When you choose to commit your life to recovery, there are bound to be bumps in the road. There will always be inevitable struggle and stress from time to time, especially when you find yourself in situations where drug and alcohol use is normalized.
If you’ve completed a treatment program, you have likely been taught how to identify your triggers and cravings as well as learned effective coping skills on how to manage them. Treatment also helps clients find deeper meaning and purpose in their sobriety, which can help to protect against relapse.
An important element that is often created during treatment is a safety plan. A safety plan, also known as a crisis plan, is a relapse prevention plan. These plans are vital as they create a guideline for how you can respond to triggers or other situations that may threaten your sobriety. An effective safety plan can make all of the difference in preventing relapse on your recovery journey.
Understanding the Potential of Relapse During Crisis
One of the most known reasons why people initially use drugs or alcohol is to self-medicate symptoms of their mental health condition or other emotional distress. Many people believe that drugs and alcohol can offer a temporary form of relief from difficult life situations and experiences. However, self-medicating is incredibly problematic as it only worsens symptoms and distress in the long term.
During addiction treatment, the topic of self-medicating surfaces regularly. Once an individual’s brain is impacted by addiction, their thought patterns become hijacked by substance use. Even when a person is in recovery for months or years, challenging life situations can jeopardize their recovery because the brain still wants to identify substance use as a form of self-medication. This becomes even more concerning when crises arise.
It is essential to understand that relapse is always possible, no matter how long a person has been sober or in recovery. Because of this, every person should have a safety plan for how they can avoid relapse. If relapse does occur, their safety plan will also suggest the next steps they should take so they can get back on track as quickly as possible.
Personalizing Your Safety Plan
Just as no two people experience addiction the same, no two people will have the same safety plan. Your safety plan must be comprised of several different components, all of which help you keep your recovery the highest priority in your life.
Warning Signs of Relapse
It is crucial for you to recognize that relapse is more than just drinking or using drugs again. Relapse can happen in three stages:
- Emotional relapse
- Mental relapse
- Physical relapse
By familiarizing yourself with the warning signs of each type of relapse, you can be better prepared to respond when you experience a specific warning sign.
Identifying Your Personal Triggers
Triggers are anything that can lead you to use drugs or alcohol again. List the people, places, and things that you think could threaten your sobriety and potentially lead you to relapse. Consider the places you have used in the past, the thoughts that could lead you to relapse, and how to respond to triggers when they show up unannounced.
Identifying and Managing Your Cravings
Cravings, like triggers, often lead to relapse. Cravings are physical or emotional feelings that can urge a person to use again. Create a list of all of the distinct cravings you have experienced and recognize what coping skills you have at your disposal that you can use when you feel cravings.
Utilizing and Recognizing Preventative Resources
Your safety plan should also include a list of prevention tools that have helped you get to where you are on your recovery journey. Examples might include:
- Calling a friend when you feel stressed
- Attending regular support group meetings
- Immersing yourself in nature
- Having weekly check-ins with a mentor, peer, or therapist
Creating an Exit Plan
One of the most important factors of a safety plan is having an exit plan. An exit plan helps you know how to respond to situations that directly threaten your sobriety. For example, say that you were invited to a friend’s house to have dinner. While you are there, dinner turns into a party. Instead of feeling obligated to stay and drink, you can utilize one of your predetermined exit plans. Examples might include:
- Making the excuse that you feel sick and need to head home
- Texting a friend to call you with an emergency you need to take care of
Your Safety Plan in Action
It is one thing to have a safety plan written on a piece of paper. It is an entirely different thing to come back to your safety plan regularly to update and alter it. You are constantly changing and growing, which means your unique recovery needs will also shift. You must always stay up to date with any new triggers or ways to stay involved with continuing treatment.
Remember that a crisis does not have to be life-threatening. It can be anything that threatens your recovery. After all, what is the worth of a safety plan if it is never used? The truth is everyone will need to access their safety plan at some point in their recovery. Your success depends on your determination to put your safety plan to use when your long-term recovery needs it most.
A safety plan is a relapse prevention plan that creates a guideline for how an individual can respond to situations that may be potentially threatening to their recovery. Safety plans are essential because relapse can happen to anyone at any point in their recovery. An effective safety plan must identify potential warning signs, triggers, and cravings. It will encourage the use of preventative resources, such as having an exit plan always available. Spero Recovery is a residential treatment facility that works with individuals looking to recover from their substance use problems. We help our patients create effective safety plans that can help prevent relapse from occurring at any point on their long-term recovery journey. We believe that continuing treatment is essential. If you are interested in hearing more about our treatment programs, or need more information about creating a safety plan, give us a call at (303) 351-7888.