Relapse and Recovery
You have seen this before, it seems like a never ending cycle and all you want for them is a happy, joyous, and free life. You have noticed your loved one has stopped making progress in their recovery and has not been to a meeting, been in the book, or talked with their sponsor. They have been acting strange, it has been a year since they picked up and they are hanging out with “that” person again, when you know that person isn’t strong in their recovery.
You now feel lost, hopeless and not sure how this could happen. You thought the words, “I think he or she relapsed” would never come to mind. You don’t understand, they were doing so well, or at least you thought they were. Relapse is a difficult part of recovery but it can happen to anyone and it is nothing to beat yourself up over.
Why Does Relapse Happen?
Your loved one may have suffered a relapse because they have been faced with a challenge they feel reluctant or incapable of dealing with. This can be something like making amends to people they would rather not contact or working with a new comer. The lack of progress made in their program will make their life feel uncomfortable and they’ll start to become irritable. You’ll start to notice old behaviors begin to surface again when they turn to dysfunctional coping mechanisms to deal with how they are feeling.
It is possible for your loved one to bury their internal pain, but it will continue to manifest inside them creating emotional instability. They will start presenting angry or agitate sides of themselves and they will become unpredictable and seek isolation. If you would like more information on relapse and how it can be prevented read The Warning Signs.
It is heartbreaking knowing your loved one has relapsed after they have accomplished long-term sobriety. Don’t be hard on them, they are already beating themselves up about it. Try and help them by talking with them, getting them to a meeting, or reading a daily reflection. However, don’t assume they have relapsed, have an open and honest conversation with them about it first.
How Should I Confront Them?
When you feel your loved one has relapsed you need to keep in mind about how they are feeling. They are expected to feel guilty, remorseful, and embarrassed about their slip up. They are undoubtedly going to feel negative and feel like they disappointed you. If they continue to be overwhelmed with embarrassment it will be begin to sap their motivation.
They are going to need all the love and support they can get from you in order to gain the strength to get clean and sober once again. Ask them if they would like to come and talk, make them feel comfortable, remind them you have no room for judgement and are only there to help. Tell them to not be ashamed, they have only faced a small hindrance, and the only real failure in life is giving up.
Let them know that they don’t have to feel embarrassed—instead help them increase their efforts and find their triggers, that way they stand a better chance of leading a happy, healthy life. They will more than likely feel as if they have taken a step back and found themselves at the starting point all over again—which is true. The only day anybody has in sobriety is today.
How Do I Offer the Right Help?
It is going to be hard to find the right thing to say when talking to your loved one about their relapse. You may fear if you bring up your reservations they will feel disrespected or overlook your concerns. You are going to be confused and unsure how to be loving and supportive. If you don’t know how to start, begin by asking for honesty and listen.
When listening to them remember, having a shoulder to lean on is much more important than giving them advice- you are not there to try and “fix” them; ask if they would like to go to a meeting, so they are surrounded by people who understand. The simplicity of your loved one being surrounded by an encouraging and supportive group of people at a meeting will be an enormous help to their recovery. Before the meeting encourage them to talk about their feelings because, as they already know, the people in the meeting are also willing to listen and help without judgement.
If a meeting appears too much to them, offer to call their sponsor or read the book with them. Several people who have suffered a relapse tend to want to isolate themselves — they don’t want to be in big groups of people. Keep offering help and express your willingness to listen.
Your loved one has a special relationship with their sponsor. Sponsors give so much encouragement and hope. Since they both have fought the same battle, a sponsor knows how to use language that your loved one would be more equipped to listen to and appreciate. If a sponsor is unavailable, open the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the book will speak to them in a way no human can.
Do I Trust Them Again?
The most important thing you can do for a loved one who has suffered a relapse, is give unconditional support and love. Always show compassion and be patient–this isn’t going to be easy because you will have to constantly battle their moodiness and bad attitude as they attempt to get back in the saddle. When you provide assistance don’t take it to far and unintentionally enable them. Help them make the right decisions, find good meetings, and check up on them without being pushy — respect their boundaries.
It’s going to be frustrating to watch your loved one struggle – especially if it seems as if their progress has stalled. Just have patience! Have patience, recovering from a relapse and them going back to their normal self doesn’t happen overnight. Make it clear that you don’t judge them and only want the best for them.
Seek Help for Yourself
You can only help others if you help yourself. Look for a local Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meeting; the relationship and trust between you and your loved one will start to change for the positive. In supportive meetings such al Al- Anon or Nar-Anon you learn how to effectively support your loved one as they struggle through a tough time. Sometimes what an addict need is a little tough love.
Relapse Can Happen to Anyone
It can be hard to watch someone you care about go through a difficult time but what you have to understand that as a person in recovery they face the very real threat of relapse. All the roads they walk have forks, relapse or recovery. It’s up to them which road they choose but you should be prepared to travel either. When you pack for the adventure be sure to leave your judgment behind – the extra baggage will tire both of you out. A Better Today equips you for those difficult times ahead, if you complete our 90-day program there won’t be any challenge you can’t face.
Change can be intimidating and can frighten even the most fortified people, especially if that change is your life. You may be questioning yourself, your ability to change, or your need for treatment all together, however, A Better Today guarantees, after completion of their 90-day program, 30 additional days of treatment if you relapse. As much as you hope that relapse won’t be a part of your story, no one can see the future. No matter the course, A Better Today will be here for you. The journey won’t be an easy one but if you prepare adequately it won’t be an impossible one.