How to Endure the Relapse of Someone Close to You

How to Endure the Relapse of Someone Close to You

Relapse is one of the most tragic, and frustratingly common aspects of the addiction recovery process. For the vast majority of those trying to quit drinking or using drugs, the question is not if they will relapse, but when – and how will they respond. And as heartbreaking as it is to experience your own relapse, to see a friend or loved one slip up in his or her recovery can be devastating. How you respond, however, can have make a significant difference for both you and the addict you love.

Relapse Is Part of Recovery

The first step in the process of recovery is to stop using drugs or alcohol and to allow the body to re-establish its normal chemical balance. During this process the recovering addict is likely to experience the following distressing symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Convulsions
  • Tremors
  • Nightmares

These withdrawal symptoms tend to end in a matter of days or possibly a week. Most recovering addicts emerge from the detox process with a feeling of accomplishment and positivity. Unfortunately that early exuberance often leads to overconfidence and relapse. After their withdrawal symptoms pass, many addicts feel that the worst is behind them and that they will never use again. The truth, however, is that the psychological aspects of the disease are far more powerful and long lasting. Even after detox the recovering addict will experience the following psychological symptoms that often cause eventual relapse:

  • Euphoria
  • Justification of substance abuse
  • Blaming others for past mistakes
  • A desire to re-connect with drug-using friends and drug-related activities
  • A tendency to minimize the negative effects of getting drunk or high
  • The belief that now that the addiction is over the addict can handle just one drink

Millions of people endure the discomfort of self-managed detox only to succumb to the mental symptoms of addiction and relapse. For many, however, this type of relapse can be a wake up call. It may take a failure like relapse to convince some addicts that what they actually need is full-blown rehab, with both physiological and psychological care and a commitment to identify and treat all co-occurring disorders. This doesn’t necessarily make it easier for you to witness, but understanding the complete process can help you communicate about the benefits of residential treatment to your addicted loved one.

Plan Your Response to Relapse in Advance

One of the most important steps in the recovery process is for the friends and loved ones of the addict to do the following:

  • Express support for the addict and commitment to help however they can
  • Insist that the addict get professional help
  • Establish relational, financial, and other boundaries that include consequences for continued abuse or relapse
  • Receive counseling and education that helps them understand the process of recovery

It can be very difficult to enforce the boundaries you established in counseling, but it is critical that you do. By planning for a possible relapse in advance, you prevent enabling or co-dependent behavior that may actually exacerbate your loved one’s problems.

24 Hour Addiction Recovery Helpline

Remember that relapse need not mean an end to recovery. For many people it is a tragic and frightening part of the process. If you have additional questions about enduring the relapse of someone close to you, or would like information about the most successful recovery programs, professional interventionists, or family addiction counselors, call our toll-free helpline today. Our staff members are available any time of day or night with confidential, free advice and referrals. We can help. Call now.