Does Your Relapse Prevention Program Need An Overhaul?

Setting A Solid Relapse Prevention Plan

The road to recovery from Substance Use or Alcohol Use Disorder is lifelong, and can be challenging. If you are starting out on the road of recovery, congratulations! As anyone on this journey can tell you, though, it’s not always easy. Like many chronic conditions, SUD and AUD can have anywhere from a 40% to 60% relapse rate. Recovery providers define relapse as a return to active use. Does this mean treatment has failed? Not at all! However, there are many proactive steps you can take early in recovery to help prevent relapse. Today, we will look at a few, which include:

  • Properly treating symptoms of withdrawal
  • Long-term treatment options
  • Living life free of drug or alcohol use
  • Spotting the warning signs of relapse

Treating Withdrawal

For most patients living with SUD or AUD, the first step in early recovery is treatment for symptoms of withdrawal. What exactly is withdrawal, though? Over long periods of use, the human body learns to adjust to the constant presence of substances. When the body experiences a sudden deprival of the substance, it will experience a physiological disturbance. Some people refer to this process as detoxification, or “detox.” These symptoms can vary depending on the substance.

Your recovery provider can recommend the best form of treatment for your specific situation. Treatment options may include medication, and can be either inpatient or outpatient. For this early stage of early recovery, it is important to seek the assistance of a qualified recovery provider. Some extreme cases of withdrawal can cause serious medical issues if left untreated. Moreover, you are much more likely to relapse without a treatment plan that has been designed for your needs.

Long Term Treatment Options

The adjustment your body goes through from normal use to complete abstinence can be difficult even after withdrawal. Your provider will create a recovery plan specific to your needs. The goal at this stage is to help your body slowly adjust to life without use. At the same time, you will likely need mental and emotional support to adjust to sober living. Like the withdrawal stage, long-term recovery can involve medication. You may have options for in-patient or outpatient care. In some cases, a recovery residence may be recommended for parts of your treatment.

It is especially important during this stage to work the program exactly as your provider recommends. If your plan involves medication, be sure to tell your provider about any side effects you experience. You should also prioritize activities such as group recovery meetings and therapy appointments. These activities should not be considered optional, but essential to your new life of sobriety.

Living with Sobriety

Once your body has adjusted to life without active use, you might think that life can return to “normal.” However, the best chance at staying sober is by making long term changes to your life.These changes will likely include things to take out of your life, as well as things to add.

Changing Your Scenery

You may hear this referred to as “people, places, and things.” For instance, there may be certain people who tend to encourage substance use in your life. Consider ways to limit interaction with such individuals, particularly if they are actively using. Likewise, establishments such as bars or nightclubs may be unhealthy triggers for you, especially early in recovery. While there are no absolute rules, your provider may offer tips that will best suit your specific case.

Therapy and Support Groups

Most recovery programs will include therapy as part of a comprehensive treatment program. Like all aspects of recovery, your provider will help you determine the best therapy for your situation. You may have options for individual, group, or family therapy (or some combination of these). Whichever options your recovery plan includes, make these sessions a priority. These ongoing sessions are an investment into your health, and an effective buffer against relapse.

Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous offer peer support and mentorship to those in recovery. Unlike therapy, AA and NA meetings are facilitated by men and women also in recovery. Group meetings are held in most cities and localities throughout the nation, and are free to attend. Members serve one another by sharing their stories and offering words of wisdom or encouragement. Al-Anon and Alateen are organizations designed to help family and loved ones of those in active addiction or recovery.


When you start out in recovery, the process can seem overwhelming. You are making changes to your life, and friends and loved ones may not understand why. Likewise, you may not know who to call when you are having a rough day and need to talk. A sponsor is simply someone with significant time in active, non-use recovery who can help you along the way. This person should be someone you feel at ease talking with, and who can keep your confidential information private. Oftentimes, a text or phone call to a sponsor can be the difference between a resolved problem and a relapse.

Know the Warning Signs of a Relapse

The best prevention you have against a relapse is proactively working a strong recovery program. However, it is also helpful to know when you may be more vulnerable to a relapse. Are you constantly exposed to people, places, and things that encourage you to use? Exercise great caution in these situations, and try to avoid them if possible. Likewise, stay attuned to stressors or challenging life situations that cause stress or anxiety. As you progress in your recovery, you should be able to better pinpoint some of your triggers. Finally, are you continuing to prioritize your recovery program? For recovery to be effective, it must be one of your top priorities. If certain meeting times are in conflict, work with your provider or sponsor to find alternate solutions. The program only works if you work it!

We Are Here to Help

Do you need help building a relapse prevention program? We are here to help. Contact us today to speak with our providers.