What to do when your loved one relapse

When you have a child, sibling, parent or close friend go to rehab, it’s the greatest joy, the hope for possible freedom from the chains of addiction. This joy may be short-lived if relapse happens. According to statistics in the US, relapse happens from 40% to 60% at some point for people who are seeks recovery.

Helping a loved through recovery requires you to include a knowledge of what to do when your loved one relapses and not be blindsided unprepared when it happens.

Why do addicts Relapse: Understand Addiction Recovery process

Addiction disease is a long term disease that may have several relapses in treatment process. Once you have enough understanding of the treatment process, you will be prepared to identify relapse warning signs, be prepared on what to do if it happens and also be emotionally prepared to handle the relapse if it happens.

As the family is frustrated and even disappointed, the recovering addict that has relapsed knows of the frustration and they will feel bad when they relapse. This is not the time to blame them. This is not the time for expressing your negative feelings. Find ways to deal with your frustrations to be supportive positively. It’s okay to not discuss the relapse with them if it will lead to a negative conversation. But don’t try to make them feel better about themselves either. Their ability to experience guilt and remorse is an important part of the recovery, let them experience it without your interference.

Addressing Triggers:

The Addiction recovery plan need to include a drug relapse prevention plan. When my brother relapsed, it was probably the biggest surprise for my family and myself. We thought we had the recovery plan covered, but failed to pick up on a few key areas that we could have prepared better or understand the expectation. When the relapse happened, we thought the recovery had failed. This was thankfully not the case.

Some triggers are obvious like old friends who are still using, some emotions and environment. We also removed alcohol and drugs from the home and tried to avoid situations with alcohol even on family gatherings. What we didn’t count on is some of the close family members being triggers. This was probably the hardest trigger to deal with as you can’t change other people, especially if they are not committed to the recovering person. Much as it’s hard to address all triggers, it’s possible to address any of them as they come up.

The best way to prepare for the hidden triggers is to have the recovering person understand the relapse triggers coping skills and have someone to call at any time the triggers are hard to cope with.

Accountability with support when loved one relapses

The immediate reaction for most people is to help the person who has relapsed. This is exactly what my family did. Some of us members made excuses for the reasons for relapse and also shifted blame to the people who had put him in the situation to have a drink. This was probably easier to deal with but it’s the very wrong thing to do. When we called the counselor, she wanted him to take accountability for his actions.

What was hard was that there was no way to have a conversation once he was high and all the hope and confidence was gone. Some part of the frustration turns to anger and that can push the conversation to a much harder direction. The best way to handle it is to wait until they are sober enough to have any conversation. Have a sober discussion to continue the motivation of the relapsing person need to get needed help for the relapse. It’s okay to not discuss the relapse at all if it generates negative emotions.

We had to get my brother reach out to the counselor themselves and made the appointment to go see them. This was so they had accountability and also because it was hard to discuss the issue without being negative and having a professional do it was a better option. The best part was the center he had gone to have a relapse plan and counseling with no additional cost. If this is not available for you, have your Person contact an addiction counselor or someone who has experience with addiction that they can talk to.

Get Professional help immediately after relapse

Part of the reason that the relapse happens is that the recovering person is not yet fully well and they still need additional treatment. There is still need for professional help and talking to professional counselor is not only the best thing to do, it’s also critical to do before it escalate. This was easy for my family to deal with as my brother was willing to talk to the counselors.

In the event that the person does not want to talk to the counselor, it’s critical for the supporting person or the family to seek professional help to get through this difficult and critical period.

If you have a family member that won’t get help, get the help yourself to be able to help and also be able to coach them to get the help eventually. There is a lot of information on line or see one of our reviews for a coaching program that would be of great help. There are others to quickly educate yourself to get a map on the complex process of recovery.

If you have any questions or any comment, feel free to leave them below.

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  1. I love the idea of letting them feel guilt and remorse without interfering. I have been guilty of interfering. I am in a strange situation, as my ex is trying to give up his addictions, and he broke up with me purely because of his addictions and how they affect me, however, on the odd occasion when we talk, he still speaks to me for advice. It’s extremely hard to know how to handle the situation, being only partly aware of what is going on for him, and I have never experienced what he is going through, nor am I trained to. I appreciate this post, thank you.

  2. Hi Zikora, I want to say thanks for this valuable information that many love ones of an addict may not be aware of. Personally, I knew that the relapse rate was fairly high among recovering addicts, but what I didn’t know was that it’s common for a recovering addict to have several relapses. 

    I have a girlfriend at work who is living with an alcoholic who has had 4 relapses in the last year and a half, and each time, she gets more and more despondent and hopeless. But the thing is, he will not go to AA. He drinks to the point that he has to be hospitalized, and each time he says it scared him so much he will definitely quit. He’s been to detox centers twice.

    She is trying to handle all of this by herself, and I just listen to her vent, but I didn’t really know what advice to give her. But now I do! I think just giving her the link(s) to your site will make her feel much less alone. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with people who so desperately need it. There are many folks out there just trying to handle an addicted loved one all on there own, and that can be a doubly hopeless situation. 


  3. You bring up a lot of food for thought. I have never been in a situation where a family member has an addiction who needs rehab. Hence my heart goes out to families that do. It seems that it is hard to avoid periods of joy when the afflicted member seeks help. When they have a relapse the sadness among the other family members must be intense. 

    It never occurred to me how other people could be so heartless to trigger the relapse by using or drinking in front of the person needing rehab. I found it sad that close family members lacked consideration about their relative who needed all the support and encouragement he could get. it was heartwarming that some members realized that the recovery plan had not failed. Also the brother was open to counselling. 

    You did a good job in discussing the options if the subject wasn’t interested in counseling. That family members could seek counseling to cope and even help the afflicted was a wise choice. 

    Thanks for sharing what today is a common problem with all the opioid addictions caused by using hard pain relievers. Hopefully alternate means to address this problem using CBD Oils will be legally approved everywhere to mitigate this major problem. 

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