Bringing them together into a plan makes them that much more powerful.

Additional relapse prevention strategies

Understanding and addressing triggers are one aspect of relapse prevention. There are other steps to take, as well. Some other strategies for avoiding relapse include:

Knowing when you need help

Preventing relapse often comes down to knowing when you need help. The sooner you act, the more opportunity you have to avoid the return of addictive behaviors. At Lakeview Health, we can help with programs explicitly designed for relapse prevention, and based on your needs and triggers. These include:

If you are thinking about using drugs or alcohol, reach out to the team at Lakeview Health immediately. Do not wait to get the help you need.

Do not wait to get help
 Call Lakeview Health Today

Relapse prevention is possible if you reach out soon enough for support. Lakeview Health can provide you with the help you need right away. If you or someone you care about is at risk, reach out to our experienced counselors now to minimize the chances of relapse. Let us help you today. Contact Lakeview Health today at  904 677 5010 for immediate support.

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