Even after the successful completion of a drug or alcohol addiction treatment program, many individuals relapse. It can happen a couple days after rehab; it can happen months later.

Experiencing a relapse can be discouraging, for both the addict and their loved ones, but it doesn’t mean that all hope of a successful addiction recovery is lost. It just means that your loved one has experienced a setback on their journey to sobriety. Depending on how you approach them and their drug relapse, you have the opportunity to help them recover again.

No one wants to think about the possibility of relapsing, but its a part of the reality of addiction. The best thing that you can do as their mother, father, wife, husband, or friend is to be prepared for that possibility, and have a plan of action should they have a drug relapse.

Understanding Why Drug Relapses Occur

Crucial to being a source of aid during a relapse is understanding, first, why it happens. Often people assume that if an individual experiences a relapse it’s because they made the conscious choice to.

With addiction, however, it isn’t quite that simple. Addiction is a chronic condition that cannot be cured; the addict will always be addicted. That said, addiction can be managed successfully and soberly, if approached with the right treatment or program.

When it comes right down to it, there are two reasons that your loved one relapsed:

  1.  They weren’t ready.
  2. They weren’t in a facility that was right for them.

Of course, if the person isn’t ready to get better, no program is going to get them sober. Part of finding a successful recovery from alcohol or drugs is understanding the obsession of use, and revising the psyche of it. If they’re not ready to evaluate themselves or their addiction, they won’t successfully get and stay sober.

If an individual relapses, that doesn’t mean addiction recovery is hopeless. It only means that they didn’t get what they needed to succeed from themselves, from the treatment facility.

What to Do When a Loved One Relapses

Finding out that a loved one has relapsed can bring about a host of emotions: grief, anger, disappointment, frustration, betrayal, and sadness to name a few. First of all, know that having these feelings is completely natural and understandable; but also, that you need to be able to step back from them, in order to best focus on the solution, not the relapse.

Here’s some steps to take when your loved one relapses:

Refer to the Addiction Treatment Plan

Often, an addict will have an addiction treatment plan that they created while in treatment, that discusses who to call and what to do if they relapse. The plan could include contact info of their sponsor, a counselor, or a rehab facility or all of the above. It’s the best place to start, as it began with your loved one.

Don’t Ignore the Problem

Don’t ignore the problem, try to cover up any problems that occur, or make excuses as this sends a message that you are “ok” with the relapse. If your loved one feels as if they have your
approval or there are no consequences for what they did, they may not be encouraged to seek additional help.

Don’t Make Them Feel Guilty

It’s easy to want to blame your loved one for relapsing, after all, they are the ones responsible for their relapse. While they should be held accountable for their relapse, laying a thicnk coat of blame and shame on their shoulders is not going to make them want to head back to treatment any time soon. In fact, it might send them the other way.

Talk to an Addiction Professional

Working closely with an addiction professional can help you learn how to approach the topic of relapse with a loved one, and take the next steps towards treatment. The time right after relapse is often a critical time for an addict. They often feel alienated, worthless, and full of shame. Knowing how to approach them during this time so they feel supported–not judged or attacked–is vital to their recovery.

Get Help for Yourself

Don’t ignore yourself during this extremely emotional time. Make sure you get help for yourself, especially if your loved one doesn’t seek help for their addiction. Help can be obtained through a peer support group, such as Al-Anon; by visiting an individual counselor; or by working with a drug or alcohol treatment facility to find resources that will help you.