What is relapse prevention?

Relapse prevention includes planning and a commitment to following that plan. Numerous warning signs occur before a relapse, and a key part of a relapse prevention plan is being honest about the events that might trigger such an event, and then determining how to respond ahead of time. Those responsible for reviewing potential relapse “triggers” and appropriate responses should include individuals aiding the addict’s recovery effort, such as a counselor or the 12-step program sponsor. Successful recovery requires the help of others, and relapse prevention is perhaps the best example.

How does a relapse prevention plan work?

First: Relapse prevention initially involves those around the addict, including sponsors/counselors and the addict’s family. A supportive family can make all the difference between recovery and relapse. Ultimately, recovery is the addict’s responsibility, but family members who seek their own counseling or attend 12-step groups such as Al-Anon (for friends and family of problem drinkers) learn how to best help the addict stay clean. Second: It is not sufficient to identify possible relapse “triggers.” The addict must also alter how he or she responds to them. For example, an alcoholic can avoid bars or parties that trigger the desire to resume drinking. If work-related stress is a relapse trigger, an addict can learn how to say no to extra projects, limit the total workweek to 45 hours, or try meditation and relaxation exercises to unwind. Third: And perhaps, most importantly — when addicts need help, they must ask for it.