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How to make a relapse prevention plan.

Updated on June 6, 2012

A relapse prevention plan can keep you sober

For most people overcoming addiction, willpower and determination aren’t enough (although they help!) and professional help, family support and planning are as much required as a desire and commitment to change. If it were easy, we wouldn’t have very many drug addicts or alcoholics!

One of the most important documents to sobriety is the relapse prevention plan, and this personally developed plan will be a bible of sobriety for the first few months after cessation of use. Most people develop this document in therapy with the help of a professional, and it can be very useful to have professional advice and assistance in the development of a relapse prevention pan, but you can also do it on your own.

The relapse prevention plan takes into account the most likely triggers to abuse, the temptations and the path back to abuse, and has pre-planned solutions at the ready for each of these very likely scenarios.

The relapse prevention plan is not a single draft document however, and it does need to be updated as your personal circumstances, triggers and environment change with sobriety.

When should you make a relapse prevention plan?

You can make one anytime, but most professionals recommend that you have at least a few days of sobriety and clarity away from abuse before attempting the introspection required for an effective recovery plan.

What goes in a relapse prevention plan?

The relapse prevention plan does not fit a template, and since ever person has unique variables that contribute to their desires to abuse drugs or alcohol, every person's relapse prevention plan will look a little bit different, and this is where professional assistance in the development of the plan can be invaluable.

For most people, the document will contain at the very least: a list of people that can be counted on for sober support, the triggers to abuse, the solutions to those triggers to abuse, rewarding things that can be done instead of abusing drugs or alcohol and also a meditation on why you are quitting, and why you want to stay sober.

People you can call

You should have a list of three or more people that are ready, sober and willing to help you out should you ever need immediate support in the face of strong desire to use. These people should have agreed to this responsibility, and be ready to "drop" everything to help you in your time of need.

You need their phone number, and an alternate number, and you need to know where they are likely to be at most times of the day.

You need to be comfortable to call these people at any time day or night, and be confident that they will be there to help you.

These people must all be sober.

The triggers to abuse, and solutions for those triggers

You need to write down the 10 biggest threats to your sobriety. What are the things that make you want to use most (seeing old friends, the smell of wine…) and in response to each of these threats to sobriety, you need to have a ready and planned behavioral response.

When you see an old using friend…you will immediately call a sober friend.

Rewarding activities that do not involve alcohol or drugs

One of the biggest threats to sobriety during the initial weeks and months is inactivity and boredom. It can be quite difficult for people accustomed to leisure time activities that always involved intoxication to make a sudden and drastic change, and it can be sometimes hard to fill the hours.

Having a plan of activities that you enjoy and want to partake in can help to fill those voids of time that can so easily induce temptation, and you should have a big list at the ready for moments of inactivity.

They can be anything from as small as a hot bubble bath, to a hike in a State park, to going out for ice cream…

And when you feel restless and bored…make sure you get out, consult with your list, and take a little time to do something you'll enjoy, and will keep you sober.

More rewards…

Make a list of rewards that you will give yourself in response for meeting certain targets of sobriety.

For one week of sobriety…a new outfit

For two weeks of sobriety…a trip to the spa

Write down the bad stuff too…

For those moments of terrible temptation, when it feels like you cannot resist any longer, you need to remind yourself why you are struggling through all this in the first place.

Be honest with yourself, and write down 2-3 reasons why you absolutely can’t go back to the way things were.

My children can't live in an alcoholic home

My husband will leave me…

Having a relapse prevention plan can help a lot

Having something already planned can assist you to overcome those moments of otherwise weakness, and can prevent a lot of relapses; but if you do relapse (and a lot of people do) that doesn’t mean that your recovery is over.

Get support immediately. Get close to family, get to a meeting, stay with sober friends, get back into rehab…do whatever you feel you need to do to get back on the right track.

Use the relapse as a learning experience, and modify your relapse prevention plan accordingly. Why did the relapse happen, and what can you do to prevent another one?

Recovery is hard, but possible

Recovery is incredibly hard, and at the worst of it, it feels like the temptations will never go away, and you can’t possibly have the strength to go on.

Remember, one day at a time, use your plan…and it will all get better in time, and it's all definitely worth it in the end!


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for all the informative posts -:)

    • fucsia profile image


      8 years ago

      The sobriety is an important objective, which is worth all the effort possible. Have a relapse prevention plan is essential, and here there are many useful tips about it.

      Thanks! Your Hub is very useful!

    • profile image

      Brenda C 

      8 years ago

      To me it's just crazy thinking to think you can hang out with people who drink if you have a problem and really want to stop. You are just setting yourself up ro relapse. In my prevention plan, I will not hang out with people who drink, go to drinking establishments for social functions where they are serving alcohol. I want to succeed and this is what I have to do to stay sober!

    • profile image 

      8 years ago

      Having a plan of action is always good not matter what the issue may be. Knowing that you face issues that are detrimental to your health, life, and success...and making a relapse prevention plan, is taking your life in your own hands. You are the only one that can really make it work.

    • Music Therapy profile image

      Music Therapy 

      8 years ago

      This is a fantastic site. I love the internet. I binge drink and I've just completed 1 month. Not a drop. It was really hard but I noticed a shift in mentality. You can go out and have a good time without getting wasted. My friends even girlfriend all drink a lot and I attended birthdays, concerts, football matches and bbq's sober and had a great time. What I did learn from this blog was the relapse prevention plan and identifying certain triggers and planning rewards. Also having sober support people. Although I found it fun and challenging to hang with the people who drink still. They tend to be more fun and it was good mental training hanging with them but not drinking.



    • Robakerost profile image


      8 years ago

      Great list! My list includes whatever it takes! I don't take any chances and unless I have a good reason to be somewhere where there's alcohol and I'm in a good spiritual condition, I stay away.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      to follow the relapse prevention plan,its become possible to get rid of subatance dependence.

    • Jenna Pope profile image

      Jenna Pope 

      9 years ago from Southern California

      Great hub. A rehab plan can save your life later. I'm in recovery, too. JP

    • recovering addict profile imageAUTHOR

      recovering addict 

      11 years ago

      You're welcome, and although it's a great idea to get some help when doing this, even doing it on your own can really help you stay on the right track!

    • St.James profile image


      11 years ago from Lurking Around Florida

      Thanks for such an informative hub.

      All the Best,



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