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Relapse Prevention

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

The Ultimate Guide to Relapse Prevention

If you are in recovery from addiction, relapse prevention is an important part of your journey. Relapse is the return to drug use after a period of abstinence. Even though it might seem like a part of the process, it’s not.

In this post, we’ll go through how you can create a relapse prevention plan to keep you on the road to recovery. Also, will provide you with information and tools to help you prevent relapse and stay on the path to recovery.

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What Causes Relapse?

Many factors can contribute to relapse. Some of these include:

  • Stress: Stress is a major trigger for relapse. When you are feeling stressed, your body produces the hormone cortisol, which can increase cravings and make it harder to resist temptation.
  • Isolation: Addiction is a disease of isolation. When you are isolated from others, you are more likely to relapse.
  • Boredom: Boredom can lead to relapse because you might want to turn to drugs or alcohol to relieve the boredom.
  • Triggers: Triggers can literally be anything. People, places, or things can remind you of your addiction and lead to cravings. It is important to identify what your triggers are and avoid them.
Relapse is complicated because it can be physical, mental, emotional, or a full-blown relapse. It’s hard to see it coming, which is why people relapse unexpectedly. To prevent future relapses, you have to find the right prevention strategy for you. Trying different things is key to success. You’ll find the perfect solution for you eventually if you keep at it! And thankfully, there are many relapse prevention strategies from which users can choose. In the next section of this post, we’ll be exploring several excellent relapse prevention tactics.

Relapse Prevention Strategies

Understand Your Triggers

The first way to avoid relapsing is by being conscious of your triggers. Your triggers are the individuals, locations, experiences, or things that make you want to use drugs or alcohol again. It might not be easy to figure out what these are right away, and it will take time and effort. However, once you know your triggers, you can begin developing a plan for avoiding them altogether. This won’t be straightforward — in fact, it’ll probably be tough-but it’ll be worth it in the long run.

Some people find that they can’t completely avoid their triggers. In these cases, it’s necessary to have a backup plan for dealing with them. This might include things like calling a friend or sponsor, going to a meeting, or journaling.

Identify Your Emotions

Your emotions can be a strong trigger for relapse. If you’re not aware of how you’re feeling, you may be more likely to act out on your impulses. It’s essential to check in with yourself regularly and identify your emotions. This way, you can deal with them in a healthy way before they lead to relapse. You’ll know what to look for if you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, and you can take action to prevent it.

Find your Support System

Although addiction recovery can be a taxing and solitary journey, it’s important to remember that you’re never alone. Building a support system of family members and friends who care about your sobriety is crucial. These people can provide emotional support and practical advice when you’re feeling tempted to relapse.

When you find yourself in the throes of addiction, it’s easy to lose sight of all the people who love and care for you. But they’re always there, waiting for you to come back home. Use that as motivation to stay clean and sober. Even one family member or friend might help by making sure to bring in brief interventions anytime they feel like you’re close to emotional relapse or mental relapse. They’d be able to see the warning signs, even if you can’t.

Get Professional Help

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If you’re struggling with drug abuse or alcohol abuse, professional help can make all the difference. Talk to your doctor or even a mental health professional.

They can help you understand your options and make a treatment plan. No matter how complicated your drug or alcohol use disorder is, the right help will help you fight addictive behaviors and prevent future relapse. There are lots of different ways they can help. You might need cognitive behavioral treatment, cognitive restructuring, or just trying out different treatment modalities to find active treatments that work for you!

Avoid High-Risk Situations

Try to avoid high-risk situations that might trigger you to use drugs or alcohol.

These situations will be different for everyone, some common ones are being around people who are using, going to places where you used to use, or being in a situation where you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

If you can’t avoid these high-risk situations altogether, try to have a plan in place for how you’ll deal with them. For example, if you’re going to be around people who are using, you might plan to leave the room or leave the situation entirely if it gets too tempting.

Keeping your distal risk factors and cognitive factors in the forefront of your mind can help avoid withdrawal symptoms and make the relapse process less likely to occur fully. Substance use disorder isn’t easy to get over. There are lots of lifestyle factors that may cause relapse, which is why it’s important to avoid high-risk situations, especially in early recovery.

Join a Sober Living Community

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If you’re struggling to stay sober on your own from alcohol dependence, a sober living community is a great option. These support groups or communities provide safe and drug-free housing for people in recovery.

They also typically have strict rules about drug and alcohol use, which can help you stay on track.

Sober living communities can be a great way to transition back into society after treatment and to get support from other people in recovery.

Design for Recovery is a sober living support group available if you’d prefer to seek help. We offer sober living homes and resources, and these can be a great way to connect with others in recovery and get support when you’re feeling tempted.

Call us today at (424) 327-4614 for a free consultation

Find a sponsor

When you’re looking for help to stay clean, it’s often helpful And sometimes necessary to find someone who has gone through the 12 steps and emerged on the other side. This is your sponsor. Sponsors have experience with addiction and sobriety and can offer much-needed support during difficult times or periods of temptation. Guiding you back to the right path, even if you’re not feeling strong enough to do it yourself.

Attend 12-step meetings

Step meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous can be extremely helpful in preventing relapse.

These meetings provide support, accountability, and a sense of community. With it you can even connect with others in recovery and learn from their experiences.

Find a hobby

Developing a new hobby can be a great way to prevent relapse. When you have something going on outside of recovery, you’re less likely to turn back to drugs or alcohol.

Finding a hobby that you’re passionate about can also help improve your overall well-being and provide a sense of purpose.

Deep Breathing Exercises

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Deep breathing exercises can help you relax and calm down when you’re feeling stressed or anxious.

They can also be helpful in preventing relapse by helping you manage urges and cravings. To do a deep breathing exercise, simply get into a comfortable position and focus on your breath. Slowly inhale through your nose, filling your lungs. Then, exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this for several minutes.

Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention

Mindfulness-based relapse prevention therapy, like meditation, can be a helpful tool in preventing relapse by reducing stress and improving your overall well-being.

It can also help you focus on the present moment, which can make it easier to resist urges and cravings. Sometimes, you don’t need too much, your own psychosocial interventions get the job done and keep you away from alcohol and drug addiction. Mindfulness is one of the best coping skills you can have! It can take some practice, but it’s well worth the effort. After a while, it can be your go-to addiction treatment, one that you can take care of all on your own!


Visualization is a technique that can be used to prevent relapse by helping you stay focused on your goals. To visualize, close your eyes and imagine yourself achieving sobriety.

Visualize yourself staying sober for an extended period of time, no matter what challenges you face. See yourself happy and healthy, living a life that you love. The more detailed you can make your visualization, the better.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Repeating positive affirmations to yourself is part of MET and engaging in this behavior helps prevent relapse by boosting one’s self-esteem. Some helpful affirmations might include “I am strong enough to resist urges,” “I am capable of living a happy and fulfilled life without drugs or alcohol,” and “I am worth staying sober for.” Recite these statements often, genuinely believing them each time.

Stay busy

A great way to prevent relapse is to stay busy. When you’re occupied with other things, you’re less likely to have time or energy to focus on using drugs or alcohol. Find things that you enjoy, and make sure to keep yourself busy every day.


Not only is exercise a super effective way to destress, but it also comes with a plethora of other benefits. It can help prevent relapse because it can act as a distraction from triggers and provide a sense of accomplishment. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy – a simple walk around the block will do! You can slowly build up to more intense workouts as you feel ready! In this phase, just like your entire relapse prevention plan, you need to always take things one day at a time.

Only add in new things when you feel comfortable and confident that you can handle them. Exercise is one of the best healthy coping skills that you can try for substance use disorders with it, you’ll have more control over your recovery.

Set boundaries

In order to prevent relapse, it’s important to set boundaries with people and situations that may trigger you. If you’re not comfortable being around certain people or places, don’t put yourself in those situations. It’s okay to say no – your sobriety is more important.

Communicate your needs

To set boundaries, you need to be able to communicate your needs. This can be difficult, but it’s so important. Practice what you’re going to say beforehand if you need to, but don’t hesitate to speak up for yourself. Your sobriety is worth it!

Get enough sleep

Sleep is important for recovery because it helps your body heal and repair itself. It’s also essential for good mental health. Getting enough sleep can help prevent relapse by reducing stress and improving your mood. This doesn’t just mean getting eight hours of sleep – quality is just as important as quantity. Make sure you’re getting restful sleep by disconnecting from electronics before bed, sleeping in a dark and quiet room, and avoiding caffeine in the evening.

Eat a healthy diet

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There are many resources available to assist you in recovery. Remember, relapse is always a possibility, but with the right support and planning, it can be prevented.

If you find yourself struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The first step is always the hardest, with each successive step getting easier and easier. Even if you fall off the wagon, you can get there!
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Eating a nutritious diet helps your body function at its best, which can, in turn, help prevent relapse. When you’re well-nourished, you have more energy, and you’re better able to cope with stress. Eating a healthy diet also helps improve your mood, which can be a major factor in preventing relapse.

Manage your stress levels

Stress is one of the biggest triggers for relapse, so it’s important to find ways to manage it. Negative mood states can cause a negative effect on recovery.

Stressors are different for everyone, but some helpful coping mechanisms include exercise, journaling, and deep breathing. Find what works for you, and make sure to practice regularly!

Remember that relapse is not a failure

If you do relapse, it’s important to remember that it’s not a failure. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has setbacks. The key is that you don’t let the setback get in the way and get back on track as soon as possible. Don’t let one slip-up derail your entire recovery. Use it as a learning experience and move forward.

The Bottom Line

No one’s journey with substance abuse is the same, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution for preventing relapse when you’re recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

You may have a different journey with relapse compared to someone else. However, these 23 tips are a great place to start. If you’re struggling with addiction, make sure to reach out for help. There are lots of resources available to you, and there is hope for recovery.

Are you struggling with relapses and looking for help?

Design for Recovery offers sober living homes and resources to help you on your journey to recovery. Our support group is a great way to connect with others who are also in recovery and get the support you need when you’re feeling tempted.

We know how difficult it can be to overcome addiction, but we believe in you. With our resources and support, you can achieve sobriety and live a healthy, happy life.

Call us today at (424) 327-4614 for a free consultation, or visit our website to learn more about our program! We’re here to guide you on your journey to recovery.


Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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