You were so excited and relieved when your loved one entered treatment for their addiction. But now they’ve relapsed. They’re drinking or using drugs again even though they’d maintained their sobriety for some time.
The relapse doesn’t mean that treatment was ineffective. In fact, 65% to 70% of people experience relapse in the first 90 days after they finish treatment. Relapse can occur because of lack of confidence, inadequate coping skills, cravings, risky or tempting situations or as a response to stress.
Of course you want to see your loved one return to sobriety — but you may not know what to say or do during this fragile time. Keep reading to understand how you can best support your loved one after a relapse (as well as what you shouldn’t do).
Practical Ways to Be Helpful After Your Loved One’s Relapse
Being supportive to your loved one starts with treating them with acceptance rather than anger or judgment. Showing empathy toward your loved one is helpful to them, and it also helps you cope with your own feelings regarding their relapse.
If you understand what might trigger a relapse, you can help your loved one avoid those situations or people that encourage drinking or drug use. Be proactive about finding ways to help them change. You might do the research to find a treatment program or offer to help pay for it. Practical help, such as providing child care or transportation when needed, can also help your loved one succeed. Look for sober activities you can do together to make it less likely that they relapse again.
While you’re helping your loved one, make sure to take good care of yourself. You can easily become drained and exhausted because of the relapse of your friend or family member, so this is a time for self-care.
Things to Say After a Relapse
Because your loved one is fragile after a relapse, you may be worried about saying the wrong things. Focus on how strong they were to seek treatment in the first place. Staying sober is a monumental task, and your loved one’s success, even for a short time, is something to celebrate.
Remind your loved one that they have already overcome enormous obstacles, which shows they can do it again. Everyone makes mistakes, and your loved one needs your encouragement to focus on success rather than failure. Making yourself available to listen to them can be part of this encouragement — but always ask if they want to talk about their relapse rather than forcing them have a difficult conversation. You can also ask how you might help, as they may have suggestions you haven’t thought of.
Things You Shouldn’t Do or Say After a Relapse
If you say or do the wrong things after your loved one’s relapse, you might hinder their recovery. You may feel angry, but avoid expressing anger or frustration, as these are counterproductive to recovery. You should also avoid blaming them for the difficult disease they’re coping with. Shaming them for their behavior also doesn’t help them.
It’s all too easy to end up enabling your loved one during their recovery, especially in the event of a relapse. You may be tempted to make excuses for them or even take the blame for their relapse. Don’t deny that they have a problem or take on their responsibilities, which can help them avoid treatment. In addition, help your loved one by avoiding drinking or using drugs in their presence.
Seeking Help for Your Loved One
When your loved one is ready for help, you can connect them to treatment and support groups that can help prevent future relapses so they can reach their sobriety goals. At Hickory Treatment Centers, we offer treatment for people at all stages of addiction, recovery and relapse. Contact us today to see how we can help your loved one take the next courageous steps toward sobriety.