How to Create a Comprehensive Relapse Prevention Strategy

Recovery doesn’t end with sobriety. Creating a strategy to prevent relapse is just as important, which is why we’ve made this comprehensive guide to creating your relapse prevention strategy.

Addiction, or substance abuse, can have severe and negative effects on a person’s life. In some cases, it can be all-consuming, affecting physical and mental health, financial stability, relationships, and more. Those experiencing substance abuse may seek treatment and attempt a sober lifestyle.

However, the path to sobriety is full of challenges and is rarely perfect. A common part of the journey to sober living is relapsing. Comprehensive relapse prevention strategies could be a valuable tool to minimize relapses or assist in recovery from a relapse.

What Is A Relapse Prevention Strategy?

A relapse is the use of a substance after a period of abstinence. A relapse prevention strategy is a detailed plan that helps someone cope with triggers and temptations leading to substance abuse relapse. A relapse prevention strategy helps identify high-risk situations and create mechanisms to avoid or cope with those situations and help avoid a relapse.  

Why Is It Important To Have A Relapse Prevention Plan?

Relapse is a common occurrence and is considered a part of the road to recovery. Statistically, an estimated 85 percent of those pursuing sobriety will relapse within a year. Though relapse does not mean recovery has failed, it can be a discouraging and painful experience. Relapse is not just a single moment or event. Relapse can occur in various stages over time, taking days or even weeks. The causes of relapse vary and can be due to a slow accumulation of events or situations or a sudden and unexpected trigger.

Statistically, an estimated 85 percent of those pursuing sobriety will relapse within a year.

A relapse prevention plan can be an important step towards recovery success. It allows individuals to identify the potential causes of relapse and create a personalized plan to address them. Effective substance abuse treatment treats all elements that lead to addiction, and an effective relapse prevention plan can help the treatment achieve long-term success.

5 Key Elements Of A Relapse Prevention Plan

Developing an effective relapse prevention plan requires self-reflection and honesty. An effective relapse prevention plan consists of five key elements that address the various potential contributors of relapse.

Identify Triggers

A trigger is an experience that leads to the desire to engage in substance abuse. Triggers can vary greatly. They can be people, emotions, stress, events, or exposure. Identifying triggers is an essential step to creating a relapse prevention plan. It is important to be aware of what will lead to feeling the need to relapse.

Know Your Cravings

A craving is the feeling of wanting to engage in substance abuse. Cravings can be overwhelming and a major cause of relapse. Therefore, understanding and recognizing your cravings is an integral part of a relapse prevention plan.

List Coping Tools And Distractions

Creating a list of ways to distract and cope with triggers and cravings can help lessen the possibility of relapse. Think of activities that are physically and mentally engaging. These activities should be stimulating and pull attention away from feeling the need to engage in substance use.

Another coping mechanism is being aware of the potential consequences of relapse. Identify how relapse will affect you and those around you. Will it heavily impact your job, relationships, or other elements of your life?

Common Coping Tools

  • Journaling
  • Exercising
  • Joining supportive communities
  • Seeking therapy
  • Calling a friend, sponsor, or family member

Identify People You Can Reach Out To For Help

Identify and involve people in your life that you could reach out to when experiencing challenges such as triggers or extreme cravings. Create a list of people willing to engage in conversation or activities that will help ease the pressure of these challenges. These people can be friends, family members, support communities, therapists, or sponsors.

List Goals And Reasons For Sobriety

The last element of an effective relapse prevention plan is creating goals and listing the reasons for sobriety.

Create short or long-term goals that are dependent on sobriety. Set goals that help build a healthy lifestyle and find joy in recovery. Goals should be realistic and achievable.

Create a list that will remind you of the reasons for pursuing sobriety. Think of all the positive and negative reasons you chose to live a sober lifestyle. This list will serve as a reminder during moments of temptation and challenging times.

How To Create A Relapse Prevention Plan

A comprehensive relapse prevention plan can be a key component of successful recovery. The best way to create a relapse prevention plan is to work with a trained professional to identify each key element and develop the proper coping tools. Treatment centers, such as the Silicon Beach Treatment Center, can offer support and resources that will assist in developing the best individual plan. Communities and groups may also provide resources that will assist in creating a comprehensive plan. Often, the first step in creating a relapse prevention plan is simply to ask for help. Be sure to ask where these resources are available.

However, if these resources are not available or convenient, many resources exist online to assist in developing an effective plan. The internet is full of information and even downloadable relapse prevention plans. Though these may not be as comprehensive as one developed alongside a counselor or therapist, they could still be highly effective.

A comprehensive relapse prevention plan can be a key component of successful recovery.

It is important to know that there is not a “one size fits all” approach to creating a relapse prevention plan. Each key element of the plan is crucial and may take patience and self-reflection. Identifying your triggers is as essential as listing reasons for sobriety. Furthermore, a relapse plan is considered a “living document.” It will likely change and evolve as your path to sobriety changes and evolves.  Patience and understanding for oneself is vital to creating a comprehensive and effective plan.

Get the Help You Need When You Need It

Silicon Beach Sober Living is among the drug addiction treatment centers dedicated to sober living in Los Angeles. In addition to our Los Angeles sober living homes, we can offer information on relapse prevention planning and other sober living information.

If you are in need of information and available resources, follow Silicon Beach Sober Living on social media.

In the case of an emergency such as thoughts of suicide, please seek immediate help by dialing 9-1-1 or calling The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available twenty-four hours a day and provides support and prevention for people experiencing a crisis. It is entirely free and confidential.

February 13, 2022

Adam Snyder


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