Recovering from substance abuse is one of the best choices you can make. Addiction harms every aspect of your life, and the longer it goes on, the harder it is to repair that damage. Additionally, substance abuse can hurt those who care for you. The path to recovery is long and has many trials, but it is well worth it. This is why thinking about a relapse before it happens is crucial. Developing a relapse plan is a good way of safeguarding your progress in recovery.

The Importance of a Relapse Plan

Getting treatment for addiction is a pivotal part of the recovery process. Although individuals enter treatment under different circumstances, treatment fosters the development of concrete coping strategies that can help people from all different backgrounds. However, treatment is not the end of recovery. It is the beginning of an active process that requires vigilance and commitment. Relapse is a reality for many people recovering from substance abuse. Some people may leave treatment and never experience relapse, while others will struggle more. 

The best way to protect yourself from a relapse is to start planning for it early in the process. It might be discouraging to think about relapse while recovery is going well. This might feel like accepting that you are going to fail eventually. In reality, planning for relapse is part of accepting that addiction is a chronic condition that requires maintenance. A person with diabetes should not stop checking their blood sugar or taking their medicine when things are good because that is a surefire way of inviting a resurgence of symptoms. Similarly, leaving treatment and returning to everyday life without a plan in place can limit your potential for success.

Even if relapse does occur, it is not the end of the road. It does not negate the hard work you have been pouring into your recovery. You are not back to square one, and it is not a reason to be hopeless. Most importantly, it does not indicate failure. You can recover from a relapse, but the easier path is to do your best to avoid it entirely. Developing a plan early can keep you from feeling lost and confused in the midst of urges later on.

Understanding How Relapse Happens

Relapse is a complicated process. It is usually not as simple as just deciding to use substances out of the blue. Rather than being a single instance, it is generally a cascade of events. Recognizing this process before it starts can help keep relapse from being an inevitability.

Before a physical relapse of actually using substances, there is a mental and emotional component. Becoming physically and emotionally rundown through improper self-care can serve as the catalyst. Not eating or sleeping properly or letting stress go uncontrolled can wear someone down. This makes a person more susceptible to thoughts of using. A person might start experiencing cravings and thinking about whether they could “get away” with using again.

The first step in preventing relapse is to meet your basic needs to stop the process before it starts. Getting enough sleep, eating nutritious food, exercising regularly, managing stress, and maintaining relationships can all help prevent the mental and emotional stages of relapse. 

What to Include in a Relapse Plan

Creating a concrete relapse plan can take the guesswork out of keeping yourself safe when it matters most. Developing this plan with your treatment team and loved ones can ensure everyone is on the same page moving forward. Writing this plan down and keeping it in an accessible place, such as your wallet or your car, can ensure you always can utilize it. 

Your relapse plan should include contact information for people who can help you in a relapse. This might include your treatment team, family members, close friends, and possibly a sponsor. In addition to identifying helpful people, it is important to identify your reasons for staying sober. Having these reasons written down can help remind you of what is important when it becomes overwhelming and difficult to stay motivated. 

Identifying both triggers and coping strategies is another helpful part of forming a plan. Thinking carefully about the types of environments and situations that promote substance use can help you avoid them when possible and prepare you to endure them when avoidance is not an option. Recognizing certain thought patterns and emotions that precede substance use can also help you catch yourself before it goes too far. Having readily accessible coping strategies to counter these triggers can help you interrupt the path toward relapse. 

Another important part of a relapse plan might be some type of sober accountability. Taking non-invasive tests at home provides an incentive to stay sober even when the temptation becomes strong. In the event of a relapse, it also helps your treatment team respond quickly and appropriately to get you back on track.

Preparing for relapse is part of the recovery process. Rather than admitting the possibility of defeat, it is a way of promoting resilience in the face of cravings and triggers. Working with a licensed clinician experienced in substance abuse treatment can help you develop a plan tailored to your specific needs. Family-Centered Services is dedicated to providing comprehensive quality care to you and your family during all stages of recovery. We offer treatment placement consultation, sober accountability, individual and family therapy, and sober companion transport services to promote sustained recovery throughout the entire process. If you are looking for a treatment solution that works, call us at (509) 991-5822 to learn more.