Lessons from Relapse Prevention

Be killing sin or sin will be killing you! – John Owen

This is the one part of this article that is about theology. When God wants to accomplish his goals, he sometimes uses natural means. Like when we pray that God give us today our daily bread: God doesn’t cause bread to supernaturally appear in our cupboards. He graciously provides bread for us through the farmer, the miller, the baker, and the grocer. These are natural means. It’s still God doing the providing; but, the means are natural.

The same is true for those of us who ask for healing from substance abuse and dependence. God often grants healing. And he more often than not, He does it through natural means. One of the natural means for healing is called relapse prevention. Relapse prevention has helped many people get and stay sober. It can also be applied to any behavior we want to change.

What is relapse prevention? If you want to develop a relapse prevention plan, there are three parts that most plans contain.

  • One: Assessment. Ask yourself, what are the conditions that cause you to relapse? Who are the people? What are the places? What are the times of day? What are the emotions? What are the circumstances? Basically, what is anything that might become a trigger to using again? 
  • Two: Develop a plan to help you avoid triggers. If your drug dealer is on your way home, drive home a different way. If payday is Miller Time, make sure your money goes to direct deposit and that you have a friend to support you through the evening. Do fights with family members lead to relapse? Then learn some conflict resolution skills and if that doesn’t work call your sponsor, not your using buddies after a fight.
  • Three: learn ways to manage cravings. If you tried to avoid the triggers but couldn’t, there are some techniques that can help you get through the craving. [Most cravings last about 10 minutes]. Phone a friend. Pray for 15 minutes. Go to a meeting. Attend a religious service. Exercise. Use a thought stopping technique. Try to surf through your craving.

What works for one person, may sound silly or ineffective to another. You choose what works for you.

Here are a few resources on the web to help you develop your own relapse prevention plan. However, if you planning on going cold turkey, talk to a professional substance abuse counselor, or see your doctor first. They may recommend supervised detox first.

Even if your doctor or therapist give you the greenlight to quit on your own, why wouldn’t you seek professional help when you are putting together a relapse prevention plan? God gave us natural means so we would use them!

St Joseph’s I will not Relapse booklet. This booklet is easy to read and easy to use. It contains helpful checklists of triggers. It also addresses self-talk that can lead to using. It’s straight forward, and has a good amount of detail, without getting overly complicated. http://blog.stjosephinstitute.com/i-will-not-relapse/

Smart Recovery change plan. Doesn’t get much simpler than this. It’s a one-pager, suitable for hanging on a bathroom mirror or refrigerator. However, it has some powerful science backing it up. It combines Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques with a little Motivational Interviewing. Both CBT and MI are evidence-based interventions. SmartRecoveryPlan.

The website for Smart Recovery has a treasure trove of information. https://www.smartrecovery.org/

The DIY relapse prevention worksheet. Another one-pager. Super simple. No instructions required. DIY Plan.

The Anxiety BC relapse prevention worksheet. This is designed specifically for relapsing into anxiety. But tips 5-7 are priceless for anyone trying to avoid any type of relapse. https://www.anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/RelapsePrevention.pdf

As an added bonus, here are 10 techniques to deal with cravings. http://www.peggyferguson.com/userfiles/10846/file/articles2/Top%2010%20Craving%20Mgmt%20Tools.pdf