Your Guide to Relapse Prevention Plans

in Addiction
Published Jul 9, 2021
relapse prevention plans

Once individuals have sought treatment for a substance use disorder and gone through the detox process, they are well on their path to recovery. However, this doesn’t mean that they still won’t experience triggers from time to time or risk possible relapse. For this reason, it is vital to take specific steps to prevent relapse and maintain recovery. Coming up with a relapse prevention plans can help an individual avoid reverting to their old habits and can often be done through the help of a counselor. It is essential to understand the stages of relapse prevention and know what triggers to look out for. 

The Different Stages of Relapse Prevention Plans

People often think of relapse as one single event when it is a process that occurs over time. There are three primary stages of relapse: emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse. These can occur even after an individual has gone through detox and taken the necessary steps to maintain their sobriety, which is why it’s important to utilize relapse prevention plans. 

Stage One: Emotional Relapse

Emotional relapse is generally the first stage of relapse. An individual in the recovery process might be experiencing some emotional stressors leading to mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, fear, or anger. They might be struggling to get good quality sleep or lashing out at their loved ones. When someone begins to show these signs of relapse, they might be considering turning back to alcohol or drugs to cope with their mental distress. They should speak to a therapist as soon as possible to ensure they don’t do something that will endanger their sobriety. 

Stage Two: Mental Relapse

Mental relapse is a type of internal struggle when an individual is trying to decide whether they want to continue their recovery journey or turn back to substance use. They might look back on the days they used to engage in substance misuse and feel as if they miss parts of them. It is very common for someone months or even years into recovery to feel tempted to use, but it is essential to get the help they need in time so they don’t make a decision they will later regret. 

Stage Three: Physical Relapse

Physical relapse is when individuals decide to give in to the temptations they are experiencing and engage in drug or alcohol use. At this point, they are officially breaking their sobriety. They might be just using from time to time or struggling to control how much they use. At this point, it is essential for them to get to either inpatient or outpatient treatment so they can get back on the road to recovery. 

Warning Signs of Relapse

There can be some warning signs that can help signal if an individual is close to relapse. It is essential to recognize these signs before reaching the last stage of relapse and turning back to drugs or alcohol. Some common signs of relapse include:

  • Withdrawing from loved ones
  • Anxiety or depression 
  • Dishonesty
  • Negative thoughts
  • Frequently thinking about or talking about the days in which they engaged in substance misuse 
  • Romanticizing drug or alcohol use
  • Hanging around the people they used to engage in substance misuse with
  • Going back to specific locations where they used to engage in substance misuse 
  • Risky behavior 


A person that is close to relapse might also begin to badmouth the people or programs that helped them start the recovery process in the first place. They might discontinue their treatment program or stop going to support group meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous. 

Tips to Avoid Relapse

There are a few basic rules that can help an individual avoid relapse. The first is to change the way they view their life. This can involve changing negative thinking patterns and choosing to focus on the future instead of the past. The second rule is to be completely honest with themselves and those around them. For many people, this means being honest with their therapist or those in their support group about their struggles during recovery. The third rule is not to be afraid to ask for help. Continued treatment is necessary after the detox process is over. Continued treatment can come in different forms, such as one-on-one counseling, rehabilitation programs, and support groups. The fourth rule is to practice self-care. For example, getting enough sleep, eating right, and staying active. Finally, the fifth rule is to avoid bending the rules. When an individual receives professional advice, they should follow it and avoid trying to find loopholes during recovery. 

Even after an individual has gone through the detox process, they should still seek continued treatment. Relapse can occur months or even years into recovery. There are typically three main stages of relapse, including emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse. It is essential to seek help before reaching the stage of physical relapse. There are also some warning signs to look out for regarding relapse, such as risky behavior, isolation, and romanticizing drug or alcohol use. There are a few main ways to prevent relapse. They include changing how an individual views life, being completely honest, not being afraid to ask for help, practicing self-care, and not bending the rules. If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use problem, our team at Gallus Medical Detox Centers is here to help you take your life back. Call (866) 296-5242 to learn more about our treatment options.