An estimated 40 to 60% of people with addiction relapse, but author and clinician Shawn Leadem, LCSW, CSAT, CMAT, has a message of hope: \u201cRelapse doesn\u2019t have to be part of your story.\u201d Together with his father and co-author, John Leadem, LCSW, CSAT-S, CMAT, Shawn compiled insights, practice wisdom, anecdotes and practical tools for creating a personalized relapse prevention plan in their book \u201cAn Ounce of Prevention: A Course in Relapse Prevention.\u201d \u201cThere is no judgment when relapse is chosen as an alternative to living through discomfort,\u201d Shawn says. \u201cBut it\u2019s important to realize it\u2019s not enough to \u2018get back on the horse.\u2019 Relapse is not like falling off a horse, or what the seniors in the addiction recovery industry would call the \u2018water wagon.\u2019 It is usually the rider and not the horse that is the problem. The problem is in the way you were riding the horse or supporting your sobriety.\u201d The Leadems\u2019 perspective is controversial in some recovery and professional communities. While they are supportive of any plan that will lessen the painful consequences of addiction, they are not harm reductionists. Furthermore, they believe that relapsing is nothing like spilling milk and that there is plenty to cry about. Rather than reassuring people that relapse is a normal part of the addiction recovery process, Shawn says, \u201cRelapse is totally preventable. It isn\u2019t part of recovery; it\u2019s part of active sickness.\u201d This philosophy is informed by decades of personal and professional experience gathered by Shawn and his father. \u201cI have a deep affinity for addicted individuals and their loved ones, as well as those profoundly touched by trauma,\u201d Shawn says. As an infant, Shawn had a life-threatening congenital heart defect that required invasive medical intervention, which resulted in trauma. \u201cI later found myself feeling violated and enraged with little understanding as to why,\u201d he recalls. \u201cI pushed away the people who could\u2019ve helped me heal, and the fear and pain got bigger.\u201d Shawn discovered his drug of choice, which eased the pain in the beginning and then stopped working. It wasn\u2019t until he was emotionally stabilized in his 20s that he could begin working through his early-life trauma and develop healthier coping tools. By his early 20s, Shawn had \u201cbeen to way too many funerals\u201d in his family system due to various forms of addiction. His father, John, spent 40 years watching people come and go in 12-step communities and began to recognize patterns in feelings and events leading up to drug relapse. Here are two of the Leadems\u2019 core discoveries about drug relapse: #1 Relapse is a process, not an event. In \u201cAn Ounce of Prevention,\u201d the Leadems offer therapeutic lessons so that people with addiction can \u201csee relapse coming\u201d and take action to stop it. They explore the anatomy of the drug relapse process and the issues that make people vulnerable to relapse. They describe the following phases of drug relapse: \tUncomfortable feelings \u2013 People relapse for one reason: to change the way they feel. Addicts return to their drug of choice because they have chosen to not address uncomfortable feelings, such as anger, fear, love and affection, sufficiently or in healthy ways. \tTime travel \u2013 This is a physical, emotional and intellectual phenomenon that can occur when someone encounters an emotional stressor, which is intensified by previous life experiences. \tFragmentation \u2013 Fragmentation is the process in which the way we think, feel, speak and act does not match up. During this phase of relapse, the person will present a distorted picture of who they are and what they are trying to communicate, which can increase their risk for drug relapse. \tGathering justification \u2013 The addicted person blames other people and situations in an attempt to make it OK to relapse. Since the conflict is mostly internal, this phase often goes undetected by others. \tEliminating the witnesses \u2013 The addicted person doesn\u2019t want to acknowledge that they\u2019re in danger, so they push others away. Other people\u2019s input and concern reminds them where the relapse process is taking them. \tDry drunk \u2013 This phenomenon occurs when someone has stopped using alcohol or other drugs but still thinks and acts the same way they did during active addiction. Relapse is likely unless the person addresses the underlying issues that led to substance abuse. \tRelapse \u2013 The addict has made the decision to return to their drug(s) of choice. Each phase of drug relapse has cognitive, emotional, spiritual and behavioral symptoms. \u201cEvery individual is unique and so are their relapse symptoms,\u201d Shawn says. \u201cOur goal is to guide people through a series of tasks so they\u2019ll know what their individual relapse process looks like.\u201d #2 Drug relapse can be identified and prevented. \u201cBecause relapse is a process, people can find ways to cope with discomfort prior to returning to their drug of choice,\u201d says Shawn. In their book, the Leadems list over 70 drug relapse symptoms along with corresponding interventions to manage those symptoms. Next, readers identify the obstacles that have gotten in the way of eliminating their symptoms. For example, in the \u201celiminating the witnesses\u201d phase, one of Shawn\u2019s symptoms was cutting out people who raised his level of internal awareness by using sarcasm. \u201cI used sarcasm as a buffer,\u201d he recalls. \u201cPeople would back away from me so I could avoid getting close without completely burning a bridge.\u201d An obstacle he faced is the fear that if he let his guard down, people would start mistreating him like they did when he was growing up. Experiences such as these taught Shawn that it is critically important to overcome obstacles so people can deal with relapse symptoms effectively. Since the risk of relapse is highest in the first 90 days of sobriety, the Leadems guide people to project 90 days into the future and develop specific plans around how they\u2019ll cope with any uncomfortable people, situations, events or feelings they\u2019ll experience. \u201cIf the anniversary of your father\u2019s death is approaching and you\u2019ve never made it through one sober,\u201d says Shawn, \u201cit\u2019s important to have a plan based on everything you\u2019ve learned about your particular symptoms to avoid resorting to your drug of choice.\u201d The most challenging part of creating a relapse prevention plan is figuring out which interventions to use for each symptom. \u201cPeople often say \u2018just do the next right thing,\u2019 but it\u2019s hard to know what the next right thing is,\u201d Shawn says. \u201cI can identify sarcasm but that doesn\u2019t tell me how to stop doing it.\u201d The Leadems provide a menu of interventions people can try until they figure out what works best for them. They also guide people to find new interventions that are unique to them so they can manage stress beyond the first 90 days. Relapse Prevention Tips for Families Shawn likens addiction to an earthquake. \u201cIf you\u2019re in striking distance, you\u2019re going to be deeply impacted by it,\u201d he says. \u201cRelapse hurts everyone who is in the epicenter.\u201d The Leadems, recognizing the heartbreak and suffering families of addicts experience, advise loved ones to: Be part of the plan. Many people use \u201cAn Ounce of Prevention\u201d with their sponsor, treatment team or on their own, but it can also be effective to work through it with a spouse or loved one. \u201cWe don\u2019t promote that a loved or spouse should assume the role of a guardian or source of authority. But they can go through the course together and understand the completed relapse prevention plan so that they know when their loved one is heading for trouble before their partner even sees it,\u201d says Shawn. \u201cIf the addicted person is honest and committed and lets you in, you\u2019ll see relapse coming from a mile away by working as a team.\u201d Heal your wounds. \u201cIn the mid to late 70s, the term codependency came into vogue,\u201d Shawn explains. \u201cThis term suggests that family members are somehow responsible for, or as addicted as, their addicted loved one. We see it differently. The unhealthy fear and powerlessness that loved ones experience is a form of trauma \u2013 they are injured in both large and small ways.\u201d Rather than feeling guilty, loved ones need their own recovery process that factors in the trauma they\u2019ve endured and helps them address their own unhealthy coping strategies. For many people, the Leadems\u2019 approach to relapse prevention is freeing. Relapse is entirely preventable and there\u2019s a roadmap to guide you through. With a plan in place, you can start your recovery with hope and healthy self-confidence.