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Understanding your role in creating your Relapse Prevention Plan at The Dawn

Why You Need a Well-Designed Relapse Prevention Plan

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Withdrawing from alcoholism, substance abuse, or the grip of any addiction is an incredibly difficult proposition, but with good support and the right environment, the process can be far less challenging. 

However, there exists a serious and often overlooked problem faced by addicts everywhere. Lurking ominously beyond every successful withdrawal lies what might be considered a far greater challenge: abstaining permanently and avoiding relapse. 

To the majority, that statement is hardly a grand revelation. Most people are fully aware that relapse presents an indefinite threat and that addiction recovery should be treated as a lifetime endeavour.

But many people also fail to appreciate just how commonly addicts will succumb to relapse. The stats are actually quite alarming, with approximately 50 to 60% of addicts relapsing within 12 months of successfully beating their addiction. 

Think about that number for a moment: three out of five addicts will suffer the nightmare of withdrawal – an experience that requires monumental effort, grit, and determination – before returning to the cause of that nightmare and, eventually, putting themselves through the ordeal again. If you have ever wondered just how relentless a grip addiction has on someone, that thought should provide some measure of understanding.

But with those rather jolting statistics, there is a caveat: most incidents of relapse are born out of a lack of long-term planning. Simply put, too much emphasis is placed on the initial withdrawal period and not enough on the long-term approach. 

Planning to Fail or Failing to Plan?

There is a great deal of truth to that old adage, which speaks to the importance of planning. The fact is that maintaining a healthy recovery means having a coordinated strategy in order to avert the dreaded relapse. 

A well-engineered and carefully executed ‘Relapse Prevention Plan’ will improve the addict’s chances of avoiding relapse immeasurably, and at Dawn Rehab, we place a great deal of importance in creating one. 

It takes a huge amount of effort and resilience to overcome addiction. We applaud anyone who manages it. But it is also disheartening to know that so many people negate their hard work and ultimately relapse, simply owing to a lack of long-term planning.

An effective treatment programme will not only address the immediate needs of the addict but also guide them to the long-term commitments necessary for staying sober. 

We believe that no treatment plan could be described as ‘effective’ without also placing an equal amount of importance on the Relapse Prevention Plan, and through this guide, we are going to show you the basics of accomplishing one.

Before doing so, we need to look at the various types of relapse and how they present in the addict’s mind.

Stages of Relapse

1) Emotional Relapse

During the phase of emotional relapse, thoughts of using substances or returning to addictive behaviour usually haven’t yet taken hold. However, negative behaviours like suppressing emotions, withdrawing from social interactions (including distancing from supportive networks), and neglecting self-care (like poor eating habits and insufficient sleep, for example) are common. This stage does not necessarily mean a desire to use – but these negative emotions could be a precursor to it.

2) Mental Relapse

During this phase, the idea of using again begins to take a firm hold, and a mental tug-of-war ensues. Thoughts of past substance abuse become a glamorous memory while the negative consequences of it are conveniently forgotten. Rationalisations may begin with thoughts like “Just one time won’t hurt”.

3) Physical Relapse

Physical Relapse is the actual act of using again. It usually starts with a single event, which might initially seem controlled, like a small dose of ‘less hard’ drugs or a ‘quick beer’ instead of hard spirits. Invariably, this spirals. What seemed like a minor slip will almost certainly return to full-blown addiction. This stage qualifies the importance of addressing relapse in its earlier emotional and mental stages.

Understanding these stages will help the addict or caregiver focus more intently on the Relapse Prevention Plan. But what does such a plan consist of, specifically? Let’s take a look.

What Does a Relapse Prevention Plan Look Like?

You will be pleased to know that the creation of a relapse prevention plan isn’t particularly challenging – but it does require careful thought. Specific triggers should be addressed, along with tools and methods for coping with those triggers.

Using a step-by-step approach, your Relapse Prevention Plan should go something like this:

Step One: Setting Personal Recovery Goals and Motivations 

A Relapse Prevention Plan is a deeply personal thing, and as such, they are different for everyone. It starts with reflecting on what you aim to achieve in your own personal recovery journey and what your aspirations for the future look like. 

Consider what changes you’re ready to embrace and your prime motivations for doing so. The objectives are usually glaringly obvious, like maintaining employment, for example, or repairing broken relationships with family and friends. 

Fulfilling family responsibilities, improving poor physical health, and boosting self-esteem, confidence, and (ultimately) happiness are all viable and valuable targets to include in your plan.

Additional targets will include something personal to you as a unique individual. There might be a destination you wish to visit – but have been too unwell to do so – for example. 

Step Two: Planning for Craving Management and Trigger Handling

Identifying and planning for potential triggers is key, and by paying attention to the stages of relapse, as mentioned earlier, you will better grasp when triggers are taking hold. Triggers are unique to each recovering addict and can be sparked by specific events, surroundings, emotional states, or even people (such as friends who may be fellow addicts). 

Social settings where alcohol, drugs, or anything else associated with your addiction is present might be a trigger. Probably will be a trigger, even. Learn to be aware of these triggers and have strategies in place for handling them; otherwise, you are likely to get drawn in. 

Developing these strategies is less complicated than you might imagine. 

You simply need to detail in your plan how you will best navigate these challenges with specific coping mechanisms, relaxation techniques, and stress-management strategies – a walk in the park, for example, or engaging in entertainment that takes you away from those surroundings, like a cinema, theatre, or shopping. 

Step Three: Working on Self-Care and Healthy Lifestyle Practices

When in recovery, routine is your friend – and any routine that encourages physical health is incredibly important. We can’t emphasise enough the sheer power of healthy exercise and the role it plays in recovery. So, think about incorporating a workout of some description into your Relapse Recovery Plan as a priority.

Again, we simply can’t stress this enough. Physical well-being supports mental clarity, reduces stress, and boosts confidence, so please make an effort to create a daily exercise routine if you are able. 

Other routines include a regular sleep schedule and a balanced diet. Additionally, engaging in hobbies and creative activities can be a strong ally in your battle against relapse prevention. Take your plan, and outline how you will integrate these practices into your everyday life.

Step Four: Establishing a Support Network

Your support network is such an important aspect of addiction recovery, so engage with those people who back your recovery goals and have been there for you. Some repair work might be required – it is not uncommon for addicts to alienate their support network during the deepest depths of addiction, after all – but if it needs repairing, you must do so because a support network is incredibly important.

Don’t worry. If you have caused damage to your relationships, you are certainly not the first – and they are nearly always repairable. 

Develop communication strategies and keep contact information for counsellors, sponsors, loved ones, and friends always within arms reach. Being able to jump on a quick call or meet for a coffee in order to seek support is going to be an essential part of your abstention. 

Step Five: Implementing Accountability Strategies

You really need to own your Relapse Prevention Plan. With that thought in mind, you should create tactics that hold yourself directly accountable to it. This includes setting (achievable) short-term goals, targets, and aspirations.

Owning your Relapse Prevention Plan means celebrating progress and acknowledging failures in order to stay focused and motivated. 

Think about the potential repercussions of a relapse, as mentioned in step one. The loss of a job, for example, or even the loss of a home, family relationships, or legal consequences, are all examples of the repercussions of relapse. Write them down, and constantly acknowledge them.

Complementary Techniques for Enhanced Recovery

In addition to a good Relapse Prevention Plan, treatment programs will (or at least should) encourage a set of tools and coping mechanisms by which to manage stress and deal with life’s challenges. 

To accomplish these goals, a variety of techniques are designed to rewire the brain away from addiction, changing unhealthy patterns of thought and behaviour in order to support a new, healthy lifestyle.

Some of these techniques include:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) works by examining current thoughts and behaviours, exploring how those may be causing problems, and raising alternatives for action. This type of discussion-based therapy is highly effective for addicts because it allows the person to see the true nature of their addiction and be a part of creating a path away from it.

Identifying Co-occurring Disorders

It is not uncommon for those living with addiction to also have another mental health issue that may be underlying or even caused by the addiction. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and ADHD are just a few mental health conditions that have been linked to an increased risk for substance abuse. Identifying and treating this co-occurring disorder alongside the addiction is something that a good addiction rehab facility can help the addict deal with

Encouraging Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Developing new healthy habits to manage stress and improve overall physical and mental health is also a fundamental part of most addiction treatment programs. 

Your addiction counsellor may suggest participating in fitness classes, beginning an outdoor exercise regime, picking up new or past hobbies that play to your creative side, and sticking to a regular sleep schedule. Your diet can also have a profound impact on your mental health, so eating healthy foods is critical in achieving a full recovery.

Relapse Isn’t the End of Your Recovery

There are many reasons why avoiding relapse is important, including danger to your physical health and demoralising for your overall recovery. However, if a relapse does occur, it’s important not to see it as a failure but as a part of the recovery process that needs to be immediately addressed. 

Addiction specialists understand that relapses do occur in even the most determined, resolute recovering addicts and are well-positioned to help you continue with a healthy recovery if a relapse happens.

Overcoming Addiction at The Dawn

Overcoming Addiction at The Dawn Alcohol and Drug Rehab Thailand

The Dawn Rehab, located in the achingly beautiful region of Chiang Mai, Thailand, is a rehab centre that serves an international client base and encourages an environment of personal growth and healing for people who want to change their lives and overcome addiction or mental health issues. 

Internationally accredited by the American Accreditation Commission International and staffed by an international group of compassionate, experienced professionals, The Dawn offers tailor-made treatment plans that cater to each addict’s needs by using a comprehensive, holistic treatment method and modern techniques with proven results.

The Dawn’s Relapse Assurance Policy

The Dawn is the only drug and alcohol rehab in Thailand to offer a unique Relapse Assurance Warranty. If a client completes 12 weeks of treatment and then relapses within one year, we are happy to have them return for 28 days at no additional cost. During this time, our staff will identify why the relapse occurred and help you get back on track.

There Is Hope

Addiction recovery may seem like an insurmountable task, but it doesn’t have to be. Immerse yourself in a proven recovery program, and give yourself a far greater chance of not only recovering but permanently abstaining from addiction.

The Dawn Rehab can help deliver this for you. Tucked away on the banks of the sleepy Ping River, surrounded by the tropical beauty of Northern Thailand, there is no better place on earth to find the hope you may be seeking as an addict.

Take advantage of our tailored Aftercare & Relapse Prevention programme to successfully overcome your addiction. 

Contact The Dawn today to learn more about our treatment programmes and aftercare support.

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