Relapse Prevention Starts With You
Rather than waiting in dreaded anticipation for the relapse, you can make preparations ahead of time by keeping lines of communication open. And, educate yourself on how experts understand addiction today.
When you go to public support meetings, such as Naranon or Alanon, you may hear outdated information about tough love and punish and shaming your loved one to keep them from relapsing.
It is best to study the works of modern psychiatrists and psychologists about the nature of addiction. People who struggle with addiction are real people and deserve our respect and understanding. If and when relapse does happen, we will be best prepared to help our loved one move past this episode and back to success in recovery.
What Can I Do To Help
When your friend or family member relapses, you might feel inclined to offer advice. However, they understand their situation better than anyone. So, its better to ask them what they need.
Asking them instead of telling them what to do gives them a sense of control over their recovery, which leads to feeling empowered.
Things Should Never Say To A Loved One Who Has Suffered A Relapse
While reacting to a loved ones relapse, there are words that can be helpful, there are those that may empower them, and there are words that would completely tick them off or just make them feel unwanted or even worsen the depression.
The 12-step program is founded on positive counseling and activities that help to soothe the persons discomfort and mood. The moment these services become unavailable in the outside world, the individual has to muster up everything they have learned in order to keep up with sobriety.
The support of loved ones is, in its own way, a continuation of the counseling program that they had access to at the rehab. Words of discouragement and any form of negative feedback may have a ripple effect that may be difficult to erase. Here are a few words that you should never say to a loved one with addiction relapses:
It is your entire fault
Why did you mess up your long streak?
You are so weak
Im very pissed at you
I just cant help you anymore
You are a waste of my precious time
You would never make it in life at this pace
These sorts of feedback should never be blurted out as they have a way of latching on to the persons subconscious mind even when everything has been resolved. These words breed doubt, fear, anxiety, depression, uncertainty, and other emotions that may lead the recovering addict to take a drastic decision or start telling lies instead.
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Heres What Happens When Someone Starts Using Substances Again After A Period Of Abstinenceand Why It Can Be So Dangerous
It has to do with tolerance, says Dr. Shawn Ryan, founder of BrightView Health and president of the Ohio chapter of the American Society of Addiction Medicine . When a person stops using a given drug, their tolerance drops and puts them at risk for more medical consequences if they relapse. For example, if a patient has stayed abstinent from opioids for a while , their tolerance for fast-acting opioids such as heroin substantially declines this is why patients are at such high risk of overdose if they go back to using their old dosages.
What Are Some Helpful Things To Say To A Relapsed Person
The best things to say to a person who has relapsed are encouraging and optimistic. Addiction recovery isnt a destination but a path. Sometimes there are detours and obstacles. Its important for the relapsed person to feel that theres still hope in recovery as long as they keep putting forth the effort.
Do Say: Relapse Doesnt Mean Failure.
Relapse is often simply part of recovery. Its not necessarily inevitable, but its very common. Its important to remind a person who has relapsed that they arent alone. It also doesnt mean that theyve failed in their recovery goals. It might simply mean that they need to pursue another type of addiction treatment. Being relapsed doesnt mean that youve failed, but that you need to try again. Long-term recovery is always possible. Youve only failed when you quit trying.
Do Say: Youre Still Supported.
A relapsed person especially needs to hear that theyre still supported. They likely expect disappointment and resentment from others. They may also feel that theyve let their loved ones down as well as themselves. The only caveat to this is to make sure that youre not enabling them to continue previous bad habits. If your loved one has relapsed, a simple statement of support is enough. Let them know that you will help them get the treatment they need.
Do Say: You Can Get Back To Recovery.
Do Say: What Did You Learn From Relapsing?
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What You Can Do To Help The Addict
Do remember that this is the addicts battle. Thinking this way will help you cope with the situation: To truly get well, they need to do it on their own.
Do stand firm. Hold addicts accountable for their recovery from the relapse, just as it was important to hold them accountable for their addiction in the first place, says Ray Isackila, assistant clinical and administrative director of addiction recovery services at University Hospitals in Cleveland.
Do encourage your loved one. Just redirect them to their original addiction treatment plan, says Russell Goodwin, a chemical dependency counselor with Impact Solutions in Cleveland. This may include suggesting they talk to their counselor or sponsor, or that they go to an addiction support group meeting.
Do take care of yourself. Thats the best way to help an addict who has relapsed. Eat well, get enough sleep, be sure to exercise, and keep doing the things you like, such as hobbies, sports, or crafts whatever it is that you enjoy.
Do set an example for healthy living. If youre on your way to the gym, you can invite your loved one to join you,” suggests Goodwin. “Letting them know that you would enjoy their company is very supportive. Just remember that you cant force them to accept the invitation.
You dont have to stand idly by: You can offer support in your own ways without letting yourself be pulled down by the situation.
Know What Can Cause A Trigger
A trigger is anything that can cause an addict to want to use again. For many addicts avoiding certain people, places, and situations can significantly help in preventing a relapse. Most likely these triggers will never fully go away, so understanding them and the best ways to prevent the triggers is crucial for long-term recovery success.
Communication is a key part of understanding and recognizing the triggers. Listen carefully to your adult child without judgment, allowing them to be open and honest with you. Together you can create a plan for how to best avoid their triggers. You can also learn healthy coping mechanism for when you cannot prevent a trigger from happening.
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Do You Want To Talk About It
You might think that forcing them to see the situation is helpful. But on the contrary, this can trigger plenty of intense feelings and they are overwhelmed as it is.
You have to make sure that they are ready to open up. If not, dont push it but let them know that youre there when they are prepared to talk, and you will ask again.
Consider Your Lifestyle Going Forward To Help Support Your Loved One
Do you keep alcohol around the house? What about prescription drugs that have abuse potential? Having these items in your home can make your loved one uncomfortable.
Think of it as being like leaving a loaded gun lying around in the kitchen. Supporting your loved one in recovery means creating a safe environment. Taking the safety of the home environment into consideration will help your loved one to stay sober.
You can provide positive reinforcement when they make progress. If you take your loved one to the doctor for addiction treatment, let them know that they are doing the right thing. They have made a step in the right direction. It will make all the difference for you to let them know that they are making positive progress.
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Whats The Best Way To Deal With A Relapse
When you go through the difficult recovery journey and come out on the other side clean and sober, you have a lot to feel good about. Yet you may also feel something many others who have walked in your shoes feel: fear of relapsing. After winning that hard-fought battle for sobriety, it can be devastating to consider that it might not last forever. However, it is actually relatively common to relapse at some point after you get clean. So common, in fact, that relapse is often considered one part of lifelong recovery.
This article will take an in-depth look into relapse after getting clean and what to do about it.
Good For You You Deserve To Live A Happy And Full Life
One thing to remember when interacting with a person who has recently made the decision to change his life is to accentuate the positive. Questions like, What would happen if you started back up again? or Just one? put the focus on what the recovering person is giving up, when in fact the process of recovery involves coming to terms with all that one has.
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What Shouldnt You Say To Someone Who Has Relapsed
Before you think about what to say to someone who has relapsed, its a good idea to consider what you shouldnt say. Its important to understand that they likely feel bad and guilty about relapsing just as you might feel angry and disappointed.
Dont Say How Could You Let This Happen?
Its common to be angry and disappointed with someone who has relapsed. Its also common to want to blame them. However, addiction is a disease, not a voluntary choice that people make. Even after treatment and through recovery, chronic drug and alcohol use can maintain a hold on the brain. A person might be well into the recovery phase and still have the risk of relapse. Addiction doesnt always just go away.
Dont Say Im So Angry At You.
As previously mentioned, its normal to feel angry and disappointed. However, understanding the nature of addiction is necessary to realize that your anger is probably misplaced. A person going through the recovery doesnt want to relapse and didnt choose to relapse. They likely feel terrible about themselves when it happens. Adding guilt and self-loathing to their plate doesnt help.
Dont Say Its Time To Try This Addiction Treatment.
This Doesnt Mean You Have Failed
Relapse is part of recovery. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 40 to 60% of those in recovery experience some form of relapse.
Your loved one may not want to hear statistics specifically, so simply saying that many people relapse before reaching long-term sobriety will let them know they arent alone. Reassure your loved one that recovery is a journey, and setbacks are part of every journey.
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Care And Compassion Are Always Called For
The best advice for anyone wondering how to talk to an addict is to make sure you take a calm, loving and non-judgmental approach to your conversation. Although you may be hurt and worried, angry or harsh words never convinced anyone to get help. If someone isnt ready to seek help, theyll just tune you out.
When you understand that addiction is a disease, and that the person you love isnt in control of how theyre acting, then you can have a rational conversation with them about your worries and concerns. You can help them help themselves by entering into a recovery program. It may be a difficult conversation to have, but it could be the one that saves their life.
What Was Your Rock Bottom/moment Of Clarity
Lets face it: hearing all about the worst moment of a persons life can be fascinating stuff. The reason its so entertaining is because, quite often, its a matter of life and death, involving deeply personal issues of shame, self-awareness, and spirituality. Which is exactly why its a rude question.
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A Relapse Doesnt Mean Youve Failed
A common myth about relapse is that it means youve failed. In reality, relapse is very common. By some estimates, 90 percent of people trying to quit alcohol or opioids will relapse in the first year. Overall, an estimated 40 to 60 percent of people who get treated for substance use will relapse. However, people can and do sustain recovery after a relapse, or even multiple relapses. Sometimes a relapse isnt even a full relapse. People who try to quit drinking will often slip up and have a couple of drinks, or even get drunk, then wake up feeling awful about their lapse and recommit themselves to recovery. Even a full relapse that lasts weeks, months, or years isnt a failure. As long as someone is willing to try again, there is a possibility of a long-term recovery. You havent failed until you quit trying.
Are You Sure You Really Need Treatment
Aside from not being a professional in this area, it is unhelpful to plant a seed of doubt in your loved oneâs mind over whether or not they should have sought help. The vast majority of the time, someone struggling with an addiction needs professional support so encourage them that they are taking great strides toward recovery with each step.
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Learn How To Anticipate Potential Future Relapse
As you navigate the addict through the recovery phase, it helps to be able to realize some of the most tell-tale signs of a potential relapse. Here are just a few signs the road to recovery might be taking a different turn:
- Isolation: Is the addict withdrawing from normal activities that used to bring happiness?
- Indifference: Does the addict no longer care about recovery, no longer attend support meetings, or no longer talk about his or her progress?
- Inversion: Has the addict returned to his or her favorite bar or watering hole more frequently or started hanging out with the original crew?
- Intensity: Has the addict started to express strong emotion, such as anger or anxiety, that he or she would normally stifle with alcohol?
What Is Recovery Treatment Like
It may also help to learn what recovery treatment is like. Recovery programs range from 12-step group meetings to special centers called rehab centers. Rehab may be in-patient, which means that you live there during your treatment, or outpatient, which means that you attend rehab sessions during the day but go home to your own residence at night.
Rehab isnt like jail or a hospital. There may be medical treatment involved to help people withdraw from drugs or alcohol, but in general, a rehab center is set up more like a big group home crossed between a hotel and a dorm. Recovery isnt about punishment, its about healing. You cant get well in a place where youre uncomfortable.
The same goes for withdrawal. Many people imagine white knuckling their way through withdrawal. Thats no longer the case in most recovery centers. Newer medications can help you through the worst withdrawal, and you are monitored constantly at many centers to make sure your health isnt compromised. The goal is for you to recover from your illness, and rehab centers do all that they can to help.
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What You Can Say To Someone After Relapse
The first thing we may address is encouraging the person that the recovery is not offer after the relapse. We may want to say something like: This is not a sign of failure, this only means you might need more help.
It cannot be emphasized enough that relapse is part of recovery. According to the addiction experts, for most people relapse is the norm and it is very common in the path of recovery.
According to Dr. Brennan, reminding the recovering person that a lot of people relapse before accomplishing stable and ongoing sobriety may make them feel less alone.
Relapse is a sign that the current treatment may have been inadequate for the recovering person. Dr. Mooney suggest that bringing this up with the person in recovery may actually help get them on the path to more effective treatment.
One of the suggestions on what to say is Maybe this treatment isnt all that you need, and maybe this relapse is telling us that. Why dont we consult your therapist/addiction counselor/other professional, and see what other treatment options might be available?
This suggestion is from Dr. John Bachman, Ph.D., who specializes in addiction and substance use issues.
This of course will have the person be part of the solution seeking and also engaged in their treatment and not be told of a solution outside of themselves.
Be kind! Remember that even when you dont express your anger or frustration, they already feel ashamed. Find a away to directly let them know that you dont blame them
Encourage A New Sober Network
Recovery is more than a 12-step process. Its a total lifestyle change that means shedding old ways for entirely new ones. As such, if youre interested in how to help an alcoholic, one of the ways you can assist is by helping to recreate the addicts social circle.
Encourage relationships with sober, like-minded individuals. Discourage those with peers who drink heavily, as this company could spur a relapse. Not sure where to start? Try asking some of your sober friends and family members to make an introduction. You can also encourage memberships in support groups for accountability and friendship.
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