Starting Recovery With Relapse Prevention (RP)

The First Attempt At Recovery Doesn’t Have To End In Relapse


Many people mistakenly believe that relapse is an inevitable part of recovery – but they’re wrong! Relapse can be prevented. It’s as easy adding some special skills to your initial recovery tool kit. Part of this process is learning how to stop relapse quickly should it occur.

The idea of relapse prevention was controversial and revolutionary in the 1970’s. In 2012, many common relapse prevention tools have proven their value, even for people entering recovery for the first time.

Preventing relapse, of course, has always been a concern to recovering people and those who love them. Over the years, relapse prevention has grown and expanded to include a wide variety of useful recovery tools. Relapse prevention methods have become a widely accepted and effective method. Two mistaken beliefs about relapse prevention, however, persists in the minds of many people.

  • Relapse Prevention (RP) is something you do at the end of initial treatment;
  • RP should be reserved only for people who have attempted recovery and returned to addictive use.

This workbook is designed to challenge these mistaken beliefs. It will show how primary recovery and relapse prevention skills can be seamlessly brought together into a practical series of exercises. The end product is a quick guide to staying in recovery during the most difficult early days of abstinence. It teaches skills that will help people to start feeling better and improve the quality of their life from the first day. Many people have started using these exercises during detox and found they really helped.

Primary Recovery and Relapse Prevention Can Work Together

Relapse is most likely to occur in the first ninety days of recovery. During these critical first ninety days, recovering people are just getting past the worst symptoms of acute withdrawal. Then, when they think the worst is over, they start to feel foggy, irritable, and over reactive. Their brain is still reeling from long-term brain dysfunction that results in mood swings, the inability to think clearly and emotions that swing from over reaction to numbness. It’s called Post Acute Withdrawal (PAW).

There are triggers or cues that activate the relapse process. These triggers are usually sensory – something people see, hear, touch, taste, or smell. It can be something that reminds them of the euphoric effects of addiction. It can also be a cue that activates painful and unresolved memories from the recent losses caused by addiction or memories of unresolved traumatic events in childhood or earlier in life.

The trigger activates a sequence of automatic and unconscious reactions that are difficult to manage. In this workbook we will call them early relapse warning signs and high-risk situations. When they occur, many recovering people don’t know what’s happening or what to do. As a result, they feel powerless and confused. Their stress goes up. They start to slide down as they  develop progressive problems, confusion, obsession, compulsion, craving and drug seeking behaviors. The pain and problems escalate until the recovering person feels so bad that the ask themselves a question: “If this is recovery, why bother?” They are so miserable in recovery that addictive use seems like an acceptable choice. This can all happen in the first days or weeks of recovery.

Trigger –> Stress –> Obsession –> Compulsion –> Craving –> Drug seeking –> Use

This is why so many people benefit from a custom designed package of both primary recovery and relapse prevention that they can use from day one. The good news is that a combination of primary recovery and relapse prevention, can help them make it through.

The workbook, Starting Recovery With Relapse Prevention, presents a simple and easy to understand set of organized exercises. When taken together they cover the critical steps of a primary recovery plan for addiction. The exercises in this workbook guide people through the basic steps of both primary recovery and relapse prevention as a seamlessly organized system. These exercises teach a powerful set of skills that can support people through the critical first days of recovery. It’s not an easy or magical process. It takes hard work and the willingness to ask for and accept help. To avoid relapse in these critical first weeks of recovery usually takes an intensive effort. Recovery and relapse prevention become job one. People need to do the right things right from the start. This workbook shows them how.

The Language of Recovery

Addiction is a complicated illness with physical, psychological, social and spiritual symptoms. Conversational English doesn’t have language to adequately describes these symptoms. As a result people don’t understand what is happening to them and start to feel crazy and out of control.  Starting Recovery With Relapse Prevention defines a basic language of recovery. Nothing fancy – just enough to get started without getting confused.

To take charge of the recovery process takes a plan. This workbook integrates a daily planning process into the review and completion of the exercises. It focuses upon making a simple morning plan, starting the first day you are able to, and doing and evening review. This gives people a daily “to do list” that let’s them put first things first. It shows them how to make recovery and relapse prevention the job Job #1. Stephen Covey, in his book The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, puts it this way: “The main thing, is keeping the main thing, the main thing.” Staying away from alcohol and other drugs and building basic recovery skills – these are the main things.

Learning About What’s Wrong With You

It is important to understand and recognize the symptoms of addiction. Completing this workbook won’t give anyone a Master’s Degree in Addiction Science, but it will point out, in clear and easy-to-understand language, the main things that people need to know early recovery and provides a quick and easy to use self-assessment check-list.

Managing Stress! Is  Not A Luxury  – It Is A Critical Survival Skill

High stress without the ability to manage it is the number cause of relapse in early As your stress goes up – the newly sober brain shuts down. Learning to manage stress lowers the risk of craving and automatic drug seeking behaviors. Stress management is a critical skill for getting through early recovery. So, Starting Recovery With Relapse Prevention, explains stress, gives a stress self-monitoring tool, and teaches an easy to use science based deep breathing exercise that is so effective it taught to police officers, combat soldiers, and emergency first responders.

Understanding Post Acute Withdrawal (PAW)

The brain doesn’t instantly bounce back when people break out of their pattern of addiction. The pleasure chemistry of the gets disrupted and brain keep bouncing back-and-forth like a Ping-Pong ball at a world-class Ping-Pong tournament. This is a prolonged period of withdrawal is called post Acute Withdrawal (PAW). The workbook explains the symptoms, what causes them, and some guidelines for managing them. Just knowing that these symptoms occur help people to lower their stress by knowing they are experiencing normal symptoms of recovery.

Managing Denial

Denial is a normal and natural process.  It happens automatically and unconsciously when most people are having serious problems. Just as the human body has an immune system to protect it from dangerous physical organisms, the human mind has a mental immune system to protect it from overwhelming pain and problems. That mental immune system is called a psychological defense system. The workbook describes it as a denial system. The workbook gives a quick users guide to denial and some basic steps for recognizing and managing it. This includes a brief denial management check-list

Craving Management:

In early recovery, people can be overwhelmed by powerful urges to use alcohol or other drugs (craving). A three-part model for understanding craving (Setups, Trigger Events, and The Craving Cycle) is presented. The model is simple, yet effective. It takes denial management into the down to the level of recovery skills that can be taught and learned.

High Risk Situation Check List

The last step on the road to addictive use is a high-risk situation. Recovering people put themselves around people, places, and things where they have no recovery support and addictive use is support and encouraged. A High Risk Situation Checklist is provided as well as a simple set of skills for identifying managing them.

Preparing A Foundation for Long-term Recovery

Starting Recovery With Relapse Prevention then provides a series of skills that prepare people for more in-depth cognitive restructuring as they get through the difficult first weeks and begin moving ahead into building a sober and responsible way of life. The simple two straight-forward skills: recognizing old thoughts, feelings, urges, and actions related to craving, drug-seeking behavior, and addictive use ; and developing new and more effective ways of thinking, feeling, managing urges, and acting in sober and responsible ways.

RP_STOP_BUTTONSo, there it is in a nutshell – the core content of my new book: Starting Recovery With Relapse Prevention.  I was once told that the smarter we become, the less time it takes to explain what we. When we fully grasp the totality of our life’s we will be able to write it on the back of a stage stamp. This workbook isn’t a postage stamp. Back in 1978 the Relapse Prevention Workbook consisted of two volumes, over 200 pages each. Starting Recovery With Relapse Prevention isn’t quite a postage stamp. short and easy to use new workbook is easier to understand and far more effective.

Organized Knowledge Is The Power To Recover 

The recovery exercises contained in Starting Recovery With Relapse Prevention are:

Exercise #1: The Morning Plan and Evening Review

Exercise #2: Understanding & Recognizing Addiction

– Addiction Symptom Checklist

Exercise #3: Making the Recovery Decision

Exercise #4: Making A Commitment to Abstinence

– Making A Formal Commitment To Recovery

Exercise #5: Managing Stress

– The Stress Thermometer

– What the Stress Levels Mean

– Measuring Levels of Stress

– Improving Stress Awareness

– Monitoring Your Stress – Body Awareness

– Reducing Your Stress – Relaxed Breathing

Exercise #6: Managing Denial

– Monitoring The Feelings That Drive Denial

– Recognizing Your Denial Patterns

– Stopping Your Denial

Exercise #7: Managing Craving

– Identifying and Managing Trigger Events for Craving

– Breaking The Craving Cycle

– Preventing Craving

– Stopping Craving Episodes

– Exercise #8: High Risk Situations That Cause Craving

Exercise # 9: Managing Thoughts

Exercise #10: Managing Feelings

Exercise #11: Managing Behavior

Exercise #12: Evaluating Your Progress

After completing this workbook under the guidance of a properly trained addiction professional, most recovering people feel confident that they will be able to do what the need to do to stay in recovery. Most addiction professional find that this workbook makes their job much easier by providing clear guidelines for homework preparation, and agenda for psychoeducation programs, and clear guidelines for use in treatment planning.

Reference: Relapse Prevention is listed as an evidenced-based intervention in the National Registry for Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP).


Starting Recovery With Relapse Prevention
A Workbook By Terence To Gorski

Get it From Gorski Books

Get it from Amazon

5 Responses to Starting Recovery With Relapse Prevention (RP)

  1. Michael C says:

    I never knew that it was treatment that led to relapse! Also, the inadequate proof reading of the post really detracts from the message. Please provide references for the evidence

    • Terry Gorski says:

      Michael C, Thank you for you comments about proof reading. I will carefully review the post. Specific feedback would be helpful. I found several problems and corrected them I am always open to more feedback.
      I don’t understand you comment: “I never knew it was treatment that led to relapse.” I read the blog and cannot find anywhere where I said anything like that. Perhaps I am too close to the work to see where I made this erroneous implications.

      This blog was talking about the benefits of integrating the use of Relapse Prevention techniques into the primary addiction recovery process. Relapse rates are highest during the first ninety days of recovery. There is evidence that relapse prevention can lower these relapse rates.
      Relapse Prevention is listed as an evidenced-based intervention in the National Registry for Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP). ON THE INTERNET:
      Thank you for your comment.

  2. You are a pioneer and the field owes you a large debt. Bringing relapse prevention into primary treatment and early recovery only makes sense. There is one factor that may need more extensive attention: motivation to keep using the skills, including the skills for renewing motivation itself. So many of our clients leave treatment with insufficient realization that this is a lifelong task and these tools must be practiced and refreshed continuously. This lack of conviction leads to not using the skills learned in treatment. And that often leads to relapse. If this perspective interests you, I invite you to visit my website at Also, see my article in December issue of Counselor Magazine.

    • Terry Gorski says:

      My attempts to meet this need is called Denial Management Counseling (DMC). There is both a workbook and a Professional Guide explaining how to integrate DMC into the counseling process at all stages of recovery. Unfortunately, catching denial early and teaching about it before it happens are the only tools I know that can help. Thank you for the question.

  3. Thankfulness to my father who stated to me concerning
    this blog, this blog is truly awesome.

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