Creating a Relapse Prevention and Aftercare Plan
It is essential that you create a relapse prevention and aftercare plan to safeguard your sobriety and recovery in the long term. Without such a plan, you might start using drugs and drinking alcohol even after graduating from an addiction treatment program.
Understanding Relapse Prevention and Aftercare Planning
While in recovery, it is important that you understand that a relapse can happen at any time - irrespective of how long your sobriety has lasted. To this end, you need to create a proper relapse prevention and aftercare plan to ensure that you reduce your risk of relapse, as well as learn what you need to do in case you do relapse. In the addiction treatment industry, this plan is also known as a RPP - or a relapse prevention plan.
A RPP is essential for your long term recovery. By creating a proper relapse prevention and aftercare plan, you will be able to understand and recognize all your personal behaviors that could cause you to relapse. The plan will also create all the ways you can combat your risk of relapse in the long term.
Often, relapse does not happen in the spur of the moment. Rather, it will occur through three main stages, known as emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse. As long as you have a proper relapse prevention and aftercare plan in place, you might be able to acknowledge and deal with any events, feelings, and triggers that could cause you to experience a physical relapse - the stage at which you will start drinking alcohol or using drugs again.
Factors to Consider While Creating Relapse Prevention and Aftercare Plans
While creating your own relapse prevention and aftercare plan, you need to work with people who are experienced on the topic. A good idea would to work with substance abuse counselors and addiction treatment professionals.
You can either verbalize or write down your RPP. The latter option is preferred because it will ensure that you have clearer outlines of the steps that you are going to take whenever you feel that you are about to experience a physical relapse.
That said, it is still important that you think about certain factors while creating a professional relapse prevention plan. Some of these factors include but are not limited to:
1. History of Substance Abuse
Even after you have achieved sobriety and you are feeling stable, you still need to assess your personal history with mind altering and intoxicating substances. This is because your relapse prevention and aftercare plan might never work unless you have achieved sobriety and are finally in control over your life.
To this end, you should go through detox and drug rehab to deal with your addiction. In the process, you should also work with addiction treatment professionals such as counselors and therapies to uncover your history of substance abuse.
By so doing, you will be creating a proper relapse prevention and aftercare plan because you would have achieve mental stability while coming up with this plan. As you do so, you should determine all the factors that surrounded your substance abuse and addiction.
For instance, you should think about the times when you used to take drugs and drink alcohol most frequently. Similarly, you may want to consider all the people who factored into the times that you were using these substances.
If you have experienced a relapse in the past, find out the reason why you stopped your recovery journey in the middle of its tracks. By determining the causes of your previous relapse situations, you may be able to protect yourself from experience another episode in the future.
As we mentioned above, you should think about all your previous relapse situations - if any - and the factors that might have led up to these situations. After that, you can create a proper relapse prevention and aftercare plan with unique action plans for all your triggers.
You should also brainstorm with your addiction treatment professionals to learn more about all the scenarios where you could potentially suffer a relapse in the future. This brainstorming session will also help you create unique plans about the steps that you are going to take instead of resorting to drugs and alcohol.
For instance, going through a serious breakup might cause you to relapse. In such a situation, you should be prepared for all the other outlets that you could use to deal with your frustration, pain, and stress instead of using drugs or drinking alcohol.
You might, as an example, choose to call close friends and family members immediately you encounter this situation, alternatively, you could attend support group meetings to talk the issue over.
By creating a highly specific relapse prevention and aftercare plan, you will have a higher likelihood of ensuring that you do not succumb to the triggers that you encounter in the future.
3. Stepwise Plans
You should also create an unique relapse prevention and aftercare plan that has clear steps that you need to take whenever you come close to a relapse or if you end up relapsing.
This means that you should write down the contact details of the people you will call first, note what you are going to ask them to do, and know in advance whether you are going to go back to a drug rehab program or attend a support group meeting.
You can also take advantage of some relapse prevention models to create your own aftercare plan. Some useful models that could prove useful in helping you create an actionable relapse prevention and aftercare plan include:
- The Gorski Relapse Prevention Model
- Marlatt's Model of Relapse Prevention
By creating a highly detailed plan, you might be better able to get back on track with your addiction recovery quickly. You should also ensure that you have talked to the people that you included in the relapse prevention and aftercare plan to ensure that they would know in advance that you might need their urgent help in the future.
Creating a Relapse Prevention Plan
Although your relapse prevention and aftercare plan will be unique to you as an individual, there are some components that you should always ensure you have included in your plan. These components include:
a) Identifying Potential Triggers
For starters, you should list all the things, places, environments, people, and situations that could cause you to relapse once you check out of your chosen drug rehab program. A trigger, in this case, should include anything that might cause you to start drinking alcohol or using drugs again.
Even so, you should note that it is near impossible to think about every potential trigger that you are going to encounter. In fact, you might not know some triggers until you come across. Either way, you should always have a plan on how you are going to confront any potential triggers - both known and unknown.
b) Understanding Cravings
Secondly, you should understand your drug and alcohol cravings and note how you are going to deal with them. A craving refers to the feelings that you might have whenever you wish to start using intoxicating and mind altering substances again. Often, these cravings will lead to relapse situations.
However, creating a solid relapse prevention and aftercare plan can help you predict all these cravings and know how you are going to deal with them whenever they occur. The plan might, for instance, include a list of the people you will call when you crave your favorite drugs and alcohol.
The plan could also include all the steps that you are going to take to distract yourself whenever you experience these cravings, as well as how to completely stop them altogether.
c) Activating Recovery Tools
It might also be in your best interests to include a section in your relapse prevention and aftercare plan that has a list of all the recovery tools that could help you keep up with your recovery journey.
These tools might include the activities that you could do whenever you feel the urge to use drugs, or encounter triggers that might cause you to relapse. You should also include details about how these activities would keep you on track with your recovery.
For example, your recovery tools might be lists of all the consequences that would occur if you relapsed. They might also include mandatory support group meeting attendance, exercise sessions, journaling, and gratitude lists that you have to follow through with.
If you are enrolled in a support group meeting, you should revisit all the topics that you discussed during these meetings. For instance, if you are in AA, NA or any other 12 step support group, you should retrace these 12 steps and found out where you are in the steps.
In such a situation, you could also get in touch with your sponsor if you ever feel like you are about to relapse. Since it is highly likely that they would have been in the same situation, they might help you with insight, suggestions, and tips to reinforce your sobriety. Alternatively, they could even come and spend time with you until your drug cravings dissipate, or the triggers that you were encountering are gone.
Overall, you should ensure that you do not leave your chosen addiction treatment and rehabilitation program until after you have created a highly detailed and actionable relapse prevention and aftercare plan.
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