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How to Stay Sober After a Loved One’s Relapse

A woman comforting her friend after a relapse.
When a friend relapses, it can feel devastating for your own recovery. Find out how to stay strong for both yourself and your friend.

When you found out your loved one or friend relapsed, it devastated your entire world. Maybe this is someone you met in addiction treatment who supported you through your most challenging days. Or perhaps it’s a sibling, parent or relative whose own sobriety inspired you to get the treatment you needed. This person changed your life for the better and always made you believe you could maintain your recovery.

But what does their relapse really say about addiction recovery? If one of the strongest people you know can’t make it, what hope is there that you will?

Your loved one or friend’s relapse doesn’t mean they can’t regain their sobriety again. And their recovery journey doesn’t automatically mean it’ll be your experience, too. But your loved one does need you right now, so it’s important to know how to support them and take care of yourself during this time.

Why Did My Loved One Relapse?

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all reason for relapse. For some, it could have been a result of boredom or feeling lonely. For others, relapse may have seemed to be the best way to cope with residual trauma or self-deprecating thoughts or feelings that they never dealt with during treatment.

We can’t assume to know the reason why your loved one or friend relapsed; only they can answer that question for you. And the truth is, it may take some time before they fully understand why they did it. But you can understand a bit of what they were going through leading up to their relapse to give you some much-needed perspective.

In situations like your loved ones, people go through three stages of the relapse:

  • The first stage is Emotional Relapse. More than likely, your loved one or friend was struggling with feelings and emotions they were either refusing to address or didn’t know how to process.
  • The second stage is Mental Relapse. Your loved one’s unchecked emotions and moods may have led them to think about drinking or using drugs again to cope. This thought process activates addictive tendencies in the brain, leading to the third stage of relapse.
  • The final stage is Physical Relapse. With emotions running amok and the thought that substance abuse could help, your loved one gave in to their cravings and drank or got high.

It’s natural to blame yourself or wonder if you could’ve done more to prevent this. However, the reality is your loved one or friend is ultimately responsible for their own recovery. And more than likely, they quietly battled with the first two stages of relapse without reaching out to you for help.

Their relapse isn’t your fault. But you have the power to help them get their recovery back on track.

How to Help a Loved One After a Relapse

Now that they’ve relapsed, here are the steps you can take to help them:

  • Be There to Listen. Your loved one or friend probably feels ashamed of their relapse. Comfort them, listen to them and let them fall apart and lean on you. Tell them how strong they are for making it this far and remind them that relapse is simply part of the recovery journey and doesn’t mean they can’t get sober again. You, more than anyone, know how important it is to approach these situations with compassion, love and respect.
  • Get Them Back to Treatment. The most effective way to regain sobriety is to return to addiction treatment. Help your loved one or friend contact their last addiction treatment program or find another program that aligns more with their current needs. If they refuse to go back to treatment, encourage them to attend a recovery meeting with you or consider an intervention.
  • Support Them in Treatment. When they’re back in treatment, continue supporting them as much as you can. Write to them often, talk to them on the phone and participate in therapy sessions with them if family therapy is offered. Your support can give them the strength they need to get their recovery back on track.

How to Maintain Your Own Sobriety After a Loved One’s Relapse

During all of this, don’t forget to take care of yourself to keep your own recovery intact:

  • Guard Against the 3 Stages of Relapse. Knowing these stages can help you protect yourself from them. Evaluate and process your emotions daily, exercise regularly to keep your body and mind healthy, practice daily meditation and follow your other relapse prevention techniques to maintain your sobriety.
  • Attend More Recovery Meetings. It’s natural for your loved one’s relapse to hit you as hard as it has. Instead of running from those feelings, process them with the help of your support network. As a precaution, increase the amount of recovery meetings you attend throughout the week to ensure you fully address your thoughts and feelings in a safe and understanding environment.
  • Continue Living Your Life. As disheartening as your loved one’s relapse is, it doesn’t have to shatter your life. Remember, their experience doesn’t have to be your own. Their relapse isn’t foreshadowing your own future, especially if you continue to practice self-care. Keep doing things you enjoy and get fulfillment out of, like exercising, writing or volunteering. Let your sober life be the inspiration your loved one or friend needs to achieve recovery again.

Recovery is Always Possible After Relapse at The Raleigh House

Relapse doesn’t mean that your loved one failed. It just means they need additional help processing what they’re going through and developing new ways to live life without alcohol or drugs. At The Raleigh House, we understand how stigmatizing addiction and relapse can be. That’s why we take a non-judgmental approach to treatment that’s solely focused on providing the compassionate, personalized and holistic care needed to recover.

If your loved one has relapsed or if you’ve personally struggled with staying away from alcohol or drug abuse, we can help. Our admissions team is available to take your call, so fill out our form or contact us today.

Call Now: 720-891-4657

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