In this blog we will be covering the creation of a relapse prevention plan. This is something I not only have, but have drawn upon countless times. If you’re reading this then know that you are not alone in wanting to change your relationship with alcohol then know that you’re not alone. Alcohol addiction is a widespread issue that affects millions of individuals and their families worldwide. Breaking free from the grip of alcohol is a challenging journey, but it’s one that can be accomplished with the right strategy and support.
Let’s explore the importance of creating a relapse prevention plan and provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to develop one that works.
Understanding Alcohol Addiction
To effectively combat alcohol addiction, it’s crucial to comprehend its nature and the challenges it presents. Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease characterised by an inability to control alcohol consumption despite its harmful consequences. It affects not only physical health but also mental and emotional well-being.
Alcohol addiction, clinically known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a chronic and debilitating condition characterized by an individual’s compulsive and uncontrollable consumption of alcohol despite adverse consequences. It is a complex interplay of genetic, psychological, social, and environmental factors that lead to the development and perpetuation of this addiction.
One of the main features of alcohol addiction is the gradual loss of control over alcohol intake. Individuals with AUD often find themselves unable to limit their drinking or cut down despite their best intentions. They may also experience cravings, a powerful urge to drink, which further drives their consumption. This pattern of behavior can result in neglect of responsibilities, relationship problems, legal troubles, and health issues.
Tolerance is another key aspect of alcohol addiction, where individuals require increasing amounts of alcohol to achieve the desired effects due to the body’s adaptation to its presence. This can lead to a dangerous escalation of drinking, contributing to both short-term and long-term health risks, including liver damage, cardiovascular issues, and mental health disorders like depression and anxiety to name but a few.
The Importance of a Relapse Prevention Plan
A relapse prevention plan is a structured strategy designed to help individuals in recovery avoid returning to alcohol use. It acknowledges the fact that setbacks can occur but aims to minimise their impact and duration. This plan is a crucial component of sustained sobriety, providing guidance and coping mechanisms when triggers and cravings arise.
Building Your Personalised Relapse Prevention Plan
Before constructing your relapse prevention plan, start with a self-assessment. Identify your triggers, such as stress, social situations, or emotional distress. Understanding what may lead you to drink is the first step in prevention. If you have had previous attempts at sobriety, drawn upon your previous experience. What situations did you find hard? What caused you to drink again? These all help in ensuring you have a plan that will work for you.
b) Setting sobriety goals
Establish clear and attainable sobriety goals. These goals will serve as your motivation and guide throughout your recovery journey. Break them down into smaller, manageable steps to keep yourself on track.
Here are some steps to help you establish meaningful sobriety goals:
- Reflect on Your Motivation: Understand why you want to achieve sobriety. Your motivation will serve as the foundation for your goals. Whether it’s for health, relationships, career, or personal growth, knowing your “why” is crucial.
- Set Clear and Specific Goals: Make your goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). For example, instead of a vague goal like “I want to quit drinking,” set a specific goal like “I will not consume any alcohol for the next 90 days.”
- Break Down Long-Term Goals: Sobriety is often a long-term journey. Break down your overarching goal into smaller, manageable milestones. This makes progress more tangible and less overwhelming.
- Seek Professional Guidance: Consider working with a coach or health professional who can help create a plan tailored to you.
At the start of my sobriety journey I found it really helpful to break things down into smaller goals. Setting a goal of 100 days was how I started. This was a milestone I just couldn’t get past previously (aside from when I was prengnant). This gave me something to aim for without having to overwhelm myself with the idea of ‘forever’.
In addition to setting smaller goals I found it important to write down and keep referring to my ‘why’. I still have it written down and re visit my ‘why’ even now.
c) Identifying support networks
Reach out to friends, family, or support groups who can provide encouragement and accountability. Surrounding yourself with a supportive network is essential for recovery. I discovered this after failing at previous attempts at sobriety. I had no support and the journey felt lonely. It wasnt until I found the sober community on Instagram did my sobriety stick.
Strategies for Preventing Relapse
a) Avoiding triggers
Identify your triggers and develop strategies to avoid or cope with them. This might involve changing your daily routine, avoiding certain people or places, or finding healthy alternatives to manage stress. Triggers can really blindside, you can’t always see them coming. That’s why its so important to have strategies in place if you find yourself triggered.
b) Developing coping mechanisms
Learn healthier ways to cope with stress, anxiety, and negative emotions. This could include mindfulness meditation, exercise, journaling, getting outside or seeking professional counseling.
c) Lifestyle changes
Evaluate your lifestyle and make necessary adjustments. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep, maintaining a balanced diet, and engaging in regular physical activity. A healthy lifestyle can significantly contribute to your overall well-being and resilience against cravings. There’s a reason you see so many sober people wild swimming and hiking!
d) Education and awareness
Educate yourself about the risks associated with alcohol and the benefits of sobriety. Knowing the consequences of relapse. Don’t be blind to understanding exactly what alcohol is and how it affects the body and mind. Knowledge is power!
Seeking Professional Help
Remember you don’t have to travel this road with only self-help strategies . Although they are so valuable, professional guidance can often be crucial. Here’s some options to consider:
a) Therapy and counseling
Therapists and counselors specialising in addiction can provide tailored treatment plans and address underlying psychological issues contributing to addiction.
b) Medication-assisted treatment
In some cases, medication can help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Speak to your doctor or a healthcare professional to explore this option.
Staying Committed to Your Relapse Prevention Plan
a) Regular self-assessment
Continuously evaluate your progress and adjust your relapse prevention plan as needed. Staying vigilant and adaptable is key to long-term success. If something isn’t working, look at other options.
b) Celebrate milestones
Recognise and celebrate your achievements along the way. Small victories can boost your motivation and reinforce your commitment to sobriety. I use the I am sober app to track my progress. I still love getting reminders telling me when I’ve hit key milestones.
c) Support groups
Engage in support groups or aftercare programs to connect with others facing similar challenges. Sharing experiences and advice can be immensely beneficial. There’s so many support groups now, both in person and online. Do your research and find one that resonates with you.
Creating a relapse prevention plan to stop drinking alcohol is a significant step toward regaining control of your life. Remember that recovery is a journey, and setbacks may happen. However, with a well-structured plan, determination, and a support system, you can overcome alcohol addiction and lead a healthier, happier life.