Creating a Successful Relapse Prevention Plan

Oct 6, 2023

As an alumnus of one of our treatment programs at Renaissance Ranch, you are likely no stranger to a relapse prevention plan. In a similar way, perhaps you have already created a relapse prevention plan and begun to implement it into your daily life and recovery outside of treatment. Something that you may not realize, however, is that relapse prevention plans are considered “living documents,” meaning that these plans are continually edited and updated to fit your ever-changing needs in sobriety. Thus, creating a successful relapse prevention plan requires you to engage in continuous reflection to recognize what strategies are either effective or ineffective in helping you sustain lasting sobriety and recovery. 

Preventing relapse is not as simple as avoiding alcohol and other drugs; rather, preventing relapse is a complex and ongoing process that involves reevaluating triggers, cravings, and the overall purpose of your sobriety. A relapse prevention plan is an invaluable piece of continuing care to help you maintain long-term sobriety, despite any challenges that life may throw at you from time to time. 

What Is a Relapse Prevention Plan?

According to an article in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, “Relapse prevention (RP) is a strategy for reducing the likelihood and severity of relapse following the cessation or reduction of problematic behaviours.” Therefore, a relapse prevention plan offers you a workable blueprint to follow to help you stay on track in your recovery and, most importantly, prevent any potential for future relapse. 

What to Include in a Relapse Prevention Plan

While a relapse prevention plan will vary from person to person, there are general guidelines that you can follow to ensure that your plan not only aligns with your individualized recovery goals but also prioritizes your sobriety above all else. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) explains that relapse prevention plans often include the following: 

  • Important contact information of key individuals in your recovery support system
  • Description of your internal and external triggers for substance use
  • Identification of healthy coping skills
  • Personalized plan for responding to relapse triggers

To ensure that your relapse prevention plan is as successful and as detail-oriented as possible, it can be helpful to break down each of these aspects for deeper clarity and understanding. 

#1. Identifying Important Contact Information

The first section in your relapse prevention plan should highlight the essential contact information of individuals whom you can reach out to for support throughout your recovery. Depending on the type of contact you wish to include, consider adding their phone number, address, and any other helpful information you may need if you find yourself in a time of crisis.

Examples of key people you may want to consider adding to this section of your plan include:

  • Treatment professionals: Such as your therapist or caseworker
  • A close peer in recovery: Such as one of your brothers from the Band of Brothers
  • (If applicable) Your significant other
  • A recovery mentor or sober sponsor
  • Other close loved ones who are supportive of your recovery

Other resources you may want to add to this section include:

  • Substance abuse and crisis hotlines
  • Support group meeting times and locations
  • Local hospital information

#2. Defining Internal and External Relapse Triggers

The next section in your relapse prevention plan should lay out your internal and external relapse triggers. It is important to remember that triggers evolve and change over time. As you become more aware of your triggers throughout recovery, you can jot them down on your plan. Moreover, the following are some examples of relapse triggers:

Internal Relapse Triggers

  • Certain thoughts: Such as reminiscing about past substance use
  • Specific feelings: For example, feeling isolated or lonely, depressed, anxious, angry, or bored
  • Personal attitude related to substance use: For instance, glorifying alcohol and drug use

External Relapse Triggers

  • Surrounding yourself with others who engage in alcohol and drug use
  • Being in environments that encourage substance use, such as bars or other nightlife scenes
  • Situations that often facilitate conflict (for example, in some cases, family gatherings)

#3. Navigating Relapse Triggers

After defining personal relapse triggers, your relapse prevention plan should also address healthy coping skills and other ways to effectively navigate said triggers. Implementing successful coping skills takes time, as it often takes a while to recognize what coping skills are helpful and which ones are not. Similarly, the effectiveness of coping skills will vary from person to person. Nonetheless, here are some examples of coping skills that may help you navigate relapse triggers in recovery:

  • Engage in self-care techniques
  • Utilize social support, such as attending a self-help group
  • Engage in mindfulness techniques like meditation
  • Eliminate all paraphernalia related to substance use
  • Utilize distractions
  • Call your sponsor or mentor
  • Reach out for professional help

While there are certainly more components that you can include in your relapse prevention plan, these essential components will help create a stable and secure foundation for your sobriety. As you work to adjust your plan throughout long-term recovery, consider engaging with Renaissance Ranch’s Band of Brothers to help hold you accountable and keep you connected to other peers working to sustain lasting abstinence and healing. 

A relapse prevention plan is an essential element of lasting sobriety, as it provides you with a step-by-step blueprint to stay on track throughout your long-term recovery. Whether you are in early recovery or have sustained sobriety for years, it is important to remember that a relapse prevention plan is a “living document” that evolves and changes alongside you. In your plan, it is important to include important contacts, your relapse triggers, coping skills, and other efforts to navigate your triggers when they occur. For guidance and support, our staff at Renaissance Ranch is just a phone call away. Learn more about our continuing care efforts, including our Band of Brothers, by calling (801) 308-8898 today.