Key Components of an Aftercare and Relapse Prevention Plan

Relapse situations happen for various reasons, and they are linked to many different events. Since it is referred to as an ongoing process that you will undoubtedly experience while you are in recovery, it is essential that you form a proper aftercare and relapse prevention plan to deal with it.

Importance of Aftercare and Relapse Prevention Plans

The Department of Health and Human Services reports that relapse is one of the most common occurrences that you might encounter after checking out of a formal addiction treatment program. In fact, almost 66 percent of all relapses tend to occur within the first 6 months of recovery.

This is not surprising considering that addiction is defined as a chronic and relapsing condition. As such, you should not be too surprised when you continue struggling with relapse over the entire course of your life.

However, this is not to mean that you have failed or that you have stopped pursuing your sobriety and recovery. Instead, you should use it to understand the factors that could cause you to relapse, as well as make effective aftercare and relapse prevention plans on how to deal with them. These factors might include:

  • Being with or around people who are using drugs or drinking alcohol
  • Certain smells and sights
  • Financial worries and money problems
  • Particular environments
  • Relationship issues
  • Stress

In case you relapse, you should not take it to mean that your recovery journey has come to an end. In the same way, you should keep in mind that having a solid aftercare and relapse prevention plan does not necessarily mean that you are going to relapse.

The main goal of having such a plan in place would be to ensure that you reduce your risk of relapse, as well as deal with any relapse situation quickly so that you are back on track as soon as possible.

Creating Aftercare and Relapse Prevention Plans

To ensure that you have a lowered risk of relapse while in recovery, it is essential that you have a proper aftercare and relapse prevention plan in place. Although the strategies that would be included in your plan would be starkly different from the ones used by other addicts, there are some essential components that you should not ignore. These components could make your relapse prevention plan more solid. They include but are not limited to:

1. Reflection and Self-Assessment

For starters, you should ensure that your aftercare and relapse prevention plan has some time slots that will allow you to reflect and assess yourself. You should use this time to think about the various reasons why you used to take intoxicating and mind altering substances before you enrolled for addiction treatment.

This reasons could have been to cope with stressful and traumatic experiences, or to get a chance to escape your daily life. Alternatively, they might have been linked to your desire to have a fun experience. By recognizing your patterns of substance abuse, you can pinpoint all the things that could make you want to relapse in the future.

You should also make lists of all the times when you relapsed in the past, as well as reflect on the events and situations that led to the relapse. This could improve your understanding of yourself, which you could use to prevent yourself from relapsing again.

2. Warning Signs and Triggers

Triggers refer to any people, events, experiences, and situations that cause you to stop your sobriety in its track and start using drugs and drinking alcohol again. As an individual, you would typically have unique triggers. Even so, it is essential that you have self-awareness and that you create a list that could help you avoid triggers in the future.

Examples of triggers include visiting people or places that you associate with your previous lifestyle of drugs and alcohol. It could also mean spending time in any place where people are using these substances.

Sadly, you might not always be able to avoid all these situations. This is why your aftercare and relapse prevention plan should include specific strategies on how you are going to manage all the triggers that you have on your life.

Warning signs, on the other hand, will come well in advance of your relapse. Comprised of red flags, these warning signs might point out the fact that you are just about to start using drugs again.

They could be linked to your high stress levels either at work or school, which might cause you to resort to intoxicating and mind altering substances. They could also be relationship issues that you think can only be managed by drugs and alcohol.

By identifying all these warning signs and triggers early in advance, you will have enough time to activate your aftercare and relapse prevention plan - such as by getting help - before things spin out of control.

3. Relapse Situations

Your strategy should also compel you to always plan for the worse that could happen. Without such a plan, there is a high risk that you would not know what you need to do in the event of a relapse.

A good way to go about this would be to write out step by step plans that have full details about what you are going to do in case you relapse. You should also have a list of all the people that you might be able to talk to in case you feel that a relapse is oncoming.

These people should include individuals that who know that you are trying to keep up with your long term sobriety, and who you trust. They could include family members, friends, of people in your support groups.

You should also review your relapse prevention plan with them as well as discuss all the things that they can do to help you get back on track if you end up relapsing. For instance, this could involve getting them to force you back into a treatment program, providing you with transportation to rehab sessions, and more.

Getting Help

In the long term, your aftercare and relapse prevention plan will only be as good as you make it. This means that you should take time to ensure that it has all the scenarios that could happen, and what you would do in each scenario to reduce your risk of relapse, or to get yourself back on the recovery path if you do relapse.


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