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How to Help Someone Who Has Relapsed

How to Help Someone Who Has Relapsed Resurgence Behavioral Health

Signs a Loved One Has Relapsed

When a loved one or friend relapses after being in drug recovery, it can be disappointing and tiring to you, and they may suffer from feelings of shame or regret. It might be difficult to admit that your loved one is experiencing a drug addiction relapse, or you may not see it at first.

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Some of the signs to look for that indicate your loved one has returned to alcohol abuse or drug abuse include:

  • Missing treatment sessions like therapy, meetings, and outpatient sessions, and distancing themselves from social support and family to hide substance abuse
  • Acting compulsively and doing impulsive things that bring pleasure without thoughts of the consequences
  • Sudden mood changes, with disproportionate anger or other emotional responses when confronted with uncomfortable situations or conflict
  • Being in denial or being defensive when you approach them about their secretive behavior, confining themselves that everything is fine
  • A change in their physical appearances, such as extreme weight loss or weight gain, lack of hygiene, watery red eyes or unexplained scabs and bruises
  • Ceasing hobbies and other activities they were enjoying while in recovery
  • Glorifying the “old days”, or understating the issues that happened in the past including how hard it was to quit the first time, indicating a disconnect from the reality of the situation
  • Asking to borrow money, or stealing things like electronics and jewelry to pawn for cash
  • Returning to hanging out with old friends and former acquaintances who are associated with drinking and drug use

Helping a Friend or Loved One After Relapse

When you are helping a friend or loved one after they relapse and start using drugs and alcohol again, it is important to take care of yourself first. If you are exhausted, stressed out, or frustrated, you will not be able to truly help others, and your own physical and mental health will suffer. Maintaining your well-being and energy levels when helping somebody deal with drug abuse and a substance use issue will allow you to be the best possible support system to your loved one. Some of the ways to practice self-care through this difficult time include:

  • Take quiet time for yourself, so you can practice meditation, mindfulness, self-care, and quiet reflection throughout the day
  • Look after your physical health needs, including eating well, getting exercise, and keeping regular doctor appointments
  • Continue living your social life as usual. Do not adjust your entire world to revolve around the addicted person, as that is not fair to you and will cause you to lose your own support group
  • Get a good night’s sleep, going to bed at a regular time each night. Even if you can’t fall asleep right away or things are not going well with your loved one, take that time to rest your body and your mind by lying in bed
  • Speak with a supportive friend about what you are experiencing. Sharing and receiving advice and support, brainstorming, and just venting can all feel good and take some of the load off of your shoulders
  • Have a plan ready in case an emergency happens, with a list of your loved one’s doctor, the hospital and social services, as well as trusted friends or neighbors you can reach out to if you need additional assistance

Confront the Problem

Do not ignore the fact that your friend or family member is using drugs or alcohol again. Being direct, supportive, and caring, while at the same time taking care of your own wellbeing is the best way to address the relapse. Remember, it is not your fault if your loved one relapses, and you do not need to be the one who controls or cures them.

Being supportive to your loved ones is helpful, but you also must not enable their behavior or allow the fear of losing them or provoking them to run your life. Some examples of enablement look like:

  • Calling in sick to work for them
  • Making excuses for their behavior
  • Ignoring sketchy behavior
  • Buying them drugs or alcohol
  • Loaning them money
  • Taking drugs or drinking with them
  • Taking over their responsibilities (childcare, housework, etc.)
  • Prioritizing their actions and issues over yourself and others

Anything you do that makes it easier for them to continue with their self-destructive actions is enabling them to continue using. It is important that an addict feels the consequences of their own actions, and although stopping enabling means making difficult choices, it is the right and caring thing to do.

Some tips to speaking with them about their relapse are:

  • Speak to them in a quiet and comfortable place, where you can have privacy
  • Use “I” statements, focusing on your own experience, such as “I feel…”, “I have noticed…”, and “I am worried that…” – this way they cannot argue your point, nor will they feel attacked, and will be less likely to become defensive
  • Express your worries in a non-judgmental way
  • Do not try and reason with them, as addiction is a powerful disease that can overtake rationality in the brain
  • Do not get angry during the conversation, even if emotions run high
  • Do not accept promises, like “I promise I will stop drinking”, or that they will get better by themselves, without treatment. As much as they may want to quit on their own, addiction is powerful and will most likely win that battle
  • If you find your loved one does not seem receptive to the conversation, pause it, and return to the topic another time. You cannot force them to listen or to agree with you

Encourage Addiction Treatment

When you speak to your loved ones about their relapse, encouraging them to return to addiction treatment is the goal. You can:

  • Encourage them to contact the addiction treatment program they attended previously
  • Call the professional treatment program yourself to speak with them
  • Help your loved one know there is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of, and you only want what is best for them
  • Let your loved one know you will continue to be there for them as they seek to support and although at the moment it may feel frustrating or difficult, you love them and want to be there

Find AA and NA Resources

Alcoholics Anonymous (aka AA or Al-Anon) and Narcotics Anonymous (aka NA or Nar-Anon) are support groups not only for people who are in recovery, but also for friends and family who have been affected by a person who has relapsed, or a loved one’s alcohol and drug use.

Support groups like this are very helpful, because:

  • It can be helpful to get an outsider’s point of view
  • You will feel less alone when surrounded by people who have their own experiences of addiction and relapse within their homes
  • You will learn new methods of helping your loved one that you may not have thought of on your own
  • You can air your concerns and worries, and receive helpful advice and support from others in similar situations, who know what you are going through

Understanding the Recovery Journey at Resurgence

The recovery journey is not always easy. At Resurgence, we can help you or your loved one deal with slips and relapses if they come, through our integrated treatment programs and our continuum of care. For some people in active addiction, a drug and alcohol detox program may be necessary before rehab. We can provide an inpatient medical detox program that will keep them safe and comfortable as they detox.

After detox, a 30- to 90-day stay in inpatient rehab is recommended, as those who have relapsed may benefit from being inside our 100% sober, safe environment, away from life’s stress, triggers, and temptations. Surrounded by like-minded peers in our comfortable, welcoming rehab center, with structured days filled with a variety of behavioral health, physical and nutritional counseling, experiential therapy, EMDR, and other treatments, your loved one will learn new coping mechanisms and sobriety skills to prevent relapse again in the future.

Inpatient rehab also includes dual diagnosis programs if needed, to help those dealing with drug-induced psychosis, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, or other mental illnesses. We treat these issues alongside substance abuse treatment, as they are usually deeply interconnected.

At Resurgence, we also recognize that there are people who simply cannot leave their job, children, or other responsibilities for 30 or more days to go to inpatient treatment. We have partial hospitalization programs and intensive outpatient approaches to treatment that may suit those who have slipped or had a mild relapse and do not require inpatient medical or psychiatric care in residential treatment programs. Outpatient rehab is also recommended for people leaving our residential rehabilitation program, as it is a good way to transition back to everyday life after treatment.

After rehab is complete, they will want to enter an aftercare program, as healthy coping mechanisms and relapse prevention skills are learned in recovery but putting them into place in the real world may take extra support. Some people may want to consider moving into a sober living home for structured living without temptations of drugs and alcohol in the house. Peer groups, counseling, and therapy, along with consistent medical and psychological care are important in helping an addicted person through these difficult moments in life.

Whether a full detox and rehabilitation plan or an outpatient program is needed to get your friend or family member back on track, at Resurgence we can help them work through the underlying causes of addiction, regain their health and overall wellness, and become strong, the sober person they want to be. For more information on the types of treatments we offer, insurance verification, or to figure out whether an inpatient or outpatient program is right for your loved one, call us today. We are here to help.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.

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At Resurgence, we accept most PPO insurance. Verify your insurance now.