Perhaps the only thing more distressing than dealing with a loved one with an addiction is having to face up to the reality of a relapse. The problem they had was acknowledged, they accepted they needed help, they received the best possible help and indeed they made incredible progress. Unfortunately, and for what could be one of an infinite number of reasons, they slipped back toward their former ways and seemingly undid everything positive achieved so far.
It could all be incredibly difficult to deal with, but at the same time it is important to remember that close family members will continue to play an important role in the long-term outcome. Seeking the very best local residential rehab centres for alcoholics can of course help, but when it comes to living and dealing with the relapse of a spouse or loved one, there are certain steps to take and things to remember along the way.
You’re Not Alone
First of all, it’s a good idea to remind yourself that relapse is in fact anything but uncommon and therefore shouldn’t be approached as such. In fact, research suggests that between 40% and 60% of recovering alcoholics will relapse at some point or another – exactly why overreacting and treating it as if it was the end of the world is really not a way to go. Instead, it’s far more effective to acknowledge and accept the problem for what it is – something of a temporary setback the likes of which can once again be corrected. It worked the first time, so there’s no reason why it can’t work again.
What Went Wrong?
Counselling and professional help can be fantastic in establishing exactly why the individual in question relapsed. But at the same time, close family members are in a privileged position to identify and pinpoint exactly what went wrong and when. More often than not, the telltale signs of impending relapse are relatively clear, but at the same time you have to know what it is you’re looking for. It isn’t always obvious – one of the most common signs of relapse for example is what appears to be a sudden spring back to fantastic health and positivity, after a period spent quite to the contrary. It is only by identifying what went wrong and bringing the issue out into the open that future relapses can be prevented.
One of the main reasons why it can be so difficult for most individuals to handle and approach others with addictions is because they simply do not understand the subject of addiction. It’s possible to empathize, sympathize and offer as much help as you can give, but at the same time it is impossible to fully understand what the person in question is going through without stepping into their shoes. As such, as difficult as it may be, becoming overly judgmental, playing the blame game or generally making any effort whatsoever to make them feel bad is counterproductive. Instead, it’s up to them and them alone to feel remorse, guilt, shame and so on, entirely on their own terms and without being prompted by others. The more you read up and study the subject of addiction in general, the better position you’ll be in to help.
Something important for those around recovering alcoholics is to ensure that as many potential relapse triggers as possible are eliminated entirely. By considering the kinds of triggers that could potentially lead to relapse, it’s usually possible to gain a good idea as to what went wrong this time. Triggers can be different for each and every individual involved and do not necessarily follow the same path. Whereas one individual may not be able to watch televised sports without plenty of alcohol, others associate movies with alcoholic drinks, bowling alleys with beer, dinner parties with champagne and so on. Think about specific triggers that could affect the person in your life and be sure to consider and address them.
Last but not least, it is more often than not impossible to deal with a full-scale relapse without the help and advice of the professionals. Just as it was the case in the first instance, significant counselling and additional treatment may be required in order to get the individual back to the position they were in before their unfortunate slip. It’s common to think that undoing a relapse is easier than combating alcoholism in the first place – in reality, it has the potential to be even more of a challenge.