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Creating a Relapse Prevention Plan

Relapsing can be a discouraging event especially if you have gone so far with being drug-free. What are some ways to have a relapse prevention plan that’s effective and long-lasting? Here is a guide that could help you out.

The recovery process is a challenging journey that a lot of former drug users want to succeed in. Those who fully recover from their addictions proudly wear the “badge” of being sober for as long as they don’t get into relapse. This is why relapsing can be an enemy of someone who wants to achieve full recovery.

What is Relapse?

Relapse is the process where a person attempts to undergo drug rehabilitation but experiences using substances again due to certain triggers and cravings. To some people, relapse is seen as a form of “defeat” during the recovery period, but this should not be so.

In fact, having a relapse is more common than most people think. It should be viewed as a part of the substance use recovery journey. As an individual decides to pick up oneself after a relapse, there is a higher chance that the next relapse will happen less, or won’t happen at all. Thus, many would want to seek a relapse prevention plan that’s easy to implement and effective for long-term.

What are the Common Triggers for Relapse?

Relapse often happens due to several triggers. The most common ones are:

Emotional Triggers

People who experience stress, anxiety or depression are more prone to taking drugs again to possibly experience feelings of relief. However, this leads the person to a downward spiral of drug dependency. In other instances, emotional triggers can come from the environment. For example, people who suffer from relationship or career problems may be triggered to take drugs again as a way to cope with the overwhelming emotions they may be feeling. As a result, relapse prevention seems to be a far-fetched idea when emotional triggers take place.

Physical Triggers

It is expected that those in recovery will experience some withdrawal symptoms even after a medically-assisted drug or alcohol detox. Feelings of fatigue, nausea, lack of motivation, physical pain, or other forms of discomfort may trigger them to fail in their relapse prevention once again. Sometimes referred to as Post Accute Withdrawal Syndrome or PAWS, these physical triggers are often accompanied with emotional triggers that can be difficult to fight alone.

Environmental Triggers

Having friends who you used to use or drink with, or going to places where you used to use, or would frequent while using or drinking can also be a potential trigger for relapse. People, places, and things have a strong association with our feelings, and this is why some people end up relapsing upon encountering certain environmental triggers.

Given these triggers, what are some of the effective ways to create a relapse prevention plan suitable to your needs?

Relapse Prevention Plan: 4 Effective Ways

Plot your schedule to the dot.

Often, the causes of relapse are feelings of anxiety and boredom when a person’s schedule is not planned well. A great way to make a relapse prevention plan is to plot your schedule to the dot. This means that you need to create a daily routine where all your time slots will be filled with meaningful activities that you want to do.

You can buy a planner, or download a scheduling app to put things on record. For example, you can start your mornings at 7:00am where you’ll be doing your morning exercise. 7:30am will be for showering, and 8:00am will be for breakfast. Micro-plotting your activities helps gear your mind that you are supposed to do what is on schedule, and makes you less likely to veer away from it.

Those who manage their time well are reported to be happier, feel more organized, and are more productive. By making a realistic schedule filled with activities that you enjoy, drug relapse can be more preventable.

Discover your true passions.

People will often tell you what to do, but this doesn’t mean that their way is what works for you. In order to create an effective relapse prevention plan, it is important to know what you really want to do in life, hence you should discover your true passions.

Discovering your passions can be an enlightening process that helps you feel fulfilled even without the presence of drugs. Additionally, working on your passions can bring you enjoyment or even a source of income that you might not have with continued substance use.

To discover what you really want to do, you can write down your true priorities in life. It can be your family, friends, your career, your faith, or even a special someone. After this, you can write down the activities that you truly enjoy doing, even if you’re not getting paid to do it. It could be traveling, cooking, writing, playing an instrument, or anything else that brings you joy.

After discovering your passions, you can start aligning your daily activities and planning your schedule based on those you want to do. For example, you can try joining a biking group if you enjoy going outdoors as a part of your relapse prevention plan. You can start a blog if you enjoy writing. The possibilities really are endless.

Rekindle meaningful relationships in your life.

No man is truly an island. You need people to survive, and in this case, you need people to help you achieve your relapse prevention goals. Have you lost touch with your family since your substance use? Did you start falling out with friends you enjoyed fun times with? Perhaps it is time to rekindle relationships that made you happy once as a part of your relapse prevention plan.

You can start reconnecting by messaging or giving lost loved ones a quick call. Start by taking these small steps, and after that, you can proceed by spending more time with them. Have a quick lunch, visit them over the weekend, or gather during special occasions. Meaningful relationships can bring long-lasting happiness that cannot be replaced by having habit of using recreational substances.

Start having personal goals.

As you discover your passions, build your relationships, and create ways to find more meaning, you will be encourage to make personal goals in different areas of your life.

Some of the goals you can include in your relapse prevention plan:

  • Financial goals: How much money do you want to make this year?

  • Travel goals: What places would you like to visit in 3 months?

  • Relationship goals: Do you want to have a new relationship? If you already have, do you want to take it to the next level?

  • Family goals: Do you want to start having children? Do you want to buy a new house for your family?

These personal goals can drive you to take small steps that can lead you toward success, and prevent you from doing things that won’t help. You can start listing your personal goals in your journal, calendar, or an area in your house where you can see it often.

Relapse is Not a Defeat

Whether you have been long in your journey to recovery or not, remember the most important thing: You don’t lose when you experience a relapse! Relapse is something that happens and can happen to everyone, but it doesn’t mean that you should give up altogether. Rehabilitation centers such as Sunshine Behavioral Health can help you get a restart. Keep in mind these relapse prevention plan suggestions, and you’re on your way to lessen or potentially eliminate relapse on your recovery journey.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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