Relapse Prevention Plan

What if you can predict when you’re about to relapse? Can you imagine being able to avoid it before it happens?

There are many red flags that indicate that a relapse may be coming your way. I like to call this the “Pre-lapse Stage”.  Triggers and events that lead up to your relapse.

Having a relapse prevention plan means you will be better prepared to prevent a relapse from happening. Here I’ll show you the common triggers and stages that lead to a relapse so you are better prepared.

Although a relapse can happen at anytime it is more common in the first 90 days. The good news is, the longer you are continuously sober the less chance there is of relapsing.

Relapse Prevention Plan – Potential Triggers

It is important to understand what can cause a relapse. If you can avoid some of these common triggers there is a better chance you will avoid a relapse.


You cannot always avoid stress but do try to limit it the best you can. Make your sobriety your number one priority for now.

It’s okay to say no sometimes to people and new commitments. The trick is to scale things back for a while to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Social Isolation

Even though it’s best to avoid those bar buddies and boozy work nights out, you cannot leave yourself isolated. The opposite of addiction is connection. Make sure you still meet up with a friend for coffee, visit family or attend a sober group. Joining a book club or walking club is a great way to meet people where alcohol isn’t centre stage. Whatever you’re into, I bet there’s a club for it!  


This sounds an obvious one, but take all alcohol out of your house. It may not bother you at the moment but don’t tempt fate. All it takes is one bad day to test your resolve and you find yourself reaching for the bottle. Having to put your shoes on and drive all the way to the store will deter you.

If someone you live with still drinks, ask them not to drink in the house or at least store it out of sight. Remember, out of sight out of mind.


Without alcohol filling your days you may start to feel bored.  Boredom is a real trigger. Many people reach for a drink to fill a void. So, how do you fill these extra hours without alcohol?

This is a good time to figure out who you are without alcohol. A time to try some fun new hobbies or take up a sport. Maybe, you want to catch up on all those films you slept through or start a sober diary. The choices are endless.

Major Life Events

There is a tendency in early sobriety to take stock and revaluate what you want out of life, which is good. However, sobriety is a journey of self-discovery so it’s best to avoid any major changes in the beginning.

Making big changes early on, like moving house, changing job or a new relationship can actually hinder your recovery progress. . Give it time to see what you really need or want, you may be surprised.

Relapse Prevention Plan – Stages of Pre-Lapse

Even with the best of intentions, life can still throw you curve balls. What happens if you have to move house or you have a stressful work deadline to meet? You cannot always avoid your triggers, therefore it is important to check in with yourself from time to time.

Understanding yourself is the key to avoiding a relapse. There are two stages prior to a relapse that I like to call the pre-lapse stages. If you can recognise that you are heading for a relapse you can take action to avoid it.

relapse prevention plan

It is easier stop a relapse from happening at the Emotional Stage. If you feel a change in your emotional state. Even if you’re not sure what’s going on, view it as an early warning sign of relapse.

Maybe you’re just feeling a little over whelmed by everything all of a sudden. It is important to reach out and find some additional support.

Making the effort to connect with a friend, get out into the fresh air or asking for help at work can make all the difference. Read my article Sobriety Toolbox Tips for more support.

relapse prevention plan

It is harder to prevent a relapse at the Mental Stage but by no means impossible. Having thoughts that your drinking wasn’t that bad or moderation might be a good idea, are big red flags.  

The voice in your head telling you to drink again will get louder and louder until you eventually give in to it and relapse.

It is important to recognise what is happening. If thoughts of drinking start to creep in, you have to nip it in the bud by re-affirming your reasons for giving up alcohol.

These thoughts are a warning sign that a relapse is just round the corner. Why not take a look at my article the Fading Affect Bias. It explains why we only seem to remember our drinking days through rose tinted glasses.

What To Do If You Relapse

It’s important to remember that if you do relapse it is not a sign of failure. It is a sign that you need to add more supports.

On the flip side, please don’t see relapse as an accepted part of recovery or minimise it as a ‘blip’ as you will give yourself permission to relapse again and again.

If you do relapse, the quicker you get back on the waggon the easier it will be. Many people who relapse feel shame and guilt. Meaning it can be years before they build up the resolve to quit again.

The first thing you should do is stop drinking and reach out to a friend, recovery coach or online support.

Next, you need to reflect on your relapse. What triggered it? Looking back, what were your warning signs?

Then, to avoid relapse in the future, make a plan on how you will manage your triggers and recognise your warning signs going forward.

Even if things seem difficult now, it will be worse starting from day one again.

Stay the course.  Work on your triggers and stay alert to your pre – lapse warning signs.

Staying continuously sober by avoiding a relapse will make your recovery journey much easier.

Mrs Mac x

Photo by Ash from Modern Afflatus on Unsplash

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