Substance use disorders are serious, complex diseases affecting much more than the body. Having an addiction is not a moral failing, rather it is a combination of underlying psychological, emotional, social, and behavioral issues, along with a physical dependence that comes from changes that happen in the brain and the body.

Because addiction is a chronic disease, this means that it does not get “cured” after a stay in rehab. It is an issue that will be with you for life in one way or another. The good news is that, with strong support from your family and community, along with therapy that addresses the underlying causes of substance abuse, and a high-quality relapse prevention plan, you will be able to manage the condition and stay sober long-term. It does take work, but knowing what relapse prevention strategies to use in your daily life can help you avoid pitfalls and temptations, keeping you on the pathway to recovery for the rest of your life.

Building a relapse prevention plan in Orlando takes more than just telling yourself “Don’t drink or use drugs”. You need to know how to identify triggers, you need substance use disorder education on what addiction is and why it happens, and there are often co-occurring conditions that need to be treated alongside addiction. Having connections to support groups, rehab alumni, therapists, counselors, doctors, and other recovery resources will also help you in the long run. With the WhiteSands addiction recovery services in Orlando, FL, you will have all the help you need to achieve long-term recovery.

Why a Relapse Prevention Plan is Essential

Being inside a completely sober, structured, and supportive rehabilitation center is much different from living at home, being surrounded by temptations, and living a normal life filled with ups and downs. You are bound to experience stressful situations or find yourself in a place where you have to decide whether to use substances again or not. It is not easy, and recovery is a life-long process that can be challenging at times. This is why having a strong relapse prevention plan is very important in maintaining long-term sobriety.

Recovery is defined as having an improvement in your condition, not as being cured or completely “over it”, and you will likely run into triggering scenarios that will make you consider returning to substance use. They may put you into a fight or flight response, or make you feel cravings or compulsions to use drugs again. Common triggers for many people include:

  • Feeling emotionally vulnerable or distressed
  • Feeling unsafe or out of control of a situation
  • Physically being in a location where you used to drink or use drugs, or being around people who you used to use substances with
  • Experiencing conflict, like fights with loved ones, feeling attacked or misunderstood, or having challenging or frustrating issues in the workplace
  • Being bored or lonely
  • Trying to relax after a hard day
  • Being at a party, enjoying celebrations, or during the holidays
  • Experiencing symptoms of untreated mental illness like depression or anxiety

Triggers are different for everybody because each person is a unique individual who has a history, stress triggers, and social support systems. The better you set yourself up for success by building a relapse prevention plan in Orlando using effective relapse prevention strategies, the easier it will be to avoid returning to substance use.

One of the key factors to avoiding relapse is recognizing the first signs that you may be slipping. There are emotional and psychological factors that come into play before you even have the first thought about drinking or using drugs again. These include signs like:

  • Not taking care of yourself, falling into poor eating habits, skipping exercise, sleeping late, etc.
  • Starting to isolate yourself, avoiding groups (or going but not actively participating), and canceling plans with loved ones
  • Compulsive behaviors that do not make logical sense, including lying to others or otherwise changing your behavior
  • Thinking about your past with rose-colored glasses, romanticizing the “fun” you used to have, while conveniently forgetting about all of the difficulty, pain, and issues that came with the substance use
  • Thinking about, or even contacting, old friends and acquaintances you used to use substances with
  • Imagining you would be able to use drugs “just once” without having problems or falling into old habits
  • Allowing yourself to break your own self-imposed rules
  • Feeling overconfident, and putting yourself knowingly into high-risk situations can lead to unhealthy decisions

If you begin to recognize these signs in your behavior, falling back on your relapse prevention strategies and plans will ensure you do not slide into a relapse. Knowing the warning signs is only part of a robust prevention plan, which will assist in maintaining sobriety in Orlando, FL.
No matter the extent of the relapse, the important factor is what you do to stop it. The quicker you stop and access your newly learned coping skills, and get help from your support network, the faster you can get back on track on the road to recovery.

Building Your Relapse Prevention Plan: A Step-By-Step Guide

Creating a relapse prevention program in an Orlando drug detox center or Orlando alcohol rehab center is generally overseen by counselors, therapists, and case managers who will guide you through the process, and help you make a plan that is right for your unique life. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to relapse, as every person has their history, preferences, and issues they need to overcome.

The following is a step-by-step guide that can help you to understand the kinds of actions you can take to begin the process, but making it your own, and adding your elements will be what makes it realistic for your unique scenario.

Step 1: Recognizing Personal Triggers

Everybody has their triggers that can cause them to feel distressed or upset and crave drugs or alcohol. For some, these are moments of fear or anger, while others may miss the carefree party days and become triggered during New Year’s Eve or on their birthday. Some may have a hard time when they walk past their old hangout spots, or when they feel tired after a poor night’s sleep. Everyone is unique, so getting to know what throws you off your game will help you take action to avoid these triggers.

Step 2: Implementing Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Healthy coping mechanisms may include stress reduction techniques like breathing exercises, eating well, meditating, or taking a walk to get some fresh air. It can also be immersing yourself in a new hobby, joining a gym or a club, or otherwise keeping occupied so boredom and unhelpful thoughts do not trigger a relapse. Understanding your emotional reactions and learning to control them naturally will go a long way in staying on the path to sobriety.

Stress reduction can also take the form of self-care. This may include indulging in something enjoyable every once in a while, like a relaxing bath, but it can also involve taking actions to make your future self more comfortable, like keeping the house clean or taking care of an issue right away so it does not build into a real problem.

Step 3: Building a Support Network

Surrounding yourself with supportive allies will ensure you always have someone to speak to when things feel stressful or overwhelming. You will also have people to turn to in times of crisis, or times when you notice yourself feeling tempted to act impulsively or slipping toward relapse. Ask for help when you need it and try to be as honest as you can with your support network so they can give you real assistance.

Along with bringing your loved ones into your recovery journey, you can also attend support groups, 12-step meetings, alumni meetups, group therapy, and counseling sessions, and attend other sober community-building activities. You will never have to feel alone in your struggles, as people at these meetings and gatherings truly get it, and may be able to give you practical, helpful advice.

Step 4: Engaging in Regular Exercise and Maintaining a Balanced Diet

Like meditation, yoga, and breathing, regular exercise and eating healthy food will go a long way to make you feel good about yourself, with lots of energy and better emotional stability. Exercise is also a great way to relieve tension after a difficult day, and it allows you to set and reach short-term and long-term goals, giving you a sense of accomplishment. The better you feel, inside and out, the more likely you will be to want to continue living a healthy and drug-free lifestyle.

Step 5: Regularly Attending Therapy or Counseling Sessions

A report by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in relapse prevention plans puts forth that when faced with a high-risk situation, having the proper tools in place to cope, respond, and deal immediately will increase your self-esteem and self-efficacy, giving you more confidence and more positive overall results, with a decreased probability of relapse.

Staying in therapy, following through on their suggestions, taking medications as prescribed, and being consistent in putting your health and well-being first is very important in recovery.

Step 6: Continuing Education about Substance Use Disorder and Recovery

There is no point in life in which you will know everything. There is always more to learn, and that includes understanding yourself, understanding addiction, and learning about sobriety. Do some reading on your own, join support groups and educational classes, attend talks on the subject, and stay interested in the discoveries that may affect your well-being as a person in recovery.

Step 7: Creating an Emergency Contact List

Having reliable peers, family members, counselors, and other people you can call at any time of day is an excellent resource for support. Knowing there are people you can lean on when things feel out of control will not only ensure you stay safe, but it may give your loved ones peace of mind, knowing they can be there for you in the event of a crisis or emergency.

Understanding Relapse: It’s Not a Sign of Failure

orlando relapse prevention

A little-known fact about addiction treatment is that relapse is a common part of many people’s recovery process. It can happen to anybody, and often recurs multiple times. Relapse is not a sign of failure. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), relapse rates for drug addiction are similar to the relapse rates of other chronic mental illnesses, and these rates increase if a person stops following their treatment plan, because these issues are treated by changing deeply rooted behaviors that need time, consistency, and patience to overcome.

When relapse occurs, this simply means that the treatment process needs to resume. It also means that the current program needs to be modified, or another treatment or type of therapy may work better. For most people, a relapse just means that the type of treatment you received may not have been right for you and you need to try something else, or you may have left your treatment program too soon, and need to spend a longer time in a supportive program. It could also mean that you have not yet healed the psychological root of what caused you to turn to substance use in the first place.

A SAMHSA report on adherence to treatment after rehab says that many people will stop working on themselves if they are lacking confidence in the program, or if they were expecting a faster solution that would make them feel “different” after treatment is over.

The better your expectations are managed, the more research and education you receive in treatment, and the stronger the outpatient and ongoing treatment plans are in your program, the better your chances will be at maintaining long-term sobriety.  

There are many other reasons why a person may relapse as well, including feeling alone, without support from loved ones, experiencing drug cravings, or simply temptation that leads to a person believing that they have “messed up”, causing shame, anger, or despondency that can result in ongoing substance use.

Remember that even if you do experience relapse, it is not too late to get back on track. Relapse is a very common stumbling block that between 40% and 60% of people will face immediately after leaving rehab, and 85% within one year. You are certainly not alone. Most people may experience a slip (using the substance once and then stopping again) or a lapse (using several times without returning to old habits completely), while some will return to substance abuse behaviors.

Try not to be too hard on yourself if you experience relapse. Recovery may be one of the most challenging things you have ever done, and there are major life changes that occur as you reconfigure your life, evaluate your relationships with others, and make alterations to the way you think and act on an everyday basis. These kinds of changes take time and can be overwhelming.

Orlando’s Recovery Scene: Local Resources for Relapse Prevention

If you are working on maintaining sobriety in Orlando, FL, there are a wide variety of resources you can utilize. These include:

Maintaining Your Plan: Commitment, Perseverance, and Adaptability

As time goes on, you will begin to settle into your new, sober life. Routines will develop, and you will get comfortable in the general day-to-day. This means you may not require treatment that is as intensive as an outpatient rehab program, and you might start to slow down on attending recovery meetings. This is a normal progression, but you mustn’t slack on maintaining the basics of your relapse prevention plan. Make changes as necessary, but do not allow yourself to believe you have beaten addiction, as this is when many people slip up. It is the same as when people with psychiatric disorders begin to feel “better”, and stop taking their medications. The “better” is because of the hard work they are putting in. If that stops, then things start to slide backward again.

Don’t forget the importance of a relapse prevention plan. Stay committed to your sobriety every single day. Use your relapse prevention strategies, and persevere, while being adaptable as life throws surprises your way. Continue to practice your healthy habits, even if you don’t feel like it. Stay in touch with your core group of supporters, go to meetings, and continue to see a counselor regularly. Continue to avoid the people and places that may trigger a relapse, and stay busy with healthy, fun activities.

As long as you continue to put your health and recovery first, and stay honest with yourself, you can remain on your recovery path. Stay strong!

Frequently Asked Questions About Relapse Prevention Plans

What is a relapse prevention plan?

A relapse prevention plan is a personalized set of strategies and tools that a person learns about in rehab or a recovery program. It often involves a combination of education about addiction, ways to navigate challenges in life, and ways to reduce stress while accessing inner strength to avoid drug and alcohol use in the future.

Why is a relapse prevention plan important for long-term recovery?

Relapse prevention plans help people to use their inner resilience and practice self-control while working on the coping skills that will serve them throughout their lives. Having an actionable plan will not only help people identify potential triggers, but will also give them a new understanding of themselves, help them understand their own emotions, and give them new strategies to deal with emotional pain, mental health conditions, and external stressors. These useful skills will help patients live healthier, happier lives.

How can I identify my triggers?

The best way to understand what may be a trigger for you is to pay close attention to your emotional reactions. If something (or somebody) is making you feel upset, stressed out, anxious, or sad, it might be an indication of a trigger. A professional therapist can further guide you in determining your triggers, and appropriate responses.

What are some effective coping mechanisms to avoid relapse?

Coping mechanism effectiveness depends on the individual, as meditation may be the right move for one person, while another may better benefit from going on a run when they feel stressed out. Some common coping mechanisms include practicing mindfulness, attending a 12-step meeting, living a healthy life, reaching out to your support system, and practicing self-care.

How can I build a supportive network for my recovery journey?

Along with identifying and speaking honestly with trusted loved ones and friends, you can also meet up with sponsors, support groups, and sober groups to extend your sober network. These individuals will be there when you need to talk, but they will also be around when you simply want to hang out in a recovery-friendly place.

How do exercise and diet play a role in relapse prevention?

Incorporating healthy activities and diet into your life will give you a routine and a method of stress relief, improve your self-esteem, make you feel better overall, and help decrease cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Proper nutrition will give you energy and help repair the damage done by drugs and alcohol, while exercise can build your strength and your confidence. You will also have the opportunity to find sober-friendly activities like sports or yoga that you enjoy, and you may meet like-minded individuals.

How often should I update my relapse prevention plan?

Do not give up! Relapse is very common on many people’s recovery journeys. The best thing you can do is stop using substances, and talk to somebody like a trusted loved one, a doctor, or a therapist. You may wish to re-enter treatment, but if not, make sure you take an honest and truthful approach to identifying what happened and planning for a sober future.

What should I do if I relapse?

Do not give up! Relapse is very common on many people’s recovery journeys. The best thing you can do is stop using substances, and talk to somebody like a trusted loved one, a doctor, or a therapist. You may wish to re-enter treatment, but if not, make sure you take an honest and truthful approach to identifying what happened and planning for a sober future.

Are there any professional services in Orlando, FL that can help me develop a relapse prevention plan?

Some of the best addiction recovery services in Orlando, FL include sober living homes, addiction counselors, 12-step groups, and rehab centers.

If you would like professional assistance in building a relapse prevention plan in Orlando, or if you believe that returning to rehab for a short- or long-term stay in an inpatient or outpatient treatment may help you stay sober, you can contact the White Sands Alcohol & Drug Rehab Center at (407) 255-2351. Therapy sessions at White Sands, along with integrated medical, psychological, emotional, and social help will keep you safe and healthy, and on the correct path.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.