What Is Relapse Prevention and How You Can Master Your Recovery

When combatting addiction, health care professionals create continuums of care to prevent relapse, but this article dives deeper for the addict or alcoholic battling to answer the question, ‘what is relapse prevention?’ It’s not only about avoiding substance use but also building a fulfilling life in your recovery. This article delves into strategies and cognitive techniques of relapse prevention, providing the toolkit you need for dodging triggers in the beginning and consolidating recovery into a plan for life as one living Recovered On Purpose.

Key Takeaways

  • Relapse prevention is not just about avoiding substance use; it’s a comprehensive approach that includes improving life quality, personal growth, and resilience, providing individuals with the skills to manage triggers and maintain sobriety.
  • Identifying and managing both internal triggers (like anxiety and low self-esteem) and external triggers (such as environmental cues or social pressures) is crucial in a robust relapse prevention plan that aims to prevent physical relapse.
  • Developing a personalized relapse prevention plan is vital. It involves assessing personal substance use history, establishing actionable coping strategies and lifestyle changes, and adapting relapse prevention strategies to fit various populations’ needs, including cultural and developmental considerations.
  • Finding a purpose within your life in recovery that keeps you on the growth mindset rather than a mindset of fighting drugs and alcohol one day at a time – making your daily habits something to look forward to when you go to bed at night and wake up in the morning.

Understanding Relapse Prevention

Understanding What Is Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention is a beacon of hope in the darkness of substance abuse. It’s a strategic approach geared towards helping individuals with substance use disorders maintain long-term recovery and prevent the return to substance use. But it’s not just about abstaining from substance use. It’s about improving the quality of life, encouraging personal growth, and fostering resilience.

What methods does it use to reach these goals? The application of relapse prevention tactics within substance abuse treatment programs equips individuals with the necessary skills to resist situations that trigger relapse, post a period of abstinence or reduced use. In essence, relapse prevention provides you with a robust toolkit to navigate the challenges of recovery and maintain a life of sobriety.

The difference for those working with Recovered On Purpose is the clinical aspects of preventing relapse are left to the clinicians and we as a recovery community focus solely on how we can utilize out past experiences, with the digital assets we have in this generation, to share our stories and reach those suffering with the message of hope that was meant for them. When in the Recovered On Purpose programs, you will never speak of triggers, you will never speak of anything you need to avoid, but you will speak of who you are as an individual and be encouraged to become the best version of that person you can be.

The mental health professionals and clinicians are loved and encouraged by our community, and even partnered with, but they specialize in their methods and we have ours.

The Theory Behind Relapse Prevention With Recovered On Purpose

Rooted in social-cognitive psychology, relapse prevention has historically utilized cognitive and behavioral strategies to ward off relapse episodes. It borrows from Marlatt and Gordon’s Relapse Prevention Model, which outlines immediate determinants like high-risk situations and covert antecedents such as lifestyle factors and urges that influence relapse.

Viewing relapse as an educational opportunity, the RP model treats lapses as indicators that necessitate enhanced planning and coping strategy development. Lapses are when an individual has gone back to physical use, but has not yet gone into uncontrollable addiction with substance use regardless of consequences. Relapse prevention skills are trained during this lapse to attempt intervention, list common triggers that arose, shift treatment modalities and enhance outcomes with preventing future relapse.

The aim of these interventions is to enhance the client’s self-confidence, equipping them with the expertise and skills to handle difficult situations without resorting to substance usage.

As real addicts and alcoholics, Recovered On Purpose focuses all its programs around each individual becoming who they believe God created them to be. Often times students choose to write books, some do podcasts, and some even become professional speakers sharing their stories to not only help addicts recover, but prevent drug use in adolescents by speaking in schools and youth programs. One student, Kimberly Clark, is now traveling the country speaking at conferences, military events, colleges and high schools – with only 3 years in recovery and making impact impossible with mere clinical relapse prevention therapy.

Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention

Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) represents a fresh, integrative approach to relapse prevention, combining traditional cognitive-behavioral approaches with mindfulness meditation. It seeks to assist individuals in:

  • Recognizing early warning signs of relapse
  • Heightening awareness of triggers
  • Fortifying their ability to develop coping skills
  • Bolstering self-efficacy.

Techniques like ‘urge surfing’ are employed in MBRP that allow clients to view cravings as transient and manageable phases rather than compelling imperatives to use substances. Studies show that MBRP can lead to significantly reduced substance use and cravings, while fostering higher degrees of acceptance and mindful awareness compared to traditional treatment methods.

Continued mindfulness practices can contribute to sustained reductions in substance use over time, but what if the focus on these things for those in recovery could have as much of a negative effect as they could with a positive effect? Constantly focusing on any one thing like, for instance, risk of relapse, causes our subconscious to lose the ability to see the peripheral view of all the beautiful things in recovery to focus on like:

  • Going skydiving for your first time
  • Being present for the birth of your niece, nephew, or your own child
  • Speaking with someone struggling in early recovery and watching them change through the help you give them
  • Being the best man or maid of honor at a wedding
  • Add infinitum to this list

According to dozens of studies on this exact topic in all other fields of study like leadership, police investigations, and business plans, how is no one talking about the increased focus on all the things in psychiatric clinics that may be a huge reason why relapse occurs.

Look, I am not starting a war with clinicians or the treatment industry, we need this community as much as we need ourselves, but clinicians need to allow the two to be separate; allowing recovered addicts to show the way to a sustainable life of joy in recovery from the ones who have truly been there.

Relapse Trigger and High Risk Situations

Identifying High-Risk Situations and Triggers and How They Still Don’t Need To Cause Relapse

Identifying high-risk situations and triggers form a vital part of constructing a sturdy relapse prevention plan. These triggers can be internal, such as emotional states like anger, anxiety, depression, frustration, and boredom, or external, involving environmental factors or interpersonal conflicts, often involving family members or close relationships. Recognizing these triggers can help prevent a physical relapse.

Gaining insight into these triggers is tantamount to getting to know your adversary. Some common triggers for relapse include:

  • Direct social pressure, such as being around others who are drinking or persuasion to drink
  • Indirect pressure, like social settings where alcohol is present
  • Exposure to alcohol-related stimuli or cues, such as advertisements or being near favorite bars
  • Attempts at testing personal control by limiting consumption

These factors can greatly influence relapse and are identified as high-risk situations.

“But what about the real alcoholic” or addict? The risk factor for someone with the disease of addiction or alcoholism relapsing that causes the most relapses than any other… Opening our eyes! External cues and our mental health conditions have become so normal to us in our lives that in order to truly maintain recovery, we must find something Higher to live for; a Purpose greater than ourselves and focusing on our own little problems when there is a whole huge world out there of people needing help that only we can.

The moment addicts and alcoholics in professional treatment realize it is an excellent stepping stone towards combatting substance dependence and alcohol use disorders, but is not a solution to live a recovered life without drugs or alcohol for the rest of their life, they will have a real chance at opening their minds to the solution that works: your recovery story IS relapse prevention and your weapon in this war of addiction taking so many of our brothers and sisters lives.

Internal Triggers

Internal triggers are like emotional landmines and although traditional relapse prevention methods will tell you they can significantly increase the risk of relapse and lurk beneath the surface, waiting to explode at the slightest provocation, let me tell you a solution for each of these emotions as we go through the Recovered On Purpose plan to avoid relapse.

These emotions and each of their solutions are as follows:

  • anxiety (Go help someone and focus on them)
  • irritability (Go help someone and focus on them)
  • stress (Go help someone and focus on them)
  • anger (Go help someone and focus on them)
  • low self-esteem (Go help someone and focus on them)

An individual’s reaction to these emotions will either eventually lead to a lapse, a complete relapse, or a successful return to joyful sobriety. Reacting with guilt or self-reproach can spiral into a destructive cycle of substance use, but guess what! “Selfishness, self-centeredness, that we think is the root of our problems!” So, the quicker you call someone and tell them how you are feeling in order to discover the character defect of selfishness, self-centeredness, self-pity or fear, the quicker you can resolutely turn your focus to SOMEONE YOU CAN HELP!

Understanding and managing these internal triggers as just part of recovery life’s negative feelings we need to solve within a framework for, as an integral part of Recovered On Purpose relapse prevention plans will help you understand how to utilize the treatment you may be going through, and how support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and programs like ours here will keep you sober and full of joy – IF YOU WORK THEM.

External Triggers

While internal triggers are emotional landmines, external triggers are booby traps set by the environment. These include:

  • Locations associated with past use
  • Spending time with active users
  • Behavioral activities like frequenting bars
  • Emotional occasions, including vacations, anniversaries, and holidays, particularly those that previously involved substance use

These external triggers can act as potent triggers for drug or alcohol use, often leading to drug abuse.

Media representations such as advertisements, films, and songs that glamorize substance use, including drug or alcohol addiction, can trigger cravings and contribute to the risk of relapse. Stress from financial problems, work, school, or relationships are significant external triggers that can jeopardize sobriety if not effectively managed. Navigating through these hazardous scenarios requires a careful and strategic approach, armed with the right tools and strategies provided by relapse prevention.

According to our founder, Adam Vibe Gunton, all these external triggers are essential to avoid until be given a state of neutrality to drugs and alcohol that happens every time for real addicts and alcoholics that do the work to change their internal dialogue from helping themselves avoid relapse, to helping others get off drugs and alcohol.

This doesn’t mean go to the bar to play pool on your 21-days-sober bravado, but this absolutely means if you have a reason to be anywhere in your recovery to help someone else, and you can honestly tell yourself this, and keep yourself with an escape route in case anything weird starts happening, you can go ANYWHERE normal people can go without being in fear of falling victim to relapse.

Developing Coping Skills and Strategies

Coping Skills and Strategies That Work

The development of coping skills and strategies can be likened to creating weapons for a battle. It encompasses identifying and managing high-risk situations, learning effective coping strategies, and modifying habits associated with substance use. These skills and strategies are the weapons you need to combat the risk of relapse.

Coping techniques, exercises such as Recovered On Purpose relapse prevention worksheets, tools including using stimulus control to remove triggers from the environment, employing urge-management strategies, and cognitive reframing like viewing addiction as a bully. Individuals can distract themselves from cravings through physical activities, support dialogues, journaling, and situational avoidance plans. Developing a new routine that avoids substance-associated activities and incorporating strategies for stress management are integral to relapse prevention.

Fostering meaningful connections with others and increasing positive experiences can also help manage psychological addiction triggers and support mental health.

The exercises focused on by Recovered On Purpose will always be about empowering the human being behind the addiction, finding the identity of the person without the addiction, and helping them improve their daily practices that help that person become who they want to be. The best way to avoid relapse in your recovery is to ensure you are living a life that using drugs or alcohol could never make better.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Techniques

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) plays a significant role in relapse prevention by aiding individuals to pinpoint and alter thoughts, feelings, and circumstances that provoke cravings for substances. It specifically addresses psychological triggers, such as rationalization, denial, and desire for immediate gratification, which can increase vulnerability to relapse. By doing so, CBT helps to prevent relapse in the long run.

Through CBT, individuals learn essential practical skills to effectively manage stress, anxiety, and negative emotions without resorting to substance use. These skills foster self-empowerment by challenging and reframing negative beliefs about oneself and enhancing the sense of self-efficacy in changing one’s behaviors. In fact, CBT has demonstrated a significant impact on relapse prevention, reportedly reducing relapse rates by up to 60 percent compared to traditional treatment methods.

Now imagine these same types of methods, without the clinical training, being implemented into the conversations we have with each other in the recovery community. I was recently having a conversation with a student on our weekly group coaching call for Recovered On Purpose leaders when one of them was obviously upset ad struggling with internal dialogue. We stopped the session, directed to what was going on (a new 3 month necessity to move out of their current living situation), and within 5 questions and introspection of the situation, she was empowered to create something she had never thought of before BECAUSE she had the opportunity to move – not consider relapse because she was upset.

Oh, and three days later she got her first $2,500 check for sharing her story in a local community event to help veterans and a contract totaling $5,000+ with travel expenses for another event a few months down the road… on the same day! Now, if you are working your tail off to help people by sharing your story and have speaking gigs you need to prepare for every month and turning into every week with all the podcast and things you are doing, how are you going to have time to consider relapsing? Get to work.

Self-Care Practices

Consider self-care as the defensive shield protecting you from the strikes of relapse. It aids in managing stress, reducing the risk of illness, and boosting energy, all essential for sustaining long-term recovery. Self-care encompasses various aspects of wellness including:

  • Emotional
  • Spiritual
  • Intellectual
  • Environmental
  • Financial
  • Occupational
  • Social
  • Physical health

Adopting self-care practices such as:

  • improving sleep quality
  • healthy eating
  • regular exercise
  • goal setting

Play a profound role in enhancing overall well-being and preventing relapse. As one of the five rules of recovery, practicing self-care is integral to changing one’s life and forms a foundation for relapse prevention plans.

Instead of counting on each individual within recovery to go out and learn their own methods of creating healthy coping skills, Recovered On Purpose lays the ground work of connection through building healthy relationships of trust so whenever one of these pillars is lacking, it is easy to open up about and begin to focus on recovery in that aspect. For instance, our member author of Say You Love, Crystal Lavender, needed to build her financial life and with a few key habits and methods we have at Recovered On Purpose, she was able to go from sub-500 credit to touching the 700’s in just three months!

Having success metrics to follow in different areas of life are a great form of stress reduction, helping you see where your life is going instead of just all the problems you have now. If we are honest, like in Crystal’s case, and we ask for help from someone who knows, we open our minds to learning solutions to life’s problems we didn’t even know existed.

Support System Networks and Groups

Support system networks and groups provide the camaraderie and reinforcement needed to face the challenges of recovery. Active participation in self-help groups can significantly benefit individuals in recovery as they:

  • Provide a sense of community
  • Help members to recognize the voice of addiction
  • Share successful coping skills
  • Offer a non-judgmental environment

Participating in support groups assists in preventing relapse by providing:

  • Support
  • Accountability
  • Education
  • The opportunity to meet peers who understand the recovery experience

A sponsor plays an invaluable role in relapse prevention by offering personalized insight and strategies, especially when an individual is facing challenges in their recovery path. Exploring different support group options is encouraged to connect with new people who can relate to the unique challenges of addiction, thus broadening the support network.

Recovered On Purpose group coaching for individuals in recovery wanting to share their stories is a way to provide the community with:

  • A sense of purpose and working on something bigger than themselves
  • Being innovative in the war on drug addiction and overdose
  • Receive real-life skills for all areas of life
  • Grow interpersonal relationships with others working on personal development

Creating A Personalized Relapse Prevention Plan

Personalized Relapse Prevention Plan

The creation of a personalized relapse prevention plan can be compared to drafting a roadmap for recovery. It should start by:

  1. Evaluating past substance use patterns
  2. Identifying the behaviors and circumstances that led to previous relapses
  3. Including a comprehensive list of personal triggers and warning signs within the relapse prevention plan to gain insight into potential relapse and provide information to the treatment team for prevention.

The purpose of a relapse prevention plan is to establish what to do instead of turning to drugs or alcohol, and to have specific strategies in place to extend periods of sobriety. Regularly updating the relapse prevention plan is crucial to ensure it remains relevant to the individual’s current situation and recovery stage.

Now that the clinical model for a personalized plan is out of the way, let’s take a look at the way Recovered On Purpose looks at these plans with our members to add to any clinical plan they have. The steps we take for creating the best personalized prevention plan are as follows:

  1. Become clear on what active drug or alcohol use does to your life
  2. Become clear on the reasons why you never want to use alcohol or other drugs again
  3. Make a list of your top supporters you know you can reach out to at any time
  4. Make a list of your favorite hobbies you know keep your mental health strong
  5. Make a list of simple things you can do every day to help someone else
  6. Find organizations and opportunities to volunteer in your schedule and schedule it once per month or more
  7. Create a bucket list and select one item off the list you will complete in the next 6 months
  8. Become clear on what you want your life to look like three years from now
  9. Exercises for understanding how to make good choices to take you to that vision of your future
  10. Self talk exercises and positive affirmations for addicts in recovery
  11. Creating a proprietary Recovered On Purpose personal WHY statement
  12. Posting these positive things on walls, mirrors, and other places to see every day

All These Steps Can Be Easily Followed and Filled Out On Your Device Within Our Free Relapse Prevention Worksheet

Assessing Your History With Substance Use

An appraisal of your substance use history provides vital hints about your distinct patterns of addiction and recovery. A comprehensive relapse prevention plan should include a thorough assessment of one’s personal history with drugs and alcohol, which helps identify use patterns and factors connected to past relapses. An assessment of one’s substance use history should take into account:

  • The frequency and quantity of substance use
  • The contexts in which use occurred
  • The resulting consequences, such as legal issues or relationship problems

Understanding the abstinence violation effect, which is a negative emotional reaction experienced after a lapse, is crucial as it can lead to exacerbated feelings of guilt or failure and increase the risk of a more serious relapse. A variety of screening and assessment tools, like the S2BI and the TAPS, can be utilized to gauge the history of substance use and aid in the creation of a relapse prevention plan.

The in-depth relapse prevention worksheet from Recovered On Purpose helps you clearly obtain the necessary parts of your history to move towards your future away from drug or alcohol use!

Implementing Relapse Prevention in Different Populations

The journey to recovery doesn’t fit a single mold. Implementing relapse prevention requires an understanding that different populations have varying needs that must be addressed. Factors such as age, cultural background, and the type of substance use disorder heavily influence the effectiveness of treatment.

The Recovered On Purpose plan IS a one size fits all plan, because it is merely a blueprint to finding your true self and the purpose you were created to fulfill. It boils down to service of others and using the gifts you have, because you do have unique and special gifts specifically gifted to you, to serve other people and help addicts be inspired to seek recovery themselves.

Adolescents and Relapse Prevention

When devising relapse prevention strategies for adolescents, it’s essential to consider their development phase, influence from peers, and family dynamics. Additionally, cultural adaptations of relapse prevention focus on aligning interventions with clients’ culture, language, values, and social context without compromising core elements.

Navigating the tumultuous period of adolescence, which is characterized by profound transformations and numerous obstacles, is crucial for effective relapse prevention strategies targeting young people. Recognizing and understanding the critical factors such as their developmental phase, the impact of peers, and family relationships during this time are vital.

In addiction medicine practice specifically tailored to youths with cannabis use disorder, there’s a method that marries relapse prevention techniques with motivational interviewing. This strategy considers the distinct hurdles faced by adolescents while equipping them with appropriate resources and methods required to successfully journey towards healing.

With the Recovered On Purpose drug and alcohol use prevention plan, our goal is to reach kids before they get to a point in their drug and alcohol use beyond the place of control. The same principles apply to youth prevention as they do to relapse prevention: find who you truly are and what you were created to be and become the best version of you you possibly can!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the meaning of relapse prevention?

A cognitive-behavioral strategy, relapse prevention focuses on helping individuals recognize and cope with high-risk situations that could prompt a return to previous behaviors. This method employs skill-based tactics designed to pinpoint and control potential precipitating factors for relapse while supporting the maintenance of positive behavior modifications.

What are some skills for preventing relapse?

The skills for preventing relapse include accepting the addiction, practicing honesty, developing coping skills for dealing with cravings, becoming active in self-help groups, practicing self-care, understanding the stages of relapse, and getting rid of friends who are using.

It’s also important to understand the dangers of cross addiction.

What are the 5 determinants of relapse?

The five determinants of relapse are stress, negative emotions, social pressure, environmental cues, and conflicts with others.

It’s important to address these factors to prevent relapse.

What are the components of a relapse prevention plan?

A relapse prevention plan includes elements such as identifying triggers, managing cravings, utilizing coping mechanisms, and having details of support groups. Having this plan documented in writing is crucial to facilitate sharing with your treatment team and support group members to aid in the path toward recovery.

What are the 9 stages of relapse prevention plan?

A relapse prevention plan consists of nine crucial stages within the Gorski-Cenaps Relapse Prevention Model. These are: achieving stability, conducting an assessment, providing education about relapse, recognizing warning signs, handling these warning signals effectively, planning for recovery maintenance, training in self-assessment inventory techniques, involving family members in the process and ensuring ongoing follow-up care.

As seen on

Relapse Prevention Worksheet