Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”     

– Frank Zappa, U.S. music composer, and guitarist

We now live in a world that is seemingly without a plan.

Globally, governments can make decisions, put guidelines – even laws – in place to hopefully protect their country, track their residents’ movements with apps and also give digital warnings if their health may have been compromised, and even advise zero physical human contact. For the time being, at least, you understand.

However, without a vaccine – the grand proviso, the world is without a plan they know will work. That is life in a time of coronavirus.

Ironically, the vast majority of global citizens will have thought exactly the same thing you did… “Oh, please. I’ve got enough going on. Now I have to deal with all this too?” Yep, same here, me too.

All over the world (now a seemingly changed world, at that), there are people going through the same personal stuff they did before – surviving the day without taking a drink, without doing a line, without smoking weed that may be laced with God-knows-what, or without swallowing that next prescription tablet because, not only does it take the physical pain away, the mental pain eases too.

Recovery from an addiction of any kind is hard enough. Now, probably more so. Just like the world itself, you need a plan – a plan that will work. Apart from 100% abstinence, there is no vaccine for the likes of you and me.

Yes, I’m a recovering addict, too (alcohol and cocaine, if you must know). Over 6 years now, substance and substance relapse-free. I have a plan – a relapse prevention plan, created in conjunction with the Phoenix rehab I attended. It’s not perfect – nothing is, but it works for me. Honed carefully over these past 6 and a bit years, it has the essential elements of all good (and successful) relapse prevention plans.

Here are your “3 Tips on Creating a Successful Relapse Prevention Plan”:

1. Make Your Triggers… Your Friends

Yes, I know that may sound a little odd, but bear with me. Friends warn us of impending danger, and, all said and done, for a recovering addict or alcoholic, that’s the kind of warning you need, and need to heed. So, just like your real-life friends, get to know them – understand them – and know their little oddities and quirks. When you’re battling during recovery, you need to see the red flags.

Relapse occurs because we don’t act quickly and decisively when relapse triggers appear on the horizon. A craving, an emotional trigger, even just plain old guilt, can instigate a relapse. When those feelings, either mental or physical, arise – act fast:

  • Call a member of your support network
  • Keep your brain active
  • Do something productive
  • Exercise
  • Talk to someone online, e.g., a family member or a friend

Knowing the very nature of your triggers to relapse is essential in any prevention plan. Remember, keep your friends close, but your relapse triggers closer.

2. Your Support Network

Having a strong and reliable support network is another vital element of a sound and successful relapse prevention plan. Family members, friends who know and understand your circumstances, Na or AA sponsors and friends, a qualified addiction specialist – all of these people need to figure in your network.

Support groups, such as NA or AA, or other group support, like members of a sober social club, can help too. If possible, continue the connections with these support groups, albeit online. Lastly, there are plenty of online support groups up and running if they weren’t before. Get in touch and attend remotely as part of your daily schedule. 

3. Your “New Normal” – Sober & Clean

You have a blank canvas – great if you’re a budding artist, but even better when you’re fresh out of addiction rehab or an outpatient treatment program. That is, as long as you create good habits and good routines for your new sober life. Remember – it’s a blank canvas. Fill it with what you need, not what you want.

Remember this too – 60% of what we did yesterday, we’ll do today. And tomorrow. And every other tomorrow, unless we make changes. That’s a fact. Plain and simple. 60% – we are surely creatures of habit. With that in mind, if you add good habits and good routines to your blank canvas, you’re over 60% there. Kind of. It takes work, and that is exactly what recovery boils down to work. Recovering addicts, coronavirus aside, have been “working from home” ever since they became clean and sober.

To finish, here are a few examples of “good habits and good routines”:

  • Only spend time with sober and supportive friends and family members
  • Find recreational activities that have nothing to do with your addiction
  • Rearrange your day-to-day life to keep you positively busy and engaged
  • Make time for self-help activities, eg. reading books, taking courses and learning yoga or mindfulness

Deviate From The Norm… & Progress

As Mr. Zappa said earlier, “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” As active addicts or alcoholics, our “norm” was relatively simple – use or drink, like every day beforehand, stay alive so you can continue to use or drink (or both, like me). Deviation, becoming abstinent from our substances of choice, is, in fact, the only way for people like us to stay alive.

Relapse prevention plans are a vital part of our progress. Even if we fail, we have a way to get back on track. Always. Using the above as subtitles in your own plan – make your triggers your friends, your support network, and your “new normal – you’ll stand a much better chance of daily progress. With each day you remain clean and sober, you are so much closer to a life you really deserve – just like anyone else.