How to Respond
When someone you care about gets clean and sober it’s awesome. There may be hallelujahs sung, joy filling the air, and relief from us friends and family who’d all thought we’d seen enough. But all too often reality rears its ugly head in the form of a potentially devastating and heart breaking relapse. Anger and disappointment are hard to avoid. But for those struggling with a loved one in addiction, it’s crucial to remember, all may not be lost. For the most part, say the experts, relapse should be considered a part of the recovery process. While all of our reactions and situations may be different, it’s important to be prepared in the likely event that a relapse occurs.
Here are four things to remember as you help support your loved one through a relapse.
1. Be Supportive.
Being supportive during a relapse might not mean what you think. A relapse is not a positive thing, but it can be a learning experience with the right mindset. So while you shouldn’t condone the act of drinking or using again, recast the event into one of encouragement; sticking with the plan, no matter how hard it might be. As disappointed as you might be in the relapse, imagine how your loved one feels. Encourage them not to look at recovery as an “all or nothing” approach, knowing there will be bad days and good days. What’s important is that they stay committed to the process. Remind them of the healthy changes seen in their life and that a relapse doesn’t have to mean a long-term return to using. You aren’t responsible for how they respond to this information, but supporting them in the way of recovery might give them another reason to stick with it.
2. Talk it Out.
As a support person, you have a right to be honest, upset or disappointed. Your feelings and concerns might vary depending on the situation or your loved one’s history with addiction, but it’s important to be honest. You might have an easier time expressing your concerns in a counseling session or with a third party who is safe and neutral. No matter how you choose to express yourself, it’s important to remember that emotions are okay – and its fine if you have them. As your loved one works to come back from a relapse, modeling healthy behavior, emotion and honesty will help set an example. No matter what happens, you won’t be carrying the weight of the relapse on your shoulders and, instead, you’ll be living transparently and honestly to the best of your ability.
3. Keep That Fence Up.
The importance of boundaries in addiction and recovery can never be overstated. It’s important to realize that being supportive of your loved one doesn’t mean you need to ignore or normalize a relapse. As you show support and honesty towards your loved one, consider if it’s time to put up boundaries. Whether this means distancing yourself for a period of time or avoiding certain conversations, topics or situations with your loved one, you’re free to make the decisions you need to make to stay healthy and resilient.
4. There’s Help. Use it.
Your loved one shouldn’t have to deal with a relapse on their own—and neither should you. If your loved one has relapsed, having a list of resources on hand could be beneficial. Hate to say, but another trip back to rehab might be in the offing. For many drinkers and users, relapses can occur when they neglect their 12 step programs or don’t use them at all. Encouraging them back into “the rooms” should be a priority. But, being supportive doesn’t mean you have to navigate the waters of recovery for your loved one – empower them with the information, but give them the next step of action. And just as you’re equipping your loved one with resources, have resources of your own, too. Whether this is Al-anon, a self-care day or a family support group, having help during your loved ones’ relapse can help you process the situation and not let it consume you.
It can never be stated enough; addiction is a family disease. And as hard as it may seem, it needs to be treated as such.
From Your Friends at www.commonbondrehabcenter.com Santa Clarita, CA