Relapse prevention is a huge part in planning aftercare for addiction treatment. Unfortunately, relapse happens in over 60% of people in the first year of recovery. After a year, the numbers go down but relapse can still occur at any time. Planning for relapse prevention as soon as you are in treatment is the best thing you can do for a strong foothold in your sobriety.

Relapse Prevention Planning Is Key to Staying Sober

Relapse prevention planning needs to start as soon as possible in your recovery journey. It starts with figuring out what caused your addiction in the past and what kinds of triggers existed that could possibly resurface.

There are many contributing factors to relapse. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), there are two main components to relapse. Immediate determinants are things like high-risk situations, the person’s coping skills, and expectations. Covert antecedents¬†are things like lifestyle factors and urges and cravings. Usually, a relapse is caused by a combination of these things, and it is essential for people in recovery to develop a roadmap to help them navigate through potential challenges.

Know what your triggers are. Identify the following in yourself, and then also identify how to avoid them or address them if they occur:

  • High-risk situations you may find yourself in
  • People who may entice you to get high or drink
  • What causes boredom and what you can do to avoid it
  • emotional factors you may encounter

Relapse Does Not Mean It’s the End

Fortunately, a relapse doesn’t have to mean that a person has failed or that death is imminent. Relapse is a part of many people’s recovery, what matters is how you deal with it.

You can choose to look at relapse like the end of everything and succumb to your addiction. You can also instead choose to take it as a lesson learned, fix things, and move on. Your ability to do the latter, quickly, is hugely indicative of future success.

Relapse is a part of transitioning. Your recovery may not be flawless, but if you can overcome one relapse, chances are you will know what to do differently the next time around. As with everything in recovery, it is all about putting one foot in front of the other.

What to Do After a Relapse

After a relapse, it is important to get away from drugs or alcohol as soon as possible so a slip up doesn’t become a full blown addiction again. As difficult as it may be, reach out to people for help, and if necessary, check yourself back into a detox center so you have support during the difficult first few days of your detox.

Use the tools you learned in addiction recovery to learn from this relapse and make a more solid plan so that it doesn’t happen again. Clearly, you had a few strings loose, so tighten the up and move with confidence into a sober, productive future.


Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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