relapse prevention

What is a Relapse Prevention Plan?

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Effective treatment for addiction can involve many elements. Common features include individual therapy, group sessions, medication, care for co-occurring mental health concerns, and guidance for developing an effective relapse prevention plan.

What is a relapse prevention plan? It is a collection of essential information, including skills, strategies, and resources. The goal of this plan is to prepare you to overcome obstacles that can threaten your recovery and push you back into active substance abuse.

What is Relapse Prevention?

Addiction treatment can be described as a three-phase process. The first phase involves ending your use of alcohol and other addictive substances. Depending on what type of addiction you have developed, this phase may involve detox

The second phase is devoted to helping you build a foundation for a successful, drug-free future. During this phase, you can address the issues that contributed to your substance abuse. You can also begin to develop the skills you will need to live a sober life.

The third phase is focused on helping you avoid relapse and remain in recovery. Relapse prevention training can include learning about triggers, practicing strategies to protect your recovery, and identifying the people and organizations who can support you. 

Signs of Relapse

If someone in recovery begins to exhibit the following signs, these may be indicators of a relapse:

  • Frequently missing school or work without an acceptable excuse
  • Falling behind on their bills and fail to meet other personal responsibilities
  • Withdrawing from their friends and family
  • No longer attending support group meetings
  • Neglecting their appearance and hygiene
  • Dramatic, unexplained mood swings
  • Sleeping way too much or hardly at all
  • Often appearing confused or disoriented
  • Unexplained financial problems

Unless you see the person actually using alcohol or another drug, it can be difficult to know for sure if they have relapsed. However, if someone you care about shows any of the signs listed above—or if you notice any other significant changes in their mood, attitude, appearance, or behavior—they may be in crisis.

Reasons Why Addicts Relapse

Experiences or circumstances that put a person at risk for relapse are known as triggers. There is no standard set of triggers. They can vary from person to person. Here are a few examples of common triggers that can push a person back into active substance use:


This can take many forms, including the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one, and the loss of a job. If a person is not prepared to manage the emotional pain of loss, they may find themselves reverting to substance abuse and other dangerous behaviors.


In our culture, substance use is part of celebration. Two common examples include the wedding toast and the champagne celebration after a team wins the World Series. If you’ve been conditioned to drink or use other drugs in celebratory moments, successes in your personal or professional life can put you at risk for relapse.


It is far from uncommon for people to turn to alcohol or other drugs in a misguided attempt to find temporary respite from overwhelming stress. This is why developing effective stress-management capabilities can be such an important part of addiction treatment.

Social pressure

If you think peer pressure is only a problem for middle school students, you may be in for a rude surprise. If you continue to associate with people who frequently abuse alcohol and other drugs, they are eventually going to ask you to join them.

Physical pain

People with prescription painkiller addiction are a big reason for our nation’s ongoing opioid epidemic. Other people try to numb physical pain by abusing illicit substances. To safeguard your recovery, you need to be sure you manage physical pain in a safe manner.

These are just a few of the reasons why people relapse. Addiction impacts each person differently, and recovery poses unique challenges for everyone. Understanding what your triggers are and knowing how to respond when they occur are essential parts of an effective relapse prevention plan. 

What is a Relapse Prevention Plan?

A relapse prevention plan is a document that prepares a person for the challenges they may encounter in recovery. If you are creating a relapse prevention plan for yourself, you may begin by identifying your triggers. You can then list ways to avoid these triggers, along with the skills and strategies that you can use to respond in a healthy manner if you can’t avoid them. 

Your relapse prevention plan may also include the people and organizations that you can rely on for help. This might include close friends or trusted family members, therapists or other professionals, and participants in recovery support groups that you attend.

Though you have designed your to avoid relapse, it may include steps if you do experience a relapse. When you plan ahead, and when you follow your plan, you can prevent a minor setback from becoming a major problem. 

Find Treatment After Relapse

If you’re trying to find treatment after a relapse, here are a few things to consider:

  • Do you need to complete detox?
  • What are your specific goals and priorities for treatment?
  • Do you think you need residential care or outpatient programming?
  • Are you also experiencing symptoms of a co-occurring mental health concern?
  • What types of treatment have helped you in the past?

As you evaluate treatment programs, you may want to ask the following questions:

  • How will the facility determine the full scope of your needs?
  • Does the facility offer multiple levels of care?
  • Who are the professionals that will provide your treatment?
  • Can your loved ones participate in family programming?
  • What types of aftercare support does the center provide?

What’s most important is finding a program that offers the customized services that align with your history, needs, and preferences.

Begin Addiction Treatment in California

September is National Recovery Month. Ocean Hills Recovery offers personalized programming at multiple levels of care for adults who are struggling with addiction or who have relapsed. Our center serves men and women throughout Southern California, including Orange County and Los Angeles. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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