How Do I Help a Loved One Who Has Relapsed?
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It is very painful to watch someone you love struggle with a substance use disorder (SUD), especially when they have tried really hard to overcome it and are struggling to do so. No matter how long you've been sober or how dedicated you are to your recovery journey, relapse is still possible at any point in time. 

Relapse doesn't mean that treatment has failed or that the individual has done anything wrong. It just means that they need to re-evaluate things and make some changes to their treatment plan. If someone you love has recently relapsed, they need your support now more than ever. Show them this loving support as they get back on the path to recovery. There are also some do's and don'ts when it comes to supporting someone during this time. 

What Should I Not Say to Someone Who Has Relapsed? 

There are some things that you should not say or do to someone who has recently relapsed. Chances are, this person already feels bad enough about the fact that they relapsed. They're also probably feeling a great deal of failure, which can be very painful. 

What you don't want to do is try to make them feel even worse by trying to shame or blame them. This can be easy for someone to do if they haven't experienced addiction before and don't understand what the person is going through. However, addiction is a mental disorder that affects how the brain works. It is not a choice that someone makes. Your loved one didn't choose to become addicted, and they didn't choose to relapse. 

Having someone close to you experience a relapse can be an emotional event. You might be dealing with many feelings, including disappointment, frustration, betrayal, and even anger. Don't let these emotions cause you to say something you'll regret in the heat of the moment. This will only make things worse. Don't say things like, "You should have tried harder" or "You took a step backward." This will only tear down the individual even more. It can also cause them to contemplate not getting back on the road to recovery and instead going back into active use, which is a very dangerous outcome. 

What Should I Say to Someone Who Has Relapsed? 

Before speaking with your loved one about their relapse, it's important that you take the time to process your own feelings. This can help you avoid taking out any negative emotions on them. Don't feel as if you need to have a serious conversation with them immediately. It's okay to take your time and get some space to process. 

Journaling is a great way to work through your emotions. It can also help to talk to a family member or trusted friend, attend a 12-Step support group meeting for loved ones of those struggling with substance misuse, or speak with a therapist. Exercise, meditation, and self-care are all really important during this time. Remember that you cannot help your loved one until you take care of yourself first. 

Once you've had enough time to process, you can have a serious sit-down conversation with your loved one. Share how you're feeling. Let them know that you come from a place of love and concern, not judgment. Let them know that you are not disappointed in them and that you'll support them as they get back on the road to recovery. Let them share how they're feeling and ask if there is anything that you can do to help them. Encourage them to seek treatment as soon as possible and follow up with them repeatedly to ensure that they stay on track. 

How Do I Set Boundaries With Someone Who Has Relapsed? 

Ideally, your loved one will understand where you're coming from and will see the importance of getting back on their recovery journey. However, if this is not the case, and they refuse treatment, then it is important for you to set some important boundaries with them. Part of this process involves making sure that you're not doing anything that will enable them. Enabling is doing anything to make it easier for this individual to continue to engage in substance misuse without repercussion. To avoid enabling them, make sure you're not doing any of the following things: 

  • Making excuses for them
  • Supporting them financially 
  • Helping them out with legal issues 
  • Picking up the slack for them at home or work 
  • Cleaning up their messes for them 
  • Providing transportation for them 

While it can be hard to do these things, it's genuinely in your loved one's best interest. 

It's very painful to watch someone you love struggle with addiction, especially when they have tried very hard to stay sober. Relapse is possible at any time, no matter how long someone has been sober or how dedicated they are to their recovery journey. If your loved one does go through a relapse, it's important that you take control of your emotions. Don't say something hurtful that you will later regret. Take some time to process your emotions before having a serious conversation with them and encouraging them to seek treatment. Avoid blaming them or trying to make them feel guilty. They already feel bad enough. If you or someone that you know is struggling with a relapse, our team at The Ho Tai Way can help. Call (714) 581-3974 today and we can answer any questions that you may have about our services.