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, and 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 “relapse” 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 faced a challenge they feel reluctant or incapable of dealing with. The challenge may be losing a job or relationship, a bout of depression or anxiety, and many other things that can happen in life. 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.
shutterstock_396908230Your loved one can 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 of relapse. 

It is heartbreaking knowing your loved one has relapsed after they have accomplished long-term sobriety. Please 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, please don’t assume they have relapsed, have an open and honest conversation about it first. If they have relapsed and it’s obvious, well, that’s another story.

How Should I Confront Them?

When you feel your loved one has relapsed, you need to keep in mind how they feel. 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 begin to sap their motivation.

They will need all the love and support they can get from you 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 judgment and are only there to help. Tell them not to 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 will 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 that 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 to surround themselves with people who understand. The simplicity of your loved one having an encouraging and supportive group of people at a meeting will be an enormous help to their recovery. Before the meeting, please encourage them to talk about their feelings. People in the meeting are also willing to listen and help without judgment.

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 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 on the path to recovery. When you assist, please don’t take it too 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! Having patience, recovering from a relapse, and returning to their normal self doesn’t happen overnight. Make it clear that you don’t judge them and only want the best for them. Relapse prevention doesn’t always work at first and you can express that you know it’s hard.

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 as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, you learn how to effectively support your loved ones 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 you have to understand that they face the very real threat of relapse as a person in recovery. 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. If you’re ready to help them combat this relapse with a 90-day program, call us today for more information.