How to Make a Successful Relapse Prevention Plan

Shlomo Hoffman
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Jefferey A. Berman MD, DFASAM
Last Updated
March 9, 2023

Part of the complete guide to understanding addiction

Table of Contents
  1. The Importance of an Addiction Relapse Prevention Plan
  2. Create a Support Network
  3. Avoid Environmental Triggers
  4. Have a Clear Plan to Tackle Cravings
  5. Continue to See a Counselor
  6. Practice Self-care and Remember HALT
  7. Summary: Relapse Prevention Strategies

After making it through an addiction treatment program, you’re done right? Actually, recovery continues even after a treatment program concludes. You’ll need a relapse prevention plan to ensure everything you’ve achieved doesn’t fall by the wayside as you move on with your life.

The Importance of an Addiction Relapse Prevention Plan

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40% to 60% of people in recovery relapse.[1] That’s why having a post-treatment plan is a crucial part of the recovery process. This aftercare involves additional support after graduating from treatment like support groups, counseling, and follow-ups.

While those numbers may appear daunting, it’s important to remember that relapse is preventable. Having an aftercare plan decreases the risk of relapse, therefore laying the foundation for a successful long term recovery. Here are five post-treatment tips for effective relapse prevention planning:

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1. Create a Support Network

It’s important to surround yourself with those that care about your recovery. That means staying in a supportive environment filled with people ready to assist at any moment. You should be in a place where harmful substances and triggers are completely avoided. Interact regularly with these providers of support so you can keep to your post-treatment goals. When returning to work after rehab, consider if your workplace is a supportive environment or a new job would be a better choice.

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2. Avoid Environmental Triggers

Did you know that avoidance behavior is one of the most successful ways to keep from relapsing? Stay away from tempting situations where your substance of choice is readily available.
Some common examples of triggering environments are:

  • Bars and clubs
  • Homes of friends or family members (who are not part of your support network as mentioned above)
  • Events and celebrations
  • Being around people who abuse drugs or alcohol

If you can’t avoid any of these situations, use the buddy system. Call on a supportive person to attend the event with you so that they can steer you away from temptation should it rear its head and help you stay sober during the holidays too.

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3. Have a Clear Plan to Tackle Cravings

You can’t control everything around you, especially when it comes to facing triggers. You may experience momentary strong cravings. That’s why having a clear prevention plan in place will help. 

Substance abuse is a negative coping skill, so learning positive coping skills for relapse prevention is a good idea. Whatever this entails, write it on an index card as a reference. For example, you might have a list of names and numbers of people to call when a craving sets in, like sponsors, family, or sober friends

You could also make a list of alternative activities to engage in once you feel a craving set in, like jogging, going to the movies, meeting up with friends, or going to a recovery meeting. 

Remember that the relapse prevention strategies that you choose must be unique to you. What works for someone else might not work for you.

4. Continue to See a Counselor

These sessions remain an important part of the recovery process because they offer a non-judgmental place for sharing feelings. You can opt for group or individual counseling, or a combination of both. Group counseling brings people with similar experiences together to learn and grow from one another. Individual therapy offers one-on-one treatment with a professional that builds upon progress already made. Continuing these sessions is an essential part of an addiction relapse prevention plan and increases your chances for maintaining sobriety.

5. Practice Self-care and Remember HALT

HALT stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired.[2] These feelings often make people in recovery vulnerable to relapse. Relapse prevention techniques involve showing individuals these signs and helping them choose self-care over drugs or alcohol as an escape. The HALT method promotes eliminating uncomfortable physical and emotional conditions that might lead to a relapse. Take care of yourself right away if the craving is caused by any of these feelings. Mindfulness in recovery can relax you, improve self control and help you tackle cravings the right way. Consider adding a 10 minute meditation to your daily routine.

Summary: Relapse Prevention Strategies for Long Term Recovery

Addiction recovery isn’t easy. That’s why you need a supportive environment filled with mentors and friends ready to assist at any moment. Recovery is an ongoing process for the rest of your life. Taking these important steps to create a realistic addiction relapse prevention plan will send you on the right path towards a successful and healthy future. If you’d like advice or have any questions about post-treatment success, please contact our team today.

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