Loving an addict can feel like you’re on a perpetual rollercoaster of emotions — anger,…
3 Things You Shouldn’t Do If Your Loved One Relapses
When you love a recovering alcoholic or drug addict, you may feel a huge sense of relief when he or she agrees to go into treatment and get sober. You want to believe that all the bad times are behind you. But if your loved one ends up relapsing, it can be devastating for you.
Relapses are not uncommon. Although relapse doesn’t happen to everyone who gets sober, it does happen to a lot of people. For some, relapse is part of the journey of sobriety. The recovering addict or alcoholic may have to make certain mistakes in order to clearly understand the steps he or she needs to take in order to remain sober long-term. It may take time to recognize triggers and to truly admit that the disease of addiction is ongoing and is stronger than the individual.
Going through this can be very difficult for families and friends. You may experience a wide range of volatile, negative emotions. But there are some things you shouldn’t do if your loved one picks up a drink or a drug.
Don’t Blame Yourself
There’s a good chance the alcoholic or addict will try to make you believe that it is your fault that he or she picked up. The addict will tell you that if you didn’t say or do certain things, the relapse wouldn’t have happened.
This is absolutely not true. Alcoholics have the urge to drink because they are alcoholics. Drug addicts are compelled to use drugs because they are drug addicts. It’s that simple. You don’t have the power to make your loved one pick up, and you don’t have the power to make your loved one get sober. Don’t blame yourself for the addiction, and don’t let him or her blame you.
Don’t Get Angry
Anger is a common reaction when someone you love relapses, particularly if there has been more than one relapse. You just want to get on with your own life, and you are angry that your loved one is continually giving in to addiction. He or she may revert to old behaviors like staying out all night or stealing money from you.
It’s a very difficult situation, but becoming consumed with rage doesn’t do you or your loved one any good. If you scream and holler and otherwise express your fury with the situation, you’re only making a bad situation worse. When explosive, overpowering emotions take over, you hurt yourself most of all.
It may help your loved one if you remain calm and supportive. Instead of expressing anger, encourage your loved one to call his or her sponsor or go back to treatment. Give him or her the opportunity to talk to you and express his or her feelings about what happened.
At the same time, it’s possible your loved one will reject your efforts to be supportive. If that happens, turn your focus on yourself. In Al-Anon, you can learn more about the disease of addiction and how to take care of yourself, control your anger and handle your own reactions.
Don’t Give Up Hope
Although a relapse may feel like it’s the end of the world, it isn’t. No matter how hopeless it may seem today, hold on to the belief that things can get better. People do recover from severe forms of addiction, and your loved one can, too.
Relapse doesn’t mean your loved one has permanently failed. It only means he or she may need to try again or seek additional treatment. Keep in mind that you are powerless over whether the addict or alcoholic relapses or even stays sober long term. In reality, the only thing you have control over is your own life and your own reactions.
You can learn many of the skills you need for living with addiction by attending Al-Anon meetings. You may also want to consider working with a counselor. No matter where your loved one is in his or her recovery journey, your most important task is to take care of yourself. Make a commitment to learn how to remain calm and accept whatever happens. Above all, don’t give up hope.