How Can I Help a Loved One Who Has Relapsed? What Methods Should Be Used?
It can be heartbreaking when a loved one has a relapse. You want to help, but what should you do? Relapse is not uncommon, especially in early recovery. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than half of those who get sober experience relapse at some point. Many substance abusers relapse multiple times before attaining a lasting sobriety. The most helpful thing you can do to help a loved one who has relapsed is to remain supportive, but not fall into the trap of enabling.
Relapse Is Not Failure
Relapse does not mean failure. Those who slip are not hopeless. Substance abuse is a chronic disease. Relapse can occur at any time, even for those with an active recovery program. The best course of action is for the substance abuser to return to recovery as soon as possible. That usually means calling a sponsor or a sober buddy. It can mean going back into rehab or attending a 12-Step meeting and asking for help.
Stay Away From Shame and Blame
Blaming or shaming your loved one does more harm than good. It’s natural for an addict who relapses to feel shame and guilt. Trying to make them feel even worse won’t help the situation. At the same time, don’t make excuses. If shame and guilt motivate your loved one to get back into recovery, it can be a very positive thing. Don’t blame yourself either. You are powerless over your loved one and powerless over the disease of addiction. If your loved one relapsed following rehab, don’t blame the treatment center. Rehab is only a preparation for sobriety. To stay sober, the addict has to do the work.
It’s easy to go into a tailspin when a loved one slips. However, you will be more helpful if you remain calm and centered instead of losing your grip. Be supportive, be present, but if you want to help a loved one who has relapsed, accept that you cannot control anything except yourself.
Take Care of Yourself
You can’t help someone else unless you help yourself. If your loved one won’t return to recovery, you have to manage your feelings about it. Getting counseling or attending a family support group like Al-anon can help with feelings of powerlessness when a loved one has a slip. You can help a loved one who has relapsed by telling them you will support them if they return to recovery, but that you’re unwilling to provide support if they refuse to get help.
Avoid The Enabling Trap
Don’t fall into enabling mode. That means don’t provide financial support, bail the addict out of trouble, or try to fix the consequences he or she creates while in relapse mode. It is usually when a substance abuser is confronted with the negative consequences of using that they become most ready to seek help.
Accept That It’s Not Your Problem
When an addict relapses, it’s their problem, not yours. An addict is responsible for his or her recovery. You can suggest returning to rehab or attending a 12-Step meeting, but remember that “you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.” You can help a loved one who has relapsed by letting them experience the negative consequences of a relapse and by holding them accountable for their actions.