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What to Do When Your Loved One Relapses

what to do if someone relapses after rehab

Nationwide, there are over 21 million people battling a substance use disorder. Day in and day out, there are millions of individuals, both young and old, fighting the fight against addiction: a chronic disease that affects all who are touched by it. Perhaps you are here because you too know the power of addiction firsthand.

Substance addiction undoubtedly takes a toll on the lives of its victims—physically, mentally, emotionally, even financially. But one aspect that is often forgotten is how much families, friends, and close relationships are also affected by this disease. As a parent, close friend or family member, or significant other, you have likely felt the deep heartache of your loved one’s addiction for some time now. You have been there for the drug abuse and the rock bottoms, the highs and the lows, and by your loved one’s side when he or she enrolled in drug rehab.

When your loved one first entered drug treatment, you likely felt a great sense of relief knowing that he or she was safe, that his or her sobriety and success was finally in the cards. Then, you may have also felt as though all the negativity and pain was behind the both of you—until recently, when that someone you love so much relapsed back into the addiction cycle once again.

As much as it can be disappointing, it is important to remember that relapse is commonly a part of the recovery journey. In fact, between 40 and 60 percent of addicts relapse at some point along their way. Relapse does not mean that your loved one is not committed to his or her sobriety. It does not mean that your loved one has lost hope or given up. It does not mean that recovery is not possible. More than likely, it means that your loved one needs a longer or more specialized stretch of professional drug treatment to get back on the right foot once again.

Having such a great role in your loved one’s life means that you can also play a big role in his or her recovery story. For one, this means helping him or her get through a drug relapse. In many ways, this may be hard for you to do. Your emotions aren’t fully in check; you may be angry or disappointed; you may feel like giving up. As a preeminent young adult drug rehab facility in Connecticut, we want you to know that there are ways to help your loved one through relapse. Here are five tips on what to do when someone relapses.

    1. Remain positive and channel your emotions

As one of your loved one’s biggest supports, it is so important that you remain optimistic and focus on the goal of recovery. Right now, this may mean controlling and channeling your emotions into proactive next steps. If you feel angry with your loved one, recognize that addiction is a disease; his or her relapse most likely was not a choice. If you are disappointed and believe that previous drug rehab efforts did not “work,” keep in mind that relapse does not mean treatment has failed. It could just be the previous method of treatment that did not stick for your loved one. There are other methods, and other types of treatment (such as long-term or dual diagnosis treatment) that may be more suited to your loved one’s disease. Do not lose hope. Most of all, if you are upset with yourself for any reason, do not be. Do not blame yourself for this relapse. Stay positive, or start being more positive, in getting your loved one the help needed to succeed.

    2. Understand how to recognize and prevent a future drug relapse

If your loved one came back home after rehab, he or she likely encountered several relapse triggers: old friends or party spots, reminders of previous relationships or the drug-using days, stresses that have again resurfaced. As a friend or family member, you can help your loved one by aiding in coping or removing these types of relapse triggers from his or her life. This may mean encouraging new, sober relationships or attending more social events by his or her side.

You can also help your loved one’s relapse prevention plan by being able to recognize the onset of a potential relapse. By knowing the early signs of relapse (such as distance, lack of communication, mood swings) you will be better able to address them and prevent them as they occur. 

    3. Get support for yourself

As a friend or family member, you have your own healing to do, too. At Turnbridge, we extend our services to family members of clients who also need support. In our Family Involvement Program, we aim to educate families about the disease of addiction, while also offering strategies on how to identify and address addictive behavior. This program also teaches family members like you how to prevent drug relapse and help their loved ones thrive while in recovery. We also host monthly Parent Support Groups and Sibling Support Groups, in which parents and siblings alike can connect with one another and share their own challenges with addiction in the family, offering comfort and hope in hearing others are going through similar experiences.

    4. Remember that addiction is a disease

Much like diabetes, drug addiction is a chronic disease. It characterized by compulsive drug abuse and seeking, and is very difficult to control. The lack of autonomy one experiences with addiction is primarily due to changes within the brain: addictive substances, in time, have the ability to alter the chemical make-up of one’s brain, affecting their capacity for self-control and resistance. This is the main reason why drug addiction is also a relapsing disease. Relapse occurs when those in recovery regress into a brief period of substance abuse. It cannot always be controlled. However, it can be treated. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse indicates that there is a need for more professional treatment or a different type of treatment plan.

    5. Find a professional treatment plan specifically designed to help your loved one succeed

Lapsing back into drug abuse typically indicates that treatment needs to be reinstated or revisited, or that another type of treatment should be enacted. For example, if your loved one previously tried a 30-day outpatient program, you may consider a longer stretch of rehab at a residential drug treatment center. No matter the type of treatment you choose, it is most important to find one that can address the roots of this recent relapse, and that can address the individual needs of your loved one. His or her reinstated treatment plan should accommodate every single need in order to return your loved one to a successful, sober life once again.

It is important to remember that your loved one’s addiction is not a choice, but rather a disease that takes time to overcome. As he or she commits to a journey towards sobriety, you must recognize that there will always be ups and downs. There may be bumps along the way, such as relapses or broken promises, but you can make a difference by staying focused and being a part of your loved one’s end goal: long-term sobriety.

If someone you love is struggling with the potential or the reality of relapse, know that there is help available to you. Learn about Turnbridge’s drug treatment for women and young men by calling 877-581-1793 today.