Relapse Prevention Plan Guide

Your Relapse Prevention Plan Guide

It's helpful to have a relapse prevention plan to refer to once you begin your recovery journey.

Sometimes people learn best by looking at an example. Let's take a look of a sample relapse prevention plan. It might be the easiest way for you to begin to implement one for yourself.

Sample Relapse Prevention Plan

Name: Bob Smith
Date: July 3, 2017
Recovering from Alcoholism

I Will Prevent My Relapse by Taking the Following Steps:
  • I will prevent using alcohol by going to at least one Alcoholics Anonymous meeting per week.
  • I will avoid using alcohol by following up with all of my appointments for outpatient rehab.
  • When I feel the urge to drink, I will immediately talk with my sponsor.
  • I will look to friends and family to support me during times of temptation to drink.
  • I will remind myself that I am surrounded by people who love and care about me. They want me to be successful.
  • When I experience a craving, I will do one of the activities on my activity list instead.
I Will be Proactive in Preventing My Relapse By Doing the Following:
  • Continually reminding myself how important my family is to me.
  • Becoming involved in my children's school activities by volunteering regularly.
  • Spending time with friends doing things that I enjoy doing.
  • Finding ways to spend time with family and doing things we all enjoy.
  • Journaling every day about my recovery journey, and as a way to keep track of my success.
There are Many People I Can Call for Help. Their Names and Phone Numbers are:

Joan Miller - 555-555-1212
Bill Jones - 555-555- 1213
Sarah Thomas - 555-555-1214

The Pros and Cons of Drinking Alcohol - My List

The Pros

  • Makes me forget about my problems
  • Calms me down
  • Makes me feel happy

The Cons

  • My problems never really go away completely
  • I had withdrawal symptoms when I stopped drinking
  • My family stopped talking to me, or wanting to be around me
  • I lost my job
  • I got a DUI
  • My friends stopped wanting to spend time with me
  • Legal problems cost me a lot of money
  • I felt bad about my inability to control my drinking
  • I felt guilty about what I was doing to myself and my family
  • I developed medical problems because of alcohol
Right Before I Relapse, I Feel:
  • Very anxious and nervous
  • Like I can't breathe very well
  • Like I can't think about anything but drinking
  • Like I need to get a drink in order to feel better
  • As though just one drink would make everything I'm feeling go away
I Know These are Lies Because:
  • Alcohol has never solved anything for me
  • Drinking alcohol has only ever made my life worse
  • I am not able to stop with just one drink
  • I do not have to give in to anxiety and nervousness
  • I am in control of what I decide to do, and I can decide not to drink
Activities I Enjoy Doing:
  • Scrapbooking
  • Photography
  • Working out at the gym
  • Going for walks with my husband
  • Taking my kids to the park
Stressors in My Life:
  • Financial stress due to lack of income
  • Relationship strains because of my drinking
  • Worry that I won't be able to stay sober
Solutions for These Stressors:
  • Taking on odd jobs to contribute to the family's income
  • Giving the people I love the time they need to reconcile with me
  • Reminding myself to take each day one day at a time
If I Get an Urge to Drink Alcohol, I Will Contact:
  • My Sponsor
  • My Counselor
  • My Husband
  • My Best Friend

This will allow me to talk things through with someone who cares about me. They will give me the help I need to get through the cravings.


All relapse prevention plans look a little bit different. This is just a sample of what yours might look like. Let's take a moment and break down the various parts of compiling a good relapse prevention plan.

Relapse Prevention Goals

The Goal of Your Relapse Prevention Plan

First of all, it's important for you to understand the goal of your relapse prevention plan. That goal should be:

To prevent a relapse.

Your relapse prevention plan should be a tool you use to help you avoid relapsing. It should not be thought of as something you fall back on when and if you do relapse.

While you can include that information in your plan, it shouldn't be the primary reason for it. You want to focus your time and energy on writing down everything you can to help you stay on track.

Recovering from an addiction is difficult. It may be the hardest thing you ever do in your entire life. Because of this, it's vital for you to have a plan in place. Your relapse prevention plan is going to protect you in so many ways.

It should serve as:
  • Something you read often to remind yourself of your sobriety
  • Something you keep close at hand; take it everywhere you go
  • Something you're always revising
  • Something you convert to memory, if you can
  • Something that becomes your “partner” in your recovery

Your relapse prevention plan is going to be so valuable to you. However, don't worry if you don't get it exactly right the first time. You have plenty of time to make changes and create the plan that will work well for you.

The Steps You Should Take to Create a Relapse Plan:

As you start thinking about your relapse prevention plan, be sure to be detailed. It's not enough to write down vague information. You may not be able to remember the details when you need them the most.

Details are so important when creating your relapse prevention plan. Actually, they are critical. You may not have time to look up a phone number when you need to call someone.

Even if you think you might be including too much information, do it anyway. You may be thankful that you did later on.

It's OK if you don't know exactly how to create a relapse prevention plan. This might be something you've never done before. You will want to get some help to be sure you do it right.

This is why you should ask your counselor for help.

Your counselor has undoubtedly created many of these plans in the past. He or she will know exactly what you should include in yours. In fact, he or she might encourage you to make a plan before you think about it yourself.

Working closely with your counselor as you create your plan will give you confidence in it. That is something you desperate need. It will help you to have professional assistance because then you'll trust fully in your plan.

As you begin, you want to think about the steps you're going to take to prevent a relapse.

These steps should be very specific. You should take some time with this because you're basically outlining what your future life plan is.

As you think about the steps, think about your life as a whole. What can you put into place right away to keep yourself safe from a relapse?

Try to make a list of at least five actionable steps for this section. You will want to include attending all of your follow-up appointments. This is going to be the key to ensuring you stay on track with your recovery.

Today, everyone has a cell phone. Everyone also has their contacts' information stored in their cell phones. This has caused Americans in general to get a bit lazy about remembering certain important information.

The people you trust to contact in the event of a pending relapse are so important to you. They are vital for your life because they'll be a great source of support. The worst thing that could happen would be to lose their contact information.

Unfortunately, these things happen when we least expect them to.

You could lose your phone, your phone could get damaged, or it could stop functioning properly.

This is why it's important to write down their names and contact information.

Include this data in your relapse prevention plan. Make sure to include the phone number for quick reference.

It may seem strange to you to think about writing down the pros and cons of drinking or using drugs. After all, aren't you supposed to not be focusing on the good parts of substance abuse?

While it might seem odd, this is a very important activity.

When you write down the pros, these are things you may be thinking of when you're tempted to use. You will look at this list and these feelings and sensations will be reinforced.

Once you read the pros, you'll read the cons.

The cons will expose the truth behind the pros on your list. The cons will detail all of the negative aspects of substance abuse.

Again, be specific. Just as in the example above, maybe using drugs has caused you to lose your job. Perhaps your alcoholism has led to you going through a divorce.

Your brain knows the pros of drinking or using drugs. Acknowledging them is only going to give you more power over your substance of choice. Once you incorporate the cons of using, you're showing yourself that those pros really aren't all that impressive.

Addicts always have a list of triggers that result in using drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, sometimes they keep that list in their minds, and not on paper.

You're going to keep your trigger list on paper.

What is it that makes you want to use drugs or drink alcohol? Some common substance abuse triggers include:

  • Having problems managing your feelings
  • Difficulties dealing with stress
  • Believing that they will never drink or use drugs again
  • Becoming anger or easily irritated
  • Not remaining committed to recovery
  • Spending time with friends or family who use drugs or drink

Many of these may seem like normal substance use triggers to you. Sometimes triggers are not all that common.

You may experience a trigger when you:

  • Smell a familiar smell
  • Drive by a place where you used to use
  • Hear a song that you listened to often while high or drunk
  • Get into a fight with your spouse, or another family member
  • Wear certain pieces of clothing

Triggers come in all shapes and sizes. You need to identify what your own, personal triggers are. Don't worry if they seem strange. There is no rule as to what your triggers should look like.

When you encounter a trigger, you're also experiencing a type of lie. That lie is trying to convince you that you need to use. You may even think that you won't be happy unless you use. This is how triggers work in the mind.

The next step for you is to record what you know to be true. You don't have to believe the lies that your triggers try to tell you.

Write down the truth about what a relapse will mean for your life. Write down the changes that might occur if you give in and drink or use drugs.

The truth is a powerful tool, and it's one that you should utilize at all stages of your recovery. It is especially important as a part of your relapse prevention plan.

One way you will help yourself avoid a relapse is by participating in different activities.

It's possible that you have a long list of things you once loved to do. These might be things you haven't thought about in a long time. This is because your addiction has taken that place of importance in your life.

During your alcohol or drug addiction recovery, this is the perfect time to rekindle your love for these activities. You need to write them down as a part of your plan.

Feel free to make your list as long as you need to. It's even OK if you write down some things that you haven't done in years. Write them down, and vow to start doing them again. You'll find that these activities can be a great way to distract yourself.

Everyone faces stress. Sometimes drug addicts and alcoholics are afraid of experiencing stress. They think that if they do, they'll only go right back to using as a way to cope.

This is not an effective strategy for you during your recovery.

As a part of your relapse prevention plan, you need to identify what your stressors are. As you do, write them down and make them a part of your plan. Doing this is so important.

When you refuse to name what your stressors are, you give them more power in your life. It's almost as if not naming them will make them go away. You know in your heart this isn't true at all.

Writing them down is a way for you to give yourself back the power over them. They will still be there, whether you write them down or not. This way, you have a way to overcome them without turning to drugs or alcohol.

After you have written down your stressors, coming up with an action plan is the key.

This is something you might need some help doing. If you're completing your plan with your counselor, he or she might have some ideas for you. There may be some forms of stress that you need to talk with your spouse or partner about.

Remember, you don't have to deal with all of your stress completely on your own. You're not alone in your recovery. There are so many people surrounding you who want to help you as much as they can.

The best way to create an action plan is to take each stressor and look at it separately. Then, write down detailed things that you will do to cope.

For example, if losing your job is a stressor, write down ways you can make additional money. If you have a stressor that you can't think of a solution for, that's OK too. Make a promise to yourself and your loved ones that you will work on a solution with them.

If you do have a relapse, the tendency is to keep it a secret. That is what your addictive mind will tell you to do.

After all, if no one knows about it, you can just go on as if nothing happened, right?

You know this isn't true at all.

Relapses do happen, and they happen frequently. An addiction is a relapsing disease, and so, relapses should be expected. That doesn't mean you can't make a plan to try and avoid them.

Write down a list of people you will contact if you do relapse. Honesty is always the best policy. If your ultimate goal is to steer clear of drugs and alcohol, you need to commit to being honest.

On this list, you should include your counselor, your sponsor, and your spouse or partner. You may also want to include a friend you trust, your medical doctor, and anyone else who comes to mind.

When is the Right Time to Create Your Relapse Prevention Plan?

Before you can create your relapse prevention plan, you need to be sober and stable. This is best accomplished after you've finished some type of drug and alcohol rehab program.

It's so important for you to be able to focus on what you're going to do. If you make the decision to quit using while you're drunk or high, you probably won't follow through.

Perhaps that's the situation you're in right now. You haven't gone through any type of professional addiction treatment. You'd like to try and stop using on your own first. So many people fall into this trap, thinking that they can be successful.

More often than not, they are not successful. In fact, this puts their lives in danger.

It's wonderful that you want to stop using drugs and alcohol. However, if you're not yet a part of a substance abuse treatment program, you need to take that step first.

When you're ready, your counselor will help you complete a relapse prevention program. It will be very effective for you when it's done in the right way, and at the right time.

How Will You Know Your Relapse Prevention Plan is Finished?

The fact is that your relapse prevention plan may not ever be finished. This is the reality for everyone with an addiction.

When you complete your plan, you'll feel very proud of it. However, life goes on and it changes all the time. As you continue in your recovery, you'll find that:

  • Your stressors change
  • The activities you enjoy doing will change
  • The people you trust and count on will change
  • The ways you cope with stress will change
  • Your needs will change

It's OK if you continue altering your plan for the rest of your life. Your relapse prevention plan is yours. It is completely unique to you, according to what you need.

What Additional Components Should You Include?

What you've read so far are the “bare bones” of a traditional relapse prevention plan.

You should be aware that your plan may look completely different from this. The reason for this is because everyone is different. What you need might be different from what someone else needs to prevent a relapse.

Still, there are some other components of your relapse prevention plan that you may want to include. These are things you might find to be very helpful, but they are completely up to you.

You may be someone who does very well with getting rewarded for staying in recovery. If you are, this is something you really need to acknowledge about yourself.

You could consider adding in a list of rewards as a part of your plan. One way you can do this is to choose smaller rewards for shorter lengths of abstinence from substances. As the time period stretches on, the rewards can become bigger.

The reward system is something that cigarette smokers often use when they're trying to quit. It can work just as well for those addicted to drugs and alcohol.

You'll enjoy seeing your list of rewards in your relapse prevention plan. If you're reading it every day, you'll see it often. It might be just what you need to encourage yourself to stay in track.

Many addicts have a long list of things they always used to love doing. However, you might have a list of things you've always wanted to do, but couldn't.

Your addiction or alcoholism has probably stood in your way of accomplishing many things in your life. Sometimes people have dreams of wanting to finish their degrees, but they don't. Maybe you've always wanted to take up horseback riding or playing softball for your church.

No matter those things are, creating a list of them can be helpful. This will also serve as a type of reward system for you.

It won't take long before you begin to view your sober life as much more enjoyable than your addicted life.

It takes time to form an addiction. You may not have noticed, but you changed little by little as time went on. The same is true for changes that happen when you stop using.

If you're not looking for these changes, you could miss them altogether. So, it's best to start looking for them. Not only that, you can also write them down.

You may have to try hard to see yourself changing, but before long, they'll become more noticeable. For example, you may notice that you:

  • Start to have better looking skin
  • Look younger
  • Lose weight or gain weight as you get healthy again
  • Start to think more clearly
  • Stop thinking about using drugs or alcohol completely

These changes are dramatic, and they're good to have recorded. As a part of your relapse prevention plan, they may serve a very useful purpose.

Co-Occurring Disorders Can Increase the Risk of Relapsing

You may be one of the many Americans who suffers from a co-occurring disorder. If you do, your risk of relapsing is increased. A co-occurring disorder is a mental health condition that is present with an addiction or alcoholism. Many people have them, and they often are the cause for addictions.

Signs That a Co-Occurring Disorder Could Soon Cause a Relapse

You could be feeling completely in control of your addiction, and then a relapse threatens. Sometimes this is because you have a co-occurring disorder.

It's important to be able to recognize the different signs that a relapse is imminent. If you have a co-occurring disorder, there are some signs you can look for. These include:

  • Feeling unusually anxious or nervous
  • Experiencing a panic attack
  • Feeling down or sad for no particular reason
  • Starting to feel paranoid
  • Having problems with your sleep

There are many different types of co-occurring disorders. You may also be in recovery from PTSD, and you could feel your symptoms returning. It's possible that you are recovering from obsessive-compulsive disorder as well, and some old behaviors are coming back.

No matter what your co-occurring disorder is, learn to recognize the symptoms. It may help you ward of a relapse.

In your relapse prevention plan, write down a list of your mental health symptoms. This will help you to identify them if they do begin again.

Above all, you should know that these symptoms may return. Your co-occurring disorder is a part of your addiction. The two conditions frequently feed off each other.

Writing down your symptoms will assist you in remaining in control.

After you write down the typical symptoms of your co-occurring disorder, identify coping strategies. You will have learned many during addiction treatment. Some of these might be the same ones you use for your addiction, and some might be different.

Keep this list in your relapse prevention plan. This way you can refer back to it as often as you need to.

Relapse Prevention Plan Guide

What's the First Step Toward Getting a Relapse Prevention Plan in Place?

The very first step toward getting a relapse prevention plan in place is to go to rehab.

Alcohol and drug rehab will help you arrest your addiction. It will allow you to get the treatment you need to recover.

There are so many benefits to going to addiction treatment for your recovery. These include:

  • Having access to professional support 24 hours a day
  • Being able to work on both the physical and psychological parts of the addiction
  • Being able to utilize the most modern treatment methods for recovery
  • Building relationships with new people who have similar goals
  • Having the capability of learning how to live your life without addiction.

Relapse is very common in the United States.

An addiction is a disease, regardless of what the drug of choice is. Diseases are relapsing by nature. It makes sense that addiction relapse rates would be the same as they are for other diseases.

Typically, about 40-60% of recovering addicts will experience a relapse at some point.

Once you have recovered, there are some practical steps you can take to avoid relapsing.

You should:

  • Make sure you get enough sleep. You need sleep to stay in good physical and mental health.
  • Don't miss your follow-up appointments. You may be tempted to think that you are “cured,” but there is no cure for addiction.
  • Surround yourself with people who won't tempt you to use.
  • Work on improving your overall physical health.
  • Stay involved in activities and other things you enjoy doing.

Begin Your Relapse Prevention Plan with Addiction Treatment Today

Perhaps you're in a situation right now where you're facing an addiction or alcoholism. You may have tried to stop using in the past, but you were unsuccessful. Maybe you've thought about drug rehab or alcohol rehab, but something is keeping you from taking that step.

If that's how you feel, you are in very good company. Most people contemplate addiction treatment for a long time before making the decision to go.

It's possible that you came across this information because you were looking for a relapse prevention plan guide. You may have a goal of stopping your use of alcohol or drugs on your own. Unfortunately, that plan is probably not going to work. It wouldn't help you to create a relapse prevention plan without going to rehab first.

There could be so many underlying reasons for your addiction. You may not even be aware of what those things are. When you go to drug and alcohol treatment, the professionals can help you find out what they are. Once you know, you'll be able to get the kind of treatment that will help you recover.

It's wonderful that you're thinking about recovering from your addiction. It's also great that you see the value in creating a relapse prevention plan. However, taking the appropriate steps first is what is going to help you recover successfully. We can assist you with that, here at Northpoint Washington.

Do you have questions about making your own relapse prevention plan? Have you found this guide to be helpful for you?

Please contact us to let us know how we can assist you further.
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