Relapse Prevention plan
7- Relapse Prevention Plan
Having learned that relapse is a process and the factors that commonly lead to it, this page provides you with information on how to create a personal relapse prevention plan. By answering the questions posed here, you can identify the signs and the pitfalls that have the potential to lead to your relapse.
1. Identify recovery motive
2. Identify relapse triggers
3. Identify warning signs
4. Identify well-being needs
5. Put plan into action
Each one of us in recovery should have a relapse prevention plan. The disease of addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful, and if we hope to maintain our recovery and prevent a relapse we need a strategy to keep us on the alert and safe. As mentioned earlier, relapse is a very common occurrence, taking more than 50% of us by surprise in our first year of recovery. This is because most of us are still struggling with accepting our disease and are learning a new way of life. In addition, the chronic nature of the disease of addiction and the habitual yet destructive ways we have learned to live makes us prone to use drugs as its our instinctive way to deal with life. Recovery from addiction requires us to change our whole way of life — the way we cope with our emotions, the way we think, and the way we behave. 12 Step programs provide us with the means and the tools to do this, but this is not an easy task and one that requires time and our daily care and efforts.
Having a relapse prevention plan in recovery helps us stay on the alert. This way if our disease tries to sabotage us into using drugs again, we can take the right measures to go back to solid recovery. A prevention plan helps us become aware of our warning signs and triggers. It will help us avoid pitfalls that can cause us to relapse, and it provides us with a strategy to implement if we find ourselves slipping into a relapse.
Many of us had to suffer a relapse before realizing the importance of having a relapse prevention plan. But we don’t need to wait for this to happen, we can devise a personal strategy plan now to make sure we don’t fall victim to a relapse. Our 12 Step program is one of action. We need to take certain steps and implement healthy actions to recover and to maintain our recovery. Our relapse prevention plan is yet another action in our effort to keep our recovery and enjoy our new way of life.
- Answer the following questions to devise your personal relapse prevention plan. You can have a read through the Relapse Prevention Tools for ideas on how to write your personal prevention plan.
- For the Word version of Relapse Prevention Plan page that you can adapt according to your personal needs, please clicks here:
1- Identify recovery motive
Before starting to compose your prevention plan, answer the following questions to determine your motive for recovery. This will help you acknowledge its importance in your life and encourage you to implement your prevention plan in order to maintain it.
1. Why do you want to recover?
2. Is your recovery the number one priority in your life? Describe what this means to you and the lengths you are willing to go to maintain your recovery?
3. What were the consequences of your addiction and what will happen if you go back to using drugs?
2- Identify relapse triggers
To develop an effective relapse prevention plan, you need to understand your patterns of drug use and find out what is most likely to lead you to a relapse. This will help you identify high-risk situations in terms of people, places and circumstances that can trigger your obsession and carvings to use drugs again. Answer the following questions to determine your strategy on avoiding or dealing with these high-risk situations or triggers.
1. From whom and where did you get your drugs? How can you avoid these persons and places?
2. At what times and in which situations did you usually use drugs? How are you planning to deal with these high-risk using times and situations?
3. Who did you use drugs with? How can you avoid these high-risk persons?
4. What activities do you associate with using drugs? How can you avoid these activities and what healthy alternative activities can you do to replace them?
For example: say that you bought your drugs from the dealer at his home and used them on weekends, usually with your cousin at his house as a way of passing the time. Your strategy then would be to avoid going anywhere near the vicinity of your dealer’s home, by going to a meeting on weekends, by not seeing your cousin, and by spending time with your Fellowship friends or going to a meeting.
3- Identify warning signs
As mentioned in the previous pages, relapse is a process that generally happens through 3 phases. When we are unable to cope with our emotions, when our way of thinking, our attitudes and our behaviors change and we go back to our old addictive ways, then we find ourselves in a place, where we think we have no choice but to use drugs. Remember that by the time we have picked up drugs, we have already been on the path to the relapse for some time in that our thinking and our behavior has changed towards our life in recovery. So it is during the lead-up to a relapse that it is vital we put in a plan of action and use recovery tools and strategies to get ourselves back to solid recovery.
a) Coping with Emotions
If you have already experienced a relapse, write 5 specific examples about how your inability to cope with your emotions led to it. If you have not relapsed, write examples based on your observation of someone else’s relapse – or what they have shared about after coming back from a slip. Also write down how you are currently coping with your emotions. Is it different from how it was when experiencing good and solid recovery? Then next to each example, write down recovery tools and principles you can apply to bring you back to healthy and recovery ways of coping with your emotions.
Potential Relapse: I was feeling emotionally overwhelmed and was constantly restless and anxious about the problems I had to deal with. Finally gave up and used drugs again hoping I would feel calm and relaxed.
Plan of action: My recovery is my number one priority in life. No other problem is as important, and none of them are worth my using drugs again. Whenever I feel overwhelmed or anxious about life’s problems, I need to remember my priority in life and keep my focus and energy on staying clean for the next 24 hours. I will handle other problems the best I can and leave the results to my God.
b) Changes in your Thinking
If you have already experienced a relapse, write 5 specific examples of how your way of thinking changed. If you have not relapsed, write examples based on your observation of someone else’s relapse – or what they have shared about after coming back from a slip. Also write down how your way of thinking may be changing now as opposed to when you enjoyed a good and solid recovery. Then next to each example, write down recovery tools and principles you can apply to bring you back to healthy and recovery thinking.
Potential Relapse: I started thinking my problem was not that bad and it with only with heroin; I can control and use other types of drugs. So I started drinking occasionally and before long was back on the heroin.
Plan of action: I suffer from the disease of addiction and am powerless over all mind-altering substances. I need to remember and honestly accept my Step.
c) Changes in your Attitude
Write 5 specific examples of how your attitudes towards recovery changed before your last relapse, or your observation of someone else’s relapse. Also, write down how your attitude towards recovery may be changing now as opposed to when were experiencing a good and solid recovery. Then next to each example, write down recovery tools and principles you can apply to bring you back to healthy and recovery attitudes.
Potential Relapse: I started avoiding my Fellowship and took the attitude that it is a religious program and that they my problems are different from theirs. They cannot help me and I can recover on my own.
Plan of action: I suffer from a disease that is much bigger than me. I cannot rely on myself to recover and need the help of my Fellowship. I will practise humility and keep an open mind, honesty and willingness to try what is suggested.
d) Changes in your Behavior
In addition to identifying any changes in your emotions, thinking and attitudes, it is a good idea to look at your behavior and habits. Whereas when we were in solid recovery, we had let go of our addictive habits and had created a structured daily recovery routine for ourselves, we may find ourselves slipping back into our old destructive ways of living. If you see this occurring, write 5 specific examples of how your behavior and habits have changed, or your observation of what happened to someone else who relapsed. Also, write down how your behavior and habits may be changing now as opposed to when you were experiencing a good and solid recovery. Then next to each example, write down recovery tools and principles you can apply to bring you back to healthy and recovery behaviors and habits.
Potential Relapse: I spent most my day in bed and stopped going to meetings. Instead I started hanging around with my using friends.
Plan of action: I need to avoid high-risk situations and people, places and situations that trigger me to use drugs again. Meetings are like the medication against my disease of addiction. I need to attend them if I want to maintain my recovery.
4- Identify well-being needs
Part of our recovery process is to look after our physical and psychological health needs. When we were using drugs, we abandoned all our needs except our need to get high! Some of us developed other diseases as a consequence of our disease of addiction. HIV, infections and liver problems are some of the problems common amongst us and a direct consequence of our drug abuse. Now that we are in recovery and wishing to maintain it, we need to care for any other ailments we may have. Failing to do so can lead us to use drugs as our way to cope or find relief from our mental or physical problems.
A- Medical needs
In recovery we may be suffering from other illness that we need to act mature and responsible for and look after. This means going to the doctor and getting treatment, including taking prescribe medication if our illness calls for it. Remember that taking prescribed medication under the supervision of a doctor does not count as a relapse so long as it is not abused and it is under the supervision of our doctor. When we look after our medical problems in recovery, there is less likelihood for us to return to using drugs as our way to cope with the symptoms of other illnesses we may be suffering from.
Answer the following questions to find out if you are looking after your medical, needs. Then write down next to each response the actions you need to take in recovery to look after your medical problems.
1. Have you had a thorough medical check-up, including blood work to screen for HIV, Hepatitis and other infections or diseases?
2. Are you taking the right medication for any illness you may be suffering from?
3. Are you complying with the guidelines for any medications prescribed by your doctor? Are you taking the right amount and not abusing or stopping it suddenly?
4. Are you aware of the effects of this illness on your mind and body, and how are you taking care of your other ailments in your recovery?
B- Physical needs
Lack of care for our physical needs in recovery can alter our body’s chemistry and makes us vulnerable to a relapse. Taking care of our physical needs in recovery not only demonstrated respect for ourselves but also ensures the maintenance of our recovery.
Answer the following questions to find out if you are looking after your physical needs. Then write down next to each response the actions you need to take in recovery to look after your physical needs.
1. Are you eating in a healthy manner?
2. Are your sleep habits regular?
3. Do you rest when you feel tired?
4. Are you getting exercise?
C- Psychological needs
Many of us suffer from mental illness in recovery that we need to tend to if we hope to maintain and grow in our recovery. Failure to look after our psychological issues can lead us away from working our program and result in a relapse.
Answer the following questions to find out if you are looking after your psychological needs. Then write down next to each response the actions you need to take in recovery to look after your psychological needs.
1. Do you suffer from any psychological illnesses or issues, such as depression, bipolar, etc.?
2. Have you seen a doctor or psychiatrist to be diagnosed for this condition?
3. Are you taking the medication prescribed under supervision and as prescribed — or are you abusing it or have suddenly stopped it?
4. Have you sought out other means of support to help you with your non addiction related psychological issues? Where can you go to find support for such issues?
D- Social needs
Boredom and isolation have been identified consistently as contributing factors to a relapse. In order to maintain our recovery we want to feel good and enjoy our new life. This is, after all, why we decided to become clean! Our life in recovery needs to be balanced, with equal measures of working our program, participating in our Fellowship and enjoying our life and its relationships. If we go to extremes or deny ourselves the freedom and gifts that our program offers, sooner or later we might think recovery is boring and return to using drugs under the illusion to have fun.
Answer the following questions to ensure your life in recovery is fun and worthwhile.
1. Dose your life in recovery have equal measures of working your program, participating in your Fellowship and enjoying your life and its relationships?
2. Are you allowing yourself to have fun and enjoy life in recovery?
3. Write 5 activities that are fun or bring you joy, and include them in your recovery life.
5- Put plan into action
Once you finish answering the questions above and devising your plan, it is now time to put it into action. You may want to do the following to reinforce your relapse prevention strategy:
1. Review your prevention plan with your sponsor or a good recovery friend. Ask them to share their experiences of what tools they use and what has helped them maintain their recovery. Then add these ideas to your prevention plan if they appeal to you.
2. Give a copy of your prevention plan to them or even to family members who are supportive of your recovery. Many times family members we live with are the first people to notice that we are slipping away towards a relapse. Then ask them to act as your “guardian angels”. They can remind you of the actions you have promised to take if you start to wander from the path of recovery. Let them know you will not get offended and that you need their honest feedback and reminders for the maintenance of your recovery.
3. From time to time refer to your prevention plan to remind yourself of the things you need to be on the alert for in your recovery. Remind yourself of your warning sings, your triggers and high risk situations so that you can avoid them or take recovery measures to combat them. The disease of addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful, you may be unconsciously or inadvertently returning to your old ways as this was our natural and habitual way of living for a long time. Review your prevention plan every once in a while to be on the alert on how you are coping with your feelings in recovery or if you are engaging in addictive thinking, attitudes and behaviors.
4. Finally, and most importantly, take the actions spelled out in your plan if you find yourself drifting back to your old ways of living. Remember that you have a program of ACTION today. In order to prevent a relapse you have to use the set of tools and the means of support from your Fellowship to ensure the maintenance of your recovery.