Addiction relapse is an unfortunate reality of recovery. Any individual who is battling addiction must face the fact of relapse. However, not every individual in recovery relapses. As a matter of fact, an estimated half of all those individuals treated for an addiction for the first time, will not relapse and will remain successfully in recovery.
Anyone who has a loved one in recovery must also face the reality that their loved one may relapse. While it is no one’s responsibility except the individual in recovery to prevent a relapse from happening, the individual’s friends or family members don’t have to stand by helplessly either. There are ways to support the individual after addiction treatment and reduce their risk of relapse.
Research has shown that individuals who continue with treatment and go through follow up therapy are least likely to relapse. A carefully tailored research plan is essential to ensure the individual gets the best care, with the best approach for them. Some relapse prevention interventions could include behavioral interventions, medications, or even groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Whatever works best for the individual is the right treatment.
It is important to remember that not everything works for everyone. For eg, AA is effective for approximately 20% of recovering individuals. Therefore, one shouldn’t push an individual towards a treatment that they think is most helpful, but rather work with the individual to find the treatment that would be most effective for them.
So how can family and friends help? Determining the correct course of continuing treatment is the first step to preventing relapse. Once treatment is ongoing, family and friends can support their loved ones by:
- Giving encouragement
- Talking about how far the individual has come in their journey
- Reminding them of upcoming appointments
- Offering to go to appointments with them
Lifestyle Changes to Avoid Relapse
Most treatment programs include some sort of relapse prevention training aimed at teaching the individual to deal with temptation and handle stressful situations that will come up in everyday life. A part of prevention training could involve spotting triggers, that is, things that make the individual want to start using drugs or alcohol again. Some relapse triggers are:
- Specific emotional situations
- Socializing with the people they used to drink or take drugs with
- Certain times of day when they used to take drugs, alcohol or smoke
- Being in a particular place associated with their substance abuse, such as bars
In these cases, family members or friends can talk frankly with their loved ones about the triggers. Learning what the triggers are will ensure that they can help the individual avoid them. Another way to support the individual could be helping them make new sober friends, and finding activities outside of using drugs or alcohol. Or they could help with legal charges, helping the individual find a new job if required or a new place to live.
Needless to say, family and friends shouldn’t use drugs or drink around the individual in recovery, as this will only increase the risk of relapse, especially during early treatment.
Finally, if the individual should relapse, it is important not to get frustrated or angry with them. For many recovering individuals, relapse is part of the recovery process. Relapsing doesn’t mean that the treatment is not working, merely that there has been a setback. Encourage the individual to seek help for a relapse immediately. As soon as it is dealt with, the more likely it is that their recovery will be long term.
If you or a loved one need information and guidance on recovery programs and relapse prevention, call The Villa. We can help support your journey to staying in recovery.