Do you have a relapse prevention plan for your loved one, what does it look like?



@Dean_Acton brought this up and it’s something I really wanted early on, but sounds like we could still use 3 years into it! Please educate me! What works and what doesn’t in your situation?!

How do I - not share- my loved one is in rehab?

Honesty hour: I had never heard of a relapse prevention plan before @Dean_Acton asked his question, even though it kind of seems like a “duh, of course” idea. Curious to know what “the basics” might be?!


Me too. I really wanted one though and was pretty mad that the rehab he went to gave no afterplan!!


A relapse prevention plan is an awareness of, as a user, where you are at in terms of your emotional state, understanding the stages of relapse and catching yourself before it progresses too far.
The stages of relapse, from my experience are:

Emotional Relapse.

  • This is when life is stressing you out, you feel overwhelmed. You’ll start to notice things like a lack of self care, poor sleeping or eating habits, they might have anxiety, seem distant. Clearly struggling with something. They’re not thinking about using but a the stress is a trigger. At this stage, the best thing to come out of it simply practicing self care and communicating how they feel, knowing their triggers and having awareness that they’re in emotional relapse.

Mental Relapse

  • Now they are thinking about using. They might be in contact with old using friends, lying to you about who they’re talking to, hiding their phone, distant. The best thing for them at this point is again, self care. Maintaining a good foundation for their quality of life. Understanding their triggers, talking to you about their urges in a non judgemental way. Find out what it is they are struggling with, what’s going on underneath that they are trying to cope with.

After this you have Physical Relapse which is simply the act of using. From there well, just pick yourself up and get back on track.

My fiance and I made a prevention plan. Listed out her triggers, made communication about her urges a priority, practicing self reflection and awareness, talking about her day everyday, what’s bugging her or was it a good day and celebrating that, developing healthy habits, exercise. Obviously in practice it can be easier said than done if they start lying but it’s a work in progress.


That’s amazing @Dean_Acton I love this - thanks so much for sharing. And did you create the structure for yourselves? Seems like it would be a great tool for community members here - and something worthwhile to revisit over time as ‘recovery’ progresses.


Amazing @Dean_Acton. This is so helpful! The two things that stand out to me most are a) making it a point to check in everyday, and b) recognizing where it might be easier said than done. #reality


The stages are just something I was able to look up and read about. The plan we just tailored around her personally just based on her triggers, personality and life situation


Ahh very cool @Dean_Acton . Yes @erica has a tool too that we’ll have to get it written up so others can use it too! Still super interested in how others approach this?


Thank you @Dean_Acton this is so helpful
I’m going to bring it up when my boyfriend moves back into our apartment.
Did you and your girlfriend create this on paper? As in is it this concrete. Of course it’s hard to put to action should the time come but do you feel that having them sign the document and taking an active part in this plan would have any resonance to the addict themselves?
All the best


@EMM89 yeah her and have it written out in detail for each stage. I like it like that so we can always look back at it and for me it’s great because it’ll probably slip my mind if I don’t haha. Ad for having them sign it, yeah I think that could reinforce the inspiration. My fiance I didn’t think to have her sign it, depending on where she was at with how she felt with the motivation I feel like she’d either be all for it or if she was still in emotional or mental relapse she might feel some pressure by being asked to sign it


It’s so important and in my clinical experience has been a topic we focus heavily on with the individuals struggling with substance use, so I’m really happy to hear family and friends wanting to get involved! A supportive family can make the difference between recovery and relapse. With open, honest, and positive communication we can begin to talk with our loved ones about pst relapses, the warning signs that led up to them, and how the relapse impacted not just our loved one, but the entire family. We can work together to avoid future relapse.
@Dean_Acton you did a great job breaking that down! Bravo!

Relapse Education: It’s important and helpful to learn about the relapse process and how to manage it. Relapse (return to substance use/slip/recurrence of substance use) can happen at any stage of recovery. There are patterns and warning signs that can set our loved ones up to use again, and these warning signs can be identified and recognized by both our loved one and us while sober, and managed!
Warning Sign Identification: This is paramount in recovery, the goal being to write a list of personal warning signs that lead our loved ones from stable recovery back to substance use. There is rarely just one warning sign. They usually build upon one another to create a return to use, and the cumulative effect can ultimately wear someone down. A lot of people think it’s the last warning sign that caused the relapse - however it is important to recognize what built up to that point as well to manage the situation earlier! It’s helpful to review and discuss with our loved one the phases and warning signs of a relapse specific to them. This list describes the typical sequence of events that lead from stable recovery to return to substance use. By identifying these warning signs, we can develop a new way of thinking about thing things that happened during past periods of abstinence that set us up to use. By sharing information with each other about our loved one’s experiences we can help others identify potential warning signs in their love one.

John, for example, identified with a warning sign “tendency toward loneliness” when he shared a story about a time when he was sober and all alone in the house because his partner had just left to spend time with her friends. “I felt so alone and abandoned, I couldn’t understand why she would go spend time with friends after we had a fight. She should be able to handle it better than she does.” Upon digging deeper, in this example, it turned out that John had quite a lot of arguments with his partner that were caused by his negative mood due to problems at work. It turned out that these arguments were a warning sign that occurred before most relapses.

John had now identified three warning signs:

  1. the need to drink in order to feel like he belonged
  2. the need to drink in order to cope with stress
  3. the need to drink in order to cope with relationship problems

Once warning signs are identified, it’s important to figure out how to manage and cope once they happen. John, our example, develops this management strategy for dealing with job related stress:

  • Warning sign: I know I am in trouble with my recovery when I feel unable to cope with high levels of job-related stress.
  • General Coping Strategy: I will learn how to say no to taking on extra projects, limit my work to 45 hours per week, and learn how to use relaxation exercises and meditation to unwind.

This is a short example, and I’m working with @Jane and the Village team to get a really good worksheet written up so people can easily use it. Important note: warning signs can change as progress in recovery is made, therefore it’s very crucial to look at the relapse prevention plans regularly and update them as needed. Monthly for the first three months, quarterly for first two years, and annually or how every much you think is needed thereafter.


Thanks for bringing me into this discussion. I have been thinking about what a prevention plan might look like. This plan is amazing and I intend to put it in to place as soon as possible today or tomorrow.
It addresses the warning signs and some possible actions.
My son is in the 7th month of staying sober. We have had some difficult moments when my police hat slipped back on, in place of my coach and support hat. But we have worked through those times, and my son comments that he understands that it will take a log time for trust to be rebuilt.
I have seen gradual growth in his taking back responsibility, but this is an extremely slow process.


I never thought to help my son with a relapse prevention plan! Now I know I can help even MORE! Very cool. In our family we’ve tried working on the emotional aspect, when he feels depressed, defeated, or isolated we all can see he is in a high risk situation.

Now that I think about it, gaining an understanding of why he used substances, who he used with, where he used, and what emotions he was escaping can help me get a better understanding of his triggers.


Relapse prevention… well that’s a good one. I always say as a parent we can see the Prelapse and can feel it our gut . As far as a plan that’s based on the individual, you as a parent or loved one can get the conversation going by creating your own list. My list would look something like this …1.Being honest , meaning if I suspect I will ask. 2. I will do my best to give you space, meaning I will not helicopter you . 3. I will expect you to do your best to stay clean , but if you relapse I would hope that you will come to me so that we can get you where you need to be , to keep you safe and on the right track.

It’s important to not create unachievable goals, instead build them up, set them up for sucussess !! Stay positive, honest , and listen to what your loved ones are saying, and not hear what you think you need to hear . <3
Always here
Recovery coach & advocate
Ambrosia treatment center


My boyfriend is addicted to alcohol. He is a combat veteran who has been out of the military for 7 years. He also has other issues ptsd, bipolar, suicidal ideas when drinking, cutting himself, and he has has 3 traumatic brain injuries and has never been the same after the last 2. He has been in the VA for his issues and for his alcohol addiction but just seems to drink days of getting out of the VA. They to different plans with him. I would like to do a plan with him. I keep hearing about rock bottom I want to know what that is. We live together and been together for years. I really feel drained and just not want to live with him anymore. So how can I get past that feeling and adapt to a plan


Thanks for sharing @Tooshort0430 - when we get depleted sometimes the best thing we can do is to take extra care of ourselves <3 I hope you do something nice for yourself today.

Have you considered joining our digital weekly meetup series? We have a curriculum designed exactly for what you’re going through.

You can RSVP to meetups by week HERE or get a 20% member discount on the whole series HERE which is a great option to get all the knowledge to change how you interact with your loved one for positive change <3 Hope you’ll join us this week! This kind of support can be transformational for you and your loved one.


I found this topic searching the site for “relapse before the relapse”… It’s an old conversation but still, great information on Relapse Prevention Plans and the Stages of Relapse! Bumping back up to the top for others to see. :slight_smile:


This was very helpful to read - thanks for bringing it back to the forefront!


@momentsandlight, I too searched on “relapse before the relapse” and found the printable forms at " and I also found a lot of information by going on the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI) and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) websites.

Fortunately, they are mostly saying the same thing.


Hi @Alair! Great to see you here! Let us know how the conversation about the prevention plan goes.

This is so wonderful to hear! Recovery is possible.