The 5 Elements of a Relapse Prevention Plan to Know

A relapse doesn’t happen overnight. There are warnings, triggers, and other signs that let us know relapse is likely to occur and it is time to do something about it now.  It is for this very reason that you have – or should have – created a relapse prevention plan.

Since there is not one click of a button that sends an individual straight into a relapse instantaneously, a relapse prevention plan helps you (and those on your support team) catch the red flags of a potential relapse. We all know that life can get tough.

There are financial situations, work stressors, relationship struggles, etc. that can all leave us searching for someone to take the edge off.

It is important to know that if a relapse does happen it is not the end of the road. You have the strength, support, and tools to get right back on track.


The Key Elements of a Relapse Prevention Plan

Addiction is a chronic disease that doesn’t go away so the chance of relapsing is very real.

In fact, many people will find themselves struggling with a relapse in the first six months of recovery.

To avoid relapse as much as possible, you need to actively use your relapse prevention plan. And, it should be readily available to you and those who support you.

Every plan should include the following components:


1. Self-Assessment.

The very first step in creating your relapse prevention plan is taking some time to look inward. Reflect on:

  • Your life
  • Your choices
  • Your time in treatment
  • Your life prior to treatment, etc

Think about the things that may have caused you to use in the first place. And, what contributed to your addiction.

Understanding the why of your addiction can give you a great amount of insight.

And, it can help you avoid making the same mistakes in the future.


2. Warning signs and triggers.

Triggers can lead you to abandon sobriety and go straight into relapse. They are dangerous – and should be avoided at all costs.

But, how can you avoid something if you don’t know what it is? Now that you have taken the time to review your life, addiction, and prior choices, you should have a better idea of your addiction itself.

  • What brings you to want to use?
  • Is it a person or group of people?
  • Was it a place you used to frequent?
  • Is there stress between you and a particular individual that leads you to want to use?

One of the most important aspects of preventing relapse is to know your triggers. These could be associated with certain people, places, or activities. They could also occur with certain tastes and smells.

Making an effort to avoid these triggers can greatly reduce your risk for relapse.

As part of your relapse prevention plan,  make a list of these triggers. Realistically, there are certain triggers that cannot be avoided.

— For example, a strained relationship with a parent or a history of heavy drug use in your own bedroom. Therefore, once you identify them, it is important to make a strategic plan for living your sober life without succumbing to the trigger.

Warning signs are a bit different than triggers. These are slight changes that you – or those around you – may notice.

Perhaps you are feeling stress at work or you are struggling financially. While these situations won’t instantly make you run out and use again, they very well can lead to relapse if the situation is not addressed in time.


3. Worst-case scenario plan.

So, you missed the trigger or the warning sign and you find yourself relapsing.

What do you do?

Shrug your shoulders and go for it? Or, do you follow a plan to get yourself some help – since you’ve prepared a relapse prevention plan?

Let’s go with the last option.

Because relapse is a very real possibility, create a step-by-step plan for what you will do should it happen. Then, talk to those you trust about it.

If you find you are slipping, have someone who can help you implement the plan – or who will be the one to take action if you can’t.

There are few things scarier than relapsing without a plan in place.


4. Gather a team.

You may think you don’t need anyone else, but you do. Having a team of people who know your story and agree to support you can make a huge difference in a potential relapse situation.

These may be:

  • Close friends
  • Family members
  • Therapists
  • Those you met within your support groups

These sober individuals can form a team that you can turn to when you feel you need some boosted strength or when you are looking for some safe and sober social time.

Your trusted team can be next to you as you maneuver life’s ups and downs – and they have your best interest at heart.


5. Set goals.

Last, but not least, your relapse prevention plan should have a list of goals you have set for yourself. These goals work to help you live a healthy life and maintain a healthy focus.

For example, you may set a goal to eat healthily and get 30 minutes of exercise each day. Both of these things can give you the things your body needs to function optimally.

Also consider setting goals for your recovery, such as:

Clearly, state your goals and the steps that you will take to meet them. Once you do, add some new goals for yourself – as this is a very beneficial addition to your success and your recovery.



Many things can lead to relapse – whether stress, triggers, or something else.

Have your relapse prevention plan completed and in place. Once the first red flag goes up – take action.

Use your plan to reduce your risk. You’ll find that the key to all of this is awareness.

If you find yourself struggling with addiction and recovery, contact the Lakehouse Recovery Center today.


Messages sent through this form are confidential. Required fields are marked with (*).

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.