Successfully completing a drug rehabilitation program is a major accomplishment. After all, sobriety is more than abstaining from drug and alcohol use. It also involves developing a new attitude and outlook on life and gaining new insights into self-esteem, self-realization and the behaviors and patterns that perpetuate substance abuse.
The road to recovery does not end upon the completion of a treatment program. Instead, maintaining sobriety is a life-long course. The process of staying sober requires the same amount of energy, thoughtfulness, hard work and commitment as rehabilitation itself. While there are no fool-proof plans to avoid relapse, there are strategies we can employ during each of the 3 stages of relapse prevention:
- Emotional Relapse
- Physical Relapse
- Mental Relapse
Examples Elements of Effective Relapse Prevention Plans
If your child is about to complete a treatment program, consider using the following to craft an individualized relapse prevention plan to help them stay on track:
- Evaluate Support Networks: For many, the most critical influences in sobriety are those people we surround ourselves with. While in recovery, there is often a temptation to return to comfortable people or environments, which in some cases can strongly discourage sobriety. Changing your social circle and removing negative influences is a critical component of success. It is equally important to have relationships with others who are actively working to maintain sobriety as well. Building relationships with peers who share similar experiences provides a higher level of support and understanding that cannot be found in “normal” or past relationships. Once your child has evaluated the positive influences in their life, encourage them to list these names so they can be reminded of who to lean on during moments of weakness.
- Identify Triggers: It is important to know your child’s triggers to help them avoid enabling peers and environments. It’s better to stay away from temptation than to prove a point by being surrounded by substances and trying not to use them. Whether faced with physical or emotional lures, close proximity to substances will threaten sobriety and increase the likelihood of relapse. List these out as a part of your relapse prevention plan to make sure your child is reminded of them every day.
- List Sober, Healthy Activities: Filling free time with new, healthy activities is a win-win in recovery. In treatment, schedules are often filled with therapies and activities that support sobriety. Continuing this healthy routine will not only fill the time that was previously used for obtaining and abusing substances, it is also an effective relapse prevention tool. List out the sober activities your child plans to fill their time with, and encourage them to refer to it whenever they’re feeling complacent.
- Identify Motivations: Many people, upon completing rehab, are motivated to continue the cycle of therapies and structure established in treatment. Over time, motivation can fade and is often replaced with complacency with minimal effort being put into recovery. Every addiction relapse prevention plan is different and requires various levels of involvement and energy to maintain. It is important for each person in treatment to identify what motivates them to avoid complacency and prevent relapse. Encourage your child to identify, then list these motivators and read them every morning.
- Create an Action Plan: Recovery can be filled with many positive and negative emotions and it’s not always easy to have an optimistic attitude. When struggling with negative emotions or feelings of restlessness, it is important to know who you will reach out to for support. The support of a sponsor, therapist, sober friends or family is a critical component relapse prevention, i. Having these names and phone numbers available can save critical time during moments of weakness.
- Continued Practice of Coping Skills: It can be difficult to adjust to independence and sobriety all at once. Without the aid of drugs and alcohol, the stresses of daily life may, at times, be difficult to deal with. Given this simple fact, it’s important to continue to exercise practices learned in treatment to effectively cope with daily stressors. Write down the most effective exercises your child learned during treatment, and create a plan for how often they will be practiced. As time passes, coping with negative emotions and stressful events becomes easier, but it takes patience and commitment.
- Practice Positive Self-Talk: In the event that a relapse takes place, it is important that it is not viewed as a detrimental failure. Instead, it needs to be understood that sobriety was achieved once before and it can be achieved again. Seek help, begin the recovery process and learn from the events that led to relapse. Learning from the situations that led to relapse makes it is easier to avoid in the future. Use this part of your relapse prevention plan to record the names and phone numbers of treatment facilities than can help your child in the face of relapse.
Refining a Substance Abuse Relapse Prevention Plan
Compiling the items above into a document and assigning daily, weekly or monthly goals for each can provide your child with structure as they’ll be aware of the things they need to do in order to stay on track with their sobriety. Next, you’ll want to run your relapse prevention plan by a substance abuse counselor in order to ensure it’s not missing anything.
The relapse prevention strategies and techniques provided above should be continuously evaluated and updated based on how effective it is for your child. Revisiting your plan frequently can ensure that it’s not forgotten about when your child seems to be doing better.
Share Your Addiction Relapse Prevention Tips With Sober College
If you have any relapse prevention tools you’ve found to be effective, please share them with us in the comments section of this post. Learn more about how experiential therapies can be a great form of relapse prevention.