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My Loved One Has Relapsed… What Should I Do?

Recovery from addiction begins in earnest after detox and a drug rehab program are complete. At this point, the individual in recovery must use what he or she learned in treatment to cope with the temptation and triggers they’ll inevitably encounter without round-the-clock professional support. 

This is not an easy road, nor is it a fast one. Because recovery is a lifelong process with challenges that can be difficult to overcome. Witnessing the relapse of a loved one, along with the physical and emotional consequences, can be extremely difficult. Knowing the right thing to do to help can be even harder. 

With this in mind, let’s discuss what you should — and shouldn’t — do after a loved one relapses.

Don’t… Overreact

The unfortunate reality is that your loved one’s relapse shouldn’t come as a shock. After all, data shows that between 40 and 60 percent of those struggling with addiction will relapse at least once before they’re able to maintain their sobriety.

If your loved one becomes one of those who relapse, don’t assume all hope is lost. Don’t attack or judge your loved one who surely feels like a failure without the added guilt and shame. Just as addiction is a medical disorder and not a choice, relapse should be considered part of the disorder. A relapse isn’t necessarily a sign of weakness or low willpower; rather, it’s a consequence of the changes in the brain’s neural pathways that have been caused by addiction.

Do… Address the Relapse Right Away

Although you shouldn’t overreact, a relapse can have deadly consequences, which is why it needs to be addressed right away. 

When someone has been in recovery for a while, his or her tolerance to the substance has been dramatically reduced. This means the risk of an overdose is high because they often don’t realize that they shouldn’t use the same amount of the substance as prior to getting sober. This is why it’s important to seek medical care if a loved one relapses.

Encourage your loved one to seek professional help, but don’t push too hard. Resist the urge to take control of the situation. 

A person who relapses must be accountable for their actions and make the decision to seek help. You can support your loved one’s recovery, but they need to take ownership of their addiction and commit to treatment.

Do… Be Open & Communicative

See if your loved one will open up about why they relapsed. This information not only can inform treatment and recovery plans, but it can also help to prevent future relapse.

What was your loved one doing leading up to the relapse? What was going through their mind? Who were they with? Where were they? Were they pressured to use?

Some of the most common triggers for relapse include:

  • Stress. This is the most common cause of relapse. People often turn to substance use as a way to reduce stress and find pleasure.
  • Negative emotions. People often relapse to escape recurring feelings of guilt, regret, shame, disappointment, or anger.
  • People and places. If someone walks into an environment and/or interacts with people that they associate with substance use, there is an increased risk of relapse, especially if the substance is present.
  • Boredom. Cravings and urges tend to increase when a person has no activities or interactions to keep their body and mind occupied.

Do… Show Empathy

When you truly understand the reasons behind your loved one’s relapse and realize that relapse is a common setback, you can express genuine empathy.

Again, addiction is a complex medical addiction. This isn’t a time for shame, blame, or judgment. 

Sometimes the best help you can provide after a loved one’s relapse is compassion. They’ll be much more receptive when you encourage them to get help if you’ve first shown genuine love, support, and understanding.

Do… Be Prepared

Because there’s virtually a 50-50 chance of relapse and the risk of overdose is high, it’s a good idea to have an emergency plan in case of relapse.

For example, having a naloxone kit and knowing how to use it can save the life of a person who has overdosed on opioids. Having the contact information of a doctor, therapist, rehab center, and substance abuse hotline can ensure you have instant access to the help and information you need.

Find Help for Your Loved One at West Valley Detox Treatment

Whether taking the first steps toward recovery or experiencing a relapse, our co-ed medically-assisted detox program can help. If you’d like to learn more about the services and treatment options available at our Los Angeles detox program, contact West Valley Detox Treatment today.

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My son just got out of rehab a week ago and I suspect he’s using again

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