What Is a Relapse Prevention Plan?

A relapse prevention plan is a written plan you create together with your team of recovery professionals that will be your own personal guidebook for staying sober.

Relapse prevention plans are ultra necessary for maintaining sobriety after a history of substance use. A good relapse prevention plan lists all foreseeable potential triggers, and identifies coping strategies, tools, and approaches that a recovering woman knows she can use to steer clear of a relapse.

Women who intend to stay sober will need to identify all the people, places, and things that were linked through habit to substance use. Where avoidable, these triggering people, places, and things should be considered off-limits, no-go zones. When truly unavoidable, then each of these people, places, and things will be assigned a robust set of tools, options, and a clear plan for coping with the triggered state without returning to addiction behavior.

You can think of your relapse prevention plan as a thorough protocol and guide that sets you up with a go-to strategy for dealing with anything that may ever possibly come up in your newly-sober life.

Whenever you are in doubt, feeling anxious, uncertain, or aware of being in a dangerous state or situation, your relapse prevention plan is your go-to reference for snapping out of the triggered state. Your relapse prevention plan helps you remember your commitment to health, love, and sanity and recalls the power you do have to use tools and ask for help on your path to recovery.

What Are the Three Stages of Relapse?

When talking about substance addiction, the word relapse means returning to using drugs and/or alcohol, thereby losing the state of abstinence or sobriety.

Relapse actually begins quite a bit before the moment of using substances again. In fact, there are three stages: emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse, with the final one referring to substance use.

Relapses are signaled ahead of time by clear signs that, if noticed in time, can be helpful for correcting a self-destructive course before it’s too late.

Typically once the substance has started again, then it is very difficult to reset to sobriety. If you catch a relapse before it turns into substance use, however, when it is still in the emotional and mental stages that precede a return to substance use, you have a decent chance of turning it around.

Recognizing the state of being that precedes a return to substance use is very helpful. Your relapse prevention plan will include a default protocol for what to do when you or a loved one notices that you’re on the road to relapse.

Emotional Relapse

Emotional relapse is the first and most subtle sign of a relapse. It can be hard to detect because it comes in the form of feelings. Emotional relapse is characterized by a return to old, habitual feeling states, like depression, undue dissatisfaction, irritability, and anxiety.

Being in a state of stress as a semi-permanent state is usually part of an emotional relapse, as is a kind of general crankiness and sense of victimhood. When we feel angry and disempowered about our lives, as well as just generally not as bright and happy, this is a danger zone for early relapse.

On the other hand, women are different, and for some of us, an “up” mood, in which we feel on top of the world, reckless and invincible, can also be a sign of returning to previous states of mind that are connected to our substance use.

The clearest signal of an emotional relapse is when people withdraw from the recovery community and addiction professionals, and avoid admitting the truth of what they’re thinking and feeling. When we begin to hide and suppress emotion, that is a sign that the roots of addiction are taking hold again.

Mental Relapse

Mental relapse is noticeable in the thoughts and beliefs, as well as the things we start saying out loud. During the mental relapse stage, we may begin to think glamorized, nostalgic thoughts about our previous use, and the madness of the addiction may return in the form of thoughts like “this one substance is an exception, I can use this substance without trouble”, and also forgetting how bad it really was in the height of our addiction.

A common addiction-madness-based thought is the belief that surely now, after all this time being sober, we can handle the substance and use it responsibly. This is not true, this is the addiction trying to lure us back in.

As with emotional relapse, it is a very bad sign when we find ourselves avoiding sharing the thoughts we’re thinking out loud with people we associate with our recovery, such as our sponsors, therapists, or long-timers in the program. This is a sign of the addict withholding truth from themselves and others because she is afraid of being seen and called out, therefore stopping from gaining momentum within themselves again.

Physical Relapse

Finally, there is the stage of relapse we call the physical stage, which is the moment when sobriety is fully lost and one loses abstinence. This is the most difficult stage to circumvent once it has taken root, though it is possible, so do not give up hope if this has happened to you.

Your relapse prevention plan should address all of these stages and potential realities, so that if it happens that you encounter any of these stages, you and your loved ones know exactly what steps to follow.

What Are Some Techniques to Help You Stay On Your Addiction Recovery Plan?

Make a Written Declaration of Your Intentions to Be Sober

Write out your intentions as a statement of your own personal reasons for committing to the path of sobriety. Sign it, and, very importantly, make several copies and give copies of this document to your counselor, sponsor, and/or loved ones.

This statement of your intentions centers around your values, things that matter to you most when you’re in a sane frame of mind and when you’re your best self.

Sample statements from your statement of intention could be:

 I [name], commit fully and wholeheartedly to the path of sobriety, for the following reasons:

I value [all that I believe in and value]

Here’s how my values are impacted by sobriety in a positive way:

Here’s how my values are impacted negatively by using substances:

If I do stay sober, I get to enjoy these positive outcomes:

If I don’t stay sober, I can expect these negative outcomes:

I believe in… [any relevant belief systems, personal philosophies, or motivational factors for you]

Keep a List of Your Reasons for Quitting Visible

Keep a list of all the reasons you decided to quit and place it somewhere visible in your personal space, where you will encounter it frequently.

Keep an Updated List of Your Triggers

Keep a current document in which you identify all of your triggers. You may want to buy a notebook and keep adding to it, as a kind of log in which you enter everything you encounter in your sober life that has a even just little vibe of trigger to it.

Here are some of the most common triggers that women who use substances might put on their list of triggers:

  • Stress
  • Strong emotions, such as grief, anger, or sadness
  • Painful and/or traumatic memories
  • Certain locations
  • Social Media-induced compare and despair or FOMO
  • Running into or hearing from past crushes and partners
  • Negative thoughts about myself and my situation
  • Feeling lonely, isolation
  • Family events and gatherings, holidays, death anniversaries
  • Watching movies that show drug and alcohol use
  • Seeing people who are still using and apparently, it doesn’t create problems for them
  • Office parties, social gatherings with people who aren’t in recovery

Make Yourself a Toolbox of Recovery Tools

Create a physical or written document version of a toolbox of recovery methods, practices, hacks, and options for yourself.

You may want to do this as a creative art project, wherein you take a box, paint or decorate it with positive images, and put reminders of all your tools inside the box, for instance, written on little pieces of paper.

Typical tools that belong in any woman’s recovery toolbox are:

  • Physical exercise
  • 20 minute walk
  • Specific short breathwork techniques, like square breathing or placing hands on the belly for 12 belly breaths, etc
  • Writing in your journal
  • Writing an email or letter you won’t send, just to get the feelings out
  • Gratitude list
  • Go to a meeting
  • Call a friend
  • Leave a voice message for your sponsor, therapist, recovery friend, or even yourself, telling on your addict
  • Do an act of service

The Importance of Support Networks in a Relapse Prevention Plan

Practicing Positive, Heal-Promoting Behaviors for Mind, Body, and SoulCommunity is the most curative factor for women in recovery. When we are in isolation, we are more vulnerable to the addiction-madness speaking to us, and us not recognizing it for what it is.

The lies in our own minds can feel true – lies like the idea that no one loves us, we are low value, there’s no hope for us, or that we can use without consequences since we’re better now, and so on.

When we stay connected with healthy others who are also walking a path of truth and sobriety, and who are reasonably committed to doing their own emotional work, we are protected by a buffer of community. The truth and sanity that others help hold for us help us steer clear of all that would want to pull us back to the miseries of our past.

Therefore, more important than any other tool is to stay connected with other people on the sincere path to recovery, no matter how we feel about it at the moment, day in and day out.

The most natural way to do this is to attend recovery meetings and to talk to someone who is also in recovery every single day (ideally someone with many years of sobriety under their belt). It also helps to make sure we complete all aftercare programs and stay in contact with therapists and positive sober peers we may have encountered in a treatment context.

Being part of a network of support in the form of a recovery community will keep us from getting too isolated and lonely. Recovery communities keep us in contact with people who know the path to wellness like the back of their hand. These are the people who are more than happy to answer our calls when we need help, who are there when we need a hug or a shoulder to cry on, and who don’t judge us.

What Are Some Factors of Relapse Prevention?

In addition to creating and sticking with a solid relapse prevention plan, for which one agrees to be accountable to another person, such as a therapist or 12 step sponsor, key factors of relapse prevention are:

Interacting With a Positive Community

Interacting on a daily basis with a positive community of people who understand addiction themselves, and who are actively walking a path of recovery. These must be people who are successfully demonstrating by their personal example what a happy, joyous, and free life in recovery is like. Daily attendance at AA or NA for the first year of sobriety is standard. Volunteering to work with addicts who are newer on the path of sobriety, for example through welcoming newcomers at an AA meeting, is a helpful trick to remind us regularly where we have come from, to get out of dangerous states of ego, such as entitlement or self-pity, and to help us recognize our own wisdom, kindness, and growth.

Unflinching Self-Honesty and Monitoring One’s Own State

Unflinching self-honesty, and monitoring one’s own state without judgment but with discernment. We have to be on the lookout for the trickiness of the inner addict, every day. Step work, which is part of active involvement in a 12-step program, will ensure that this takes place, as it is built into the steps. Outside of step work, daily gratitude lists and self-reflection processes like journaling and meditation, as well as attending meetings and sharing honestly with other recovering addicts, are very supportive.

Practicing Positive, Heal-Promoting Behaviors for Mind, Body, and Soul

Practicing positive, health-promoting behaviors for mind, body, and soul, including actively engaging in healing work when needed to address trauma or mental health troubles. Many times we find out that underneath our addiction, there was a lot of trauma and lingering emotional pain that needs healing or else represents a threat to our recovery. In order not to relapse, we must be actively addressing and working on replacing this pain with emotional health and joy.

Recognizing Drug and Alcohol Relapse Warning Signs

It’s important to assess oneself regularly for early signs of relapse.

Here are some of the more common signs:

  • Skipping meetings or changing one’s daily plan on a whim
  • Avoiding recovery people
  • Avoiding journaling, meditation, and prayer, avoiding one’s higher power
  • Eating poorly, sleeping poorly, getting out of balance
  • Wallowing in negative emotions for a prolonged period of time
  • Excessive self-pity, feeling like a victim, feeling powerless and out of control
  • Glamorizing substances in one’s mind, rose-tinted recollections of using days, finding oneself wanting to listen to music or watch movies that are linked to drug culture, or which one used to enjoy when using
  • Change in personality, a return to a more negative, selfish personality style
  • Being overly irritable, cranky, and negative

Here at Villa Kali Ma, We Support Women

Villa Kali Ma is dedicated to supporting women to recover from the acute suffering of addiction. We want women to live good lives, that feel personally meaningful, enjoyable, and purposeful according to each our own best path.

All that we offer is devoted to supporting women to thrive in this world. As professionals and in some cases, fellow recoverers, we know the ins and outs of addiction. We also understand that each woman is her own person, with her own experiences which will necessarily be somewhat unique.

In keeping with our philosophy, the relapse prevention plan we make with you will be centered on the truth of you and your life story, built to equip you with all you need to succeed.

Villa Kali Ma Teaches Mindfulness Relapse Prevention Techniques

Villa Kali Ma Teaches Mindfulness Relapse Prevention Techniques

Villa Kali Ma embraces a mindfulness-based path to recovery. We apply this in our relapse prevention techniques.

Mindfulness means compassionate, nonjudgmental awareness. Mindfulness implies accepting and embracing the divine reality of who you actually are, in all of your quirks, flaws, and marvels. Mindfulness means noticing yourself and giving yourself loving attention. Like all living beings, you thrive in the presence of positive, warm attention, especially when that attention is your own.

In the spaciousness of mindfulness, we are best able to recover, because we see ourselves with the kind eyes of that within us which is most free, the part that never was ill to begin with. That which is most original and precious inside us, which is inextinguishable, helps us to the more heavenly lands of recovery. It does so by guiding us, step by step, with its wise understanding of who we are, what we need, and how to overcome the ancient trouble of loving ourselves, which underlies all addiction.

Villa Kali Ma Outpatient Treatment for Women

3790 Via De La Valle # 313
Del Mar, CA 92014

(760) 903-5758


Call Villa Kali Ma at (760) 350-3131 or contact us to learn about our Intensive Outpatient Program for women.


It was the best 30 days of my life.


Villa Kali Ma provides a holistic, supportive, therapeutic retreat for women to recover from trauma & substance disorders. The intensive and comprehensive approach provides a compassionate path of learning, awareness, and self-love for healing. I am grateful for the sacred space provided for my reflection, my mind-body-spirit work, and my opportunity to connect with other women in this process.


Villa Kali Ma changed my life in every single aspect. Not only did the experience help me get sober and stay sober for over a year now, but I was finally able to work on my past trauma in a safe and stable environment. Not a day goes by that I’m not using a healthy tool they taught me. I am forever grateful to the staff and strong women I spent my time with there. Truly the most profound life changing month of my life.





joint commission

Licensed by the State of California: Department of Health Care Services

Villa Kali Ma is an in-network provider with Anthem BCBS, Multiplan, First Health, Healthnet, and currently accepts most
PPO plans with out-of-network benefits. Call (760) 350-3131 for information on cost and payment options.