Learn how to prevent a relapse

Three Coping Skills to Prevent a Relapse

At first, your addiction made you feel in control. It filled you up with such hope that something outside of you could be the one thing that truly helped you; saved you; made your days easier and, at times, happier.

You’ve learned, however, that your addiction only delivered a false sense of hope, because, as time passed, you only ever continued to lose control. And the optimism you initially felt was all but an illusion, for your addiction was nothing more than an expressway to deterioration and destruction.

Addictions become so rooted in our identity that, as addicts, we forget that drugs, alcohol or any other substance or behavior was once never a part of our existence. The only option to save and regain control of our lives is to get clean and commit to sobriety.

Without question, we know this is much easier said than done. For most addicts who are thinking about getting clean or who are currently sober, relapse can be a new source of anxiety.

  • If recovery and sobriety have crossed your mind, the time to get clean is now.
  • If you’re currently in the process of detoxing, don’t look back and keep working hard to achieve sobriety.
  • If you’re currently clean, the admiration we have for you is endless. While every day still presents moments of temptation, you’re working purposefully to ensure relapse remains out of arms reach.

Wherever you are in the addiction and recovery journey, relapse prevention can never start too soon or be focused on too much.

Keep reading to learn why relapse prevention is just as important – if not more – than going to rehab, and discover three effective relapse prevention coping skills you can start utilizing today.

Is Relapsing from Addiction Common?   

The short answer is: Yes.

According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry, about 11 percent of people in the U.S. with a substance use issue seek rehab treatment every year. However, between 40 percent and 60 percent of those individuals relapse.

Understandably, this statistic may feel overwhelming. But it’s important to enter into rehab, recovery and sobriety fully prepared and armed with all the knowledge.

Why is Relapse from Addiction Common? 

The short answer is: There’s no one definitive answer.

Addiction, recovery and relapse are studied extensively in the field of mental health, but, still, it’s hard to pinpoint exact reasons and explanations for certain things – such as why relapse occurs for approximately half of the individuals who complete an addiction treatment program.

Some reasons why relapses occur could be because:

  • Every individual has a different journey and, therefore, a different lifestyle, challenges, triggers and choices.
  • An undiagnosed or untreated co-occurring mental health disorder is present and is undermining the progress made toward the substance use disorder.
  • Addiction treatment programs are not all created the same, where some programs don’t take an all-encompassing, individualized, holistic approach, but instead focus on individual details while missing the entire picture.

How is Relapse Prevention Helpful? 

Leaving addiction treatment, an environment that delivers 24/7 support and care, can stir up old emotions and temptations. Returning home can push some individuals toward relapse. Without question, transitioning from recovery to independent, everyday life can be scary, stressful and full of ‘what ifs’ – especially What if I relapse?”

That’s why comprehensive addiction treatment programs help recovering addicts thoroughly prepare for life after rehab. While nothing can completely prevent relapse, except for the addict themselves, relapse prevention education within an addiction treatment program helps recovering addicts:

  • Learn how to identify their addiction triggers
  • Develop alternative coping strategies – in lieu of turning to drugs and alcohol – for successfully managing temptations and triggers
  • Understand how to recognize relapse warning signs
  • Learn how to minimize the intensity of a relapse if one does occur
  • Reclaim control of their life and get back on track with recovery and sobriety if a relapse does take place

3 Relapse Prevention Coping Skills 

Every recovering addict wonders how to prevent a relapse. Here are three of the most effective relapse prevention coping skills:

1. Build a Healthy Support System 

Numerous studies have shown that a strong support system delivers a wealth of positive benefits, such as:

  • A healthier overall well-being
  • Better coping skills
  • Reduced stress, anxiety and depression
  • Living a longer, healthier life

As mentioned earlier, the hard work and everlasting commitment does not stop once you’ve successfully completed addiction rehab. Sobriety is arguably just as hard, if not harder. That’s why a robust support system that wants to see you live a long, thriving life can help you even at your darkest hour.

Keep in mind that your support system doesn’t have to be expansive; it just needs to be composed of individuals who have your absolute best interests at heart.

Don’t exclude therapists and counselors from your support network, either. These professionals are invaluable to recovering addicts and can offer an incredible amount of unbiased insight and eye-opening advice.

2. Get Active, Stay Active 

One of the major downfalls of a recovering addict’s relapse prevention plan is they wait until triggers are staring them in the face or temptation is literally kicking in their door to act and try to avoid using again. But when you’re dealing with something as powerful as addiction, it’s best to always remain proactive. This means keeping your body and mind busy and distracted.

What activities do you like to participate in? What hobbies do you have? What have you always wanted to do?

Get into the habit of exercising every day or trying your hand at a craft. No matter what you choose, get and stay active – both physically and mentally – every day. You can even partake in activities with people from your support system – people who know your goals and will help you remain on your sober path.

3. Pause and Center Yourself 

Of course, no matter what you do and how loyal you are to your relapse prevention plan, triggers will surface, and temptations and cravings will become extreme. It’s important that you realize that this is normal; this needs to be expected. Sometimes, too, your support system and your go-to activities will prove ineffective.

At this point, what do you do?

  • First, take a few deep breaths to center yourself. When your temptations are making your skin crawl and you are two seconds away from giving in, tell yourself to wait a few minutes. You set the limit. By delaying your response time to your urges, you may entirely avoid relapse altogether. Once you reach the limit, reassess and try to set another one. Continue this cycle until your cravings subside.
  • Instead of painstakingly watching the minutes pass, engage in mindfulness exercises. This can be anything from yoga to guided meditations.
  • During your mindfulness exercises, review your whys. Why did you go to rehab? Why did you work so hard to get sober? Why do you want to or need to remain sober? Remind yourself of all your hard work and how far you’ve come. Tell yourself it’s not worth it.

Comprehensive Addiction Recovery and Relapse Prevention at Ranch Creek Recovery 

Relapse can happen to anyone, but your rehabilitation route can mean all the difference and better prepare you for the challenges ahead. At Ranch Creek Recovery, we address addiction recovery and relapse prevention head on through our non-12-step, individualized, holistic addiction treatment programs. Our team of treatment experts will work one-on-one with you to create a custom treatment and recovery plan that will help you feel confident and ready to enter your new, sober life.

Learn more about Ranch Creek Recovery, including our what we offer and what we treat.

Have questions? We’re here to help. Contact us today. 

CALL NOW: (877) 293-8607 


Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry. Relative Efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention, Standard Relapse Prevention, and Treatment as Usual for Substance Use Disorders. Accessed June 5, 2018. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/1839290.