Addiction Coping and Recovery Overcoming Addiction Maintaining Abstinence and Preventing Relapse The Third Stage of Rehab is Maintaining Abstinence By Buddy T Buddy T Facebook Twitter Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Learn about our editorial process Updated on April 01, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE Medically reviewed by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Developing a Drug-Free Lifestyle. © Getty Images If you sought professional treatment for your drug or alcohol problem and managed to achieve abstinence for about three months, you have probably entered the third stage of rehab or recovery, known as maintaining abstinence. If you have been clean and sober for 90 days, you now need to put the tools that you learned in early abstinence to work toward maintaining your sobriety and avoiding relapse. Maintaining abstinence is the third of four stages of recovery or rehab defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse: Treatment initiation Early abstinence Maintenance of abstinence Advanced recovery Continuing the Lifestyle After 90 days, you are probably no longer in the residential rehab facility, if you received inpatient treatment, and you have entered the follow-up or continuing phase of your rehab. Although you still have regular contact with your counselor and attend support group meetings, maintaining your recovery is basically up to you. In order to maintain abstinence, it is important that you: Avoid environmental triggers.Recognize your own psychosocial and emotional triggers.Develop healthy behaviors to handle life's stresses. Vigilance Against Relapse People get in trouble when they let their guard down after their early-abstinence success. It is important that you not take your sobriety for granted and that you recognize the power of your addiction. Maintaining a recovery-oriented attitude is critical. It is also important that you continue your counseling sessions, your participation in support groups, and that you remain honest with yourself and others about your feelings and thoughts. Changes in attitudes, feelings, and behaviors can quickly lead you to a relapse. Recognizing the Relapse Process A relapse does not begin when you pick up a drink or a drug. It's a gradual process marked by negative changes in your attitude, feelings, and behaviors. Your follow-up counselor will work with you to help you recognize these warning signs and develop a plan to change directions when you start heading down the path toward relapse. Research has shown that an alcohol or drug relapse is preceded by a recognizable set of warning signs or steps that you can learn to recognize and therefore avoid. Your counselor will help you recognize in your own life the distinct steps or phases that occur prior to a full-blown relapse. Developing a Healthy Plan If you remain in professional follow-up rehab counseling, your counselor will try to help you identify situations in your life where you may be starting to deviate from your healthy recovery plan. But more importantly, they will help you set up concrete, behavioral changes that will pull you out of the relapse process. Some of the areas your continuing care counseling will address include the following. Each of these articles outlines why these steps are important to your recovery and how you can achieve these goals: Healthy Relationships Developing a Drug-Free Lifestyle Managing Anger Exercise and Nutrition Employment and Money Management Substituting Addictions Controlling Cravings With Medication If you find yourself in the downward relapse spiral, do something different! Go to more support group meetings, spend time with others who support your recovery, maintain a healthy structure in your life, make sure you are in a drug-free environment, and avoid external triggers. Take positive action to resolve any relationship, personal or work-related problems that are causing you stress. Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. National Institute on Drug Abuse. "An Individual Drug Counseling Approach to Treat Cocaine Addiction: The Collaborative Cocaine Treatment Study Model." Accessed May 2009. National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide." Updated 2007. By Buddy T Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Get Treatment for Addiction Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.