10 Effective Relapse Prevention Strategies - ARISE Treatment

Recovering from drug and alcohol addiction is not always an easy journey. Overcoming physical dependence and learning new skills to maintain sobriety take time, patience, and a lot of support.

Many people in recovery have at least one relapse during recovery–meaning they return to substance use after a period of abstinence. In fact, research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that as many as 6 in 10 people in recovery will relapse.

While the numbers may seem discouraging, it’s important to remember that there are steps you can take to avoid relapse. This article will explore ten of the most effective relapse prevention strategies. Reach out to the Arise Treatment Center team today to learn about our addiction treatment programs or to find support during addiction recovery.

10 Effective Relapse Prevention Strategies

Relapses can happen to anyone, but following these proven relapse prevention strategies can reduce your risk.

1. Know the stages

Relapses rarely happen spontaneously. Most people who relapse experience three distinct stages of relapse. Knowing the stages can help you recognize the risk of relapse and take steps to get help before you begin to drink or use substances again.


Stages of Relapse in Addiction Recovery


Emotional relapse

An emotional relapse happens before you even think about using drugs and alcohol again. Your emotions may feel overwhelming, or you might be isolating more. Anxiety, sadness, anger, or guilt piles up, and your sleep or appetite is poor.

Mental relapse

You may wonder if you could use again or feel nostalgic about when you were drinking or using drugs. You focus only on the good times and forget about the pain and trouble your substance use has caused. You may begin to plan when or how you’ll use.

Physical relapse

A physical relapse includes actually using drugs and alcohol, but it can also include behaviors like driving to the liquor store or calling your dealer.

2. Identify your triggers

People, places, events, and other situations can trigger cravings and weaken your resistance. Take time to identify your triggers, which may include:

  • Relationship problems
  • Friends and family who enable you or use substances
  • Paraphernalia
  • Places where you used to drink or use drugs
  • Stress
  • Neglecting your self-care by eating poorly, not sleeping well, or managing your stress with healthy coping mechanisms

Avoid your triggers whenever possible. Develop a plan for how you will manage unavoidable triggers.

3. Focus on your “why”

Remember why you’re working toward lifelong sobriety. Do you want to improve your health and relationships? Be a more connected partner or parent? Set and achieve new goals? Think about your “why” and remind yourself of it daily.

4. Find support

Recovery can sometimes feel lonely, but you don’t have to manage it on your own. Don’t isolate yourself or believe that you need to go through recovery alone. Group or individual relapse prevention therapy can be extremely useful. Reach out to supportive friends and family. Ask a doctor or addiction counselor for support. Connect with recovery resources and support groups in your community. Don’t turn inward–reach out.

5. Practice good self-care

Meaningful self-care is much more than the occasional bubble bath, massage, or scented candle. Self-care means actively caring for your body, mind, and social health by developing plans and routines that support your whole well-being. Good self-care includes:

  • Prioritizing sleep by maintaining a regular bedtime and limiting caffeine in the afternoon and evening
  • Eat nutritious meals and snacks every day, including lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein
  • Exercise every day in a way you enjoy
  • Schedule time to relax and unwind every day, even for 15 minutes
  • Talk to yourself kindly and seek help if you feel stuck in shame or guilt

6. Distract yourself

In most cases, drug and alcohol cravings fade in 30 minutes or less. Find healthy distractions and use them when cravings or thoughts of substance use pop up. Take a walk, call a friend, watch a movie, play a video game, or do something else to take your mind off thoughts of drugs and alcohol.

7. Manage withdrawal symptoms

Drug and alcohol withdrawal can be hard on your body and mind. Many people experience nausea, shakiness, sweating, and other symptoms during detox, which can make them feel miserable–and increase their likelihood of relapse. Seek support from a medically-supported detox program to ensure a safe, comfortable detox period.

8. Educate yourself

Learn as much as possible about recovery by reading books and listening to others’ experiences. Having a realistic idea of the addiction recovery process may help you stay positive and focused when things are challenging.

9. Be kind to yourself

Acknowledge that recovery is challenging and celebrate your progress. Speak kindly to yourself and reward your accomplishments–even if they seem small. Celebrate one day, one week, one month sober, and more.

10. Follow a plan

Don’t just leave your recovery to chance–make a relapse prevention plan. To develop a plan, work with supportive friends, your addiction counselor, or a trusted medical professional. Find support to hold you accountable and keep you on track.

Find Help Now

If you or someone you love needs support during recovery or want to learn more about relapse prevention strategies, contact the caring specialists at Arise Treatment Center now. Our holistic, high-quality treatment programs can help you achieve the healthy, fulfilling lifestyle you want and deserve. Don’t wait another day–call us today to get started.


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