Important Questions As Part of Relapse Prevention
By: Lakeview Health Staff
Published: August 6, 2021

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. 

Common Relapse Prevention Questions Summarized

  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?

How are these relapse prevention questions important?

What Are Your High-Risk Situations?

Avoiding high-risk situations is an important part of maintaining recovery and preventing a relapse. These situations could be high risk due to the environment, the people present, or the emotions involved.

Common high-risk scenarios include: 

  • Sporting events
  • Family gatherings
  • Financial hardship
  • Spending time with friends you used to drink or use substances with
  • Going to a bar

Of course, permanently avoiding events like family reunions may not be feasible. But if you know you’re going into a high-risk scenario, you can better prepare to deal with any triggers.

What Coping Methods Work for You?

As mentioned, it’s impossible to completely avoid every possible trigger and scenario. It’s in these moments that coping methods can help you alleviate the pull of short-term cravings and resist the urge to relapse. 

Examples include:

  • Calling a supportive friend or family member
  • Breathing exercises
  • Leaving the situation

If you know what coping methods work for you, plan to implement them in certain difficult situations so you can overcome various challenges when they appear.

What Permanent Lifestyle Changes Can You Make to Resist Relapse?

Preventing relapse isn’t just about avoiding high-risk situations or dealing with them when they occur. You can also make positive lifestyle changes that provide a healthy source of pleasure and reward. Different from coping mechanisms, the goal of these lifestyle changes is to fulfill your emotional needs with a healthy habit so that you are less tempted to replace them with a substance.

Common examples include:

  • Starting an exercise routine
  • Making music or art
  • Taking up a new hobby
  • Finding support groups
  • Beginning a mindfulness practice

Any of these changes can help boost your mood, prevent you from feeling down, and help you resist relapse.

Do You Find Myself Acting Out in Other Ways?

Instead of replacing substance use with a healthy habit, it’s not uncommon to see people seek pleasure in another unhealthy way, such as excessive shopping, gambling, and overeating.

While these behaviors may seem less harmful than substance use, they’re often an indication of underlying problems — and therefore might soon lead to a relapse.

Have I Started to Think About Getting High or Drunk More Often?

If you find your thoughts increasingly drifting toward substance use, it is often a key indicator of a pending relapse. This often happens when you begin to get overconfident or otherwise let your guard down, exhibiting behaviors such as not attending meetings as frequently, participating less in group therapy, or avoiding or canceling therapy appointments.

So if you can’t help but think about using a substance, it’s important to act quickly. This is the moment to reach out to a therapist, supportive friend, or sponsor.

What Are Your Substance Use Triggers?

Any number of situations can trigger cravings. Most of them can be summarized by the acronym HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. In other cases, even just watching your friends and family members drink without consequence can be enough to trigger a relapse.

Addressing these triggers head-on can help you avoid them when possible or find ways to cope with them if they are unavoidable.

What Are Your Negative Patterns?

All people, whether they’ve lived with a substance use disorder or not, tend to have patterns and routines that can be either positive or negative. But for people with substance use disorders, some of these patterns need to be addressed and broken to maintain recovery.

What these patterns are is unique to each person. Perhaps you isolate yourself when you’re feeling sad or shy away from the work of recovery when the work gets difficult. Identifying the negative patterns that could ultimately lead to relapse is the first step in breaking them.

Who Are Your Supporters in Recovery?

Social support is one of the strongest tools in the relapse prevention toolkit. However, finding the right supporters for your path to recovery is critically important, and you should consider these factors before reaching out for help.

Many people turn to organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery, which provide a large support group that you can turn to and rely on for accountability if you don’t have an existing support network.

Besides these organizations, identify people who recognize the challenges that you may face in your path to recovery and support you in your treatment goals wholeheartedly. It might be a therapist, a friend, a spouse, or a recovery mentor. Lean on these people when you’re struggling to resist cravings or going through difficult times.

What Are Your Long-Term Recovery Goals?

Decide what your goals are for your recovery. Do you want to be a better friend? Achieve success in work? Improve your physical health? Whatever your specific goals are for yourself, list them out so that you know what you’re working toward.

Only by identifying what your goals are can you take focused action toward helping achieve them.

Do You Need Professional Help?

Finally, ask yourself if you think you can do it alone. Seeking out professional help for relapse prevention is the best path toward ensuring your success, and working with a therapist or addiction professional can help make your relapse prevention plan as strong and stable as possible.

Signs Someone Is Relapsing

Remember: relapse is a process, and spotting the signs ahead of time can prevent someone from taking the first drink or drug. Some of the more common signs of relapse include:

  • Stepping away from recovery activities
  • Isolating themselves from friends or loved ones
  • Not being willing to talk about how their sobriety is going

If you start to notice these signs in a loved one, the best thing you can do is encourage them to seek out professional help.

What to Do if a Loved One Relapses

If a loved one relapses, there are a few things you can do to help them get back on track. First of all, don’t stigmatize or blame them — this can often drive them deeper into substance use. However, you should be honest about your concerns while empathizing with them. 

Next, ask them how you can help. If they don’t already receive regular treatment and are open to it, you can assist them in finding treatment or a self-help group. If they’re already being treated, you should encourage them to get back on track and offer your support in any way you can.

Addiction Treatment at Lakeview Health

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, contact Lakeview Health today at 866 704 7692. Our team is ready to help with the admissions process and begin addiction treatment.