An Essential Guide to Creating a Relapse Prevention Plan
The rehabilitation program used to treat someone with a substance abuse disorder is a carefully plotted-out process, covering whatever is needed to get the person to stop using substances, treat the damage done by their substance abuse, and help them stay sober once the program is complete. Or at least, that’s the idea.
There are instances, however, where these rehab programs fail to keep the person sober and substance-free, as they fall by the wayside and succumb to the craving once more, diving head-first into a relapse.
This is, by no means, an indicator that the rehabilitation program is faulty or inefficient. Life outside of the rehab center could just prove to be too much, fraught with triggers and temptations that wear down the person’s resistance to the point that they give in.
The relapse could also be due to a number of other factors, as life could truly be unpredictable at times. This is why it might be a good idea to have a relapse prevention plan ready, just in case these unpredictable factors prove to be relapse influencers.
What Is a Relapse and Why Does It Happen?
A relapse is a point after detoxification where the person goes back to taking substances once more. The National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed that in 2020, relapse rates were between 40% to 60%, influenced by a number of factors, not the least of which is the stress and isolation brought about by the pandemic.
Relapses could be brought about by a number of reasons, most of which could fall into two classifications: internal factors, which mostly have to do with the person, and external factors, which account for circumstances around the person, including the things beyond his or her control.
It's not easy getting clean after having a substance dependency, and this is for any amount of time. It doesn't really matter if the dependency had been for a few months or even several years; detox will still hit hard, and rehab could be quite agonizing.
This is why many maintain a "just get it over with" mindset during the rehab phase, as they simply want the ordeal to be over. This kind of mentality, however, shows a lack of actual commitment to the cause. Without real commitment, the likelihood of a relapse is greater because there is no real foundation for sobriety.
Establishing commitment is important because it builds on the determination and will to stay away from substances, regardless of the situation.
Getting clean and staying sober requires a lot of work. The work that goes into it is nowhere near easy, and anyone who goes through it should have a good appreciation of being able to do it.
This appreciation of the self is important because it gives a sense of accomplishment to the person, for choosing to do what needs to be done, and for seeing it through to completion.
Acknowledging the amount of work also gives a scale of what was done to get over that bad habit. This scale is what gives pause to people who get the urge to slip back to bad habits because it makes them realize how much work they are throwing away, and how much harder it would be to do all that work again.
Most people currently gripped by addiction tend to isolate themselves, although this is no indication that they would really want to be alone. Given a choice, most would welcome any help they could get to get out of the habit, or even just have someone to talk to about it.
This is why support is a major component of rehabilitation. Knowing that there are others who might be going through the same thing removes the feeling of isolation and helplessness. The feeling of belonging and of being accepted further strengthens a person's determination to stay sober.
Conversely, not having any support could drive the person further into depression, melancholy, and desperation, with no other option but to take substances again.
For people who have been into substance dependency, there is a great tendency to substitute one dependency for another. This is why sometimes some people take far longer to treat in rehab than others.
Growing so accustomed to being in rehab and treatment is not really a good thing, as this does not necessarily mean that the treatment is sticking. It could simply mean that the person is stalling on taking a responsible stance in their own life.
What Are the Steps to Creating a Relapse Prevention Plan?
It should be noted that an effective relapse prevention plan needs to be tailored to the person’s specific nature and needs. Different people react differently to situations, so what could work for some might not work for others.
Nevertheless, there are a few common considerations that many could base their relapse prevention plan on, as it dwells on the more basic points in creating a well-thought-out plan relevant to being mindful.
As mentioned, the relapse prevention plan should be personal, so that whatever it is that might induce relapse in the person is properly identified and noted. The general and basic goal is to stay sober, and once this is recognized, it could be easier to stick to, as opposed to the more complex goals that others might think of.
Recognizing that the goal is a personal one is important as this establishes that the person is the one who thought of it, is working towards it, and will ultimately benefit from staying on the course of it. Following goals set by others could cause problems because goals derive mostly from a personal nature, and trying to accomplish goals set by others might not really target what is needed.
Knowing the potential stumbling points along the way to recovery could save people quite a bit of trouble, as this shows where the problem is coming from. This is far better than just having the trigger come out and catch the person completely unaware and unable to react to it properly.
Moreover, not knowing where the trigger might come from is the reason why many say "it just happened", which is a popular excuse for many who went into relapse. People who identify their triggers in time are able to brace themselves against the sequence of thoughts and emotions that typically induce the need to use substances.
This could be likened to getting hit by something. If people already know where it is coming from, they could duck, shield themselves, or completely avoid the situation where they could get hit, thus preventing any problems at all.
Even if the person is caught completely unaware of the trigger, it bears remembering that the rehabilitation process came with lessons and learnings for situations like that. These lessons teach people how to think better and react better to issues and instances that typically forced them to use substances before.
An example would be when a person goes to an event where there is the possibility of using substances, such as alcohol. Social events such as weddings and parties are almost always places where people get drunk, or even high. A person could attend these gatherings but still be mindful enough to not be caught in a situation where they need to drink alcohol, or take drugs.
Following common mindsets in these situations that push people to take drugs or imbibe alcohol just to be "in the moment" is a sure way to a relapse, which is why being mindful of these things could be a lifesaver.
There is a practice among figure-conscious people where they purchase expensive clothing or apparel that they really like which are one size smaller than their current size or are in their current size with no allowance for further weight gain. This forces them to work their way to fit into it by losing weight or by ensuring that they do not gain any more weight, as not being able to wear the clothing is far more troublesome for them than not being able to eat their favorite fattening food.
Applied to prevent a relapse, this could also work in a similar fashion, such as competing in physical competitions where substance abuse of any kind will not only prevent the person from winning but also get them barred from even joining.
Events such as popular marathons enforce a strict drug test policy for participants, and anyone who ever had a drink the night before would know full well what would happen if they ran the following day. There are many other ways that a person could do to ensure that compromising their sobriety could be so costly at some level that they simply can't even entertain the notion of trying substances again.
The recent pandemic is held to be one of the leading causes why many have taken to either using substances or why they allowed themselves to go into relapse. The isolation, fear, and stress of it all created a scenario where a person that’s in need of comfort, assurance, and support in dealing with what they were feeling or thinking.
Fear, confusion, and anxiety are very human reactions to an event such as this, and many simply could not avoid it. Their emotions are made far worse if the person is alone, unsure, or in some form of trouble because of what is happening. These things, however, could be dealt with better if the person had others who could offer advice, support, or even simple conversation just to assure the person that he or she is not alone and that there are others who are going through the same thing.
The physical distance needed to avoid an infection does not extend to not talking to others, as there are ways to communicate that will not lead to any kind of disease getting transferred. Keeping lines of communication open could keep the negative emotions away that would otherwise push a person back into old bad habits, which are just as destructive as getting infected by a contagious disease.
Contact Illinois Recovery Center Today
Upon dealing with an addiction, it’s pivotal to have a relapse prevention plan in place. Here at Illinois Recovery Center, we take a no-nonsense approach to addiction treatment. Our treatment modalities have been tested and proven to work and enhance maximized effectiveness. Let’s get started. Contact us today!