The Recovery Maintenance Plan: Much Bigger Than Relapse Prevention

By Linda Lewis, CADCII

Addiction Recovery MaintenanceA year or so ago Practical Recovery began using the term recovery maintenance in place of relapse prevention. Why? Because it fits our model so much better. The idea is simple: If you focus on maintaining your recovery, you can worry less about relapse. If you build a life that supports you in not using, it becomes a lot easier to resist bad choices. Recovery maintenance is more about having a well-rounded plan, so you can focus more on living well.

Rather than focusing on avoiding relapse (which, of course we hope to do), a good recovery maintenance plan has a “what if I relapse” section to prepare for it. I’ve had clients in the past who refused to face the possibility of relapse and they did not do well. I’ve found that if someone does not plan for the possibility of it and then ends up relapsing, the slip is far more likely to be a disaster. Allowing yourself to consider what a relapse might look like and what you would do if it happens is much more effective than spending all your time thinking “don’t relapse.” Doing that can set up an obsession that can actually create cravings.

In addition to planning for a slip, having a strong recovery maintenance plan means adding good things into your life, including self-care, support groups and regularly scheduled fun (and safe) things to do. Pay close attention to distorted thoughts and practice awareness of situations that tend to cause thoughts and feelings which lead to relapse. Make sure you put this plan in writing and be prepared to focus on it daily for a long while. Recovery takes effort to maintain, but with a plan, you can get there.

Happy recovering!

Linda Lewis CADCII