What to Do If Someone You Love Relapses
Freedom from a drug addiction is a wonderful thing for both a recovering addict and his or her loved ones. Unfortunately, just because someone has completed treatment for an addiction and is in recovery doesn’t guarantee they won’t return to drug abuse and addiction at some time in their life.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that between 40% and 60% of people who have been treated for substance abuse will experience an addiction relapse. It’s not unusual for someone to relapse after addiction treatment, and it’s not something to be ashamed about. Instead, focus on quickly getting you or your loved one further treatment to help overcome the relapse and return to the road to recovery. It can be difficult to know how to help an addict, but getting in touch with trained experts can help anyone navigate a substance addiction situation.
The Phoenix Recovery Center is here to help you or your loved one get help, whether you are seeking addiction recovery services for the first time or are experiencing a relapse. Our drug rehabilitation programs are carefully tailored to suit each individual’s treatment needs and provide the best results.
Even after a relapse, recovery is always possible. Never lose hope!
Why Do People Relapse?
As with making any change to improve our lives, it can be hard to stick with addiction recovery when things get difficult. According to a study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, stressful life events can make it more difficult for an addict to give up drug use.
A further challenge faces people who have previously been addicted to drugs or other substances because of the changes that can occur in the brain with substance addiction. Remember, addiction isn’t just a bad habit or situation — it’s a disease. In fact, like other chronic diseases, drug addiction often can’t be “cured,” but rather is something that can be managed with the proper treatment.
An article from The New England Journal of Medicine explains the science of what goes on in the brain during addiction. Addiction can make the brain more sensitive to stress, dull the brain’s sensitivity to dopamine (a chemical that allows a person to feel pleasure), and weaken an addict’s ability to make good decisions. These factors together are what make an addiction so hard to overcome, and they also can linger long after an addict has entered recovery, causing them to be more likely to relapse.
Signs of Addiction Relapse
It is obvious that someone has relapsed when they return to abusing the substances they were addicted to, but relapse often begins far before this happens.
Here are some signs that may precede a relapse:
- Poor self-care. Good eating and sleeping habits help people feel their best. When these areas start to slide, a recovering addict may be exhausted and look for other ways to feel better.
- Avoiding others. Not wanting to talk to others or ask them for help can be a sign of anxiousness and signal a want to escape to the “safety” of substance addiction.
- Extreme emotions. Anxiety, intolerance and anger could be a sign that someone is becoming overly stressed and may look for a way to alleviate those feelings.
- Returning to patterns that accompanied the addiction. This can include acting impulsively, making unscheduled stops on the way home from work, rekindling relationships with other users, or being deceptive about how time and money is being used.
How Can I Prevent a Relapse?
The best way for a person to avoid a relapse is to continue to follow the treatment plan that brought them into a state of recovery, according to the National Institutes of Health. This usually includes behavioral therapy to provide mental and emotional support and to address attitudes and behaviors related to drug abuse.
Also important to preventing a relapse is to avoid the things that led to the drug use in the first place, whether they be certain people, a place, or a feeling — and, of course, the drug itself.
What to Say to Someone Who Has Relapsed
It is not productive to try to shame someone who has relapsed. Chances are, they are already struggling with the pain and embarrassment of returning to their addiction. They might feel hopeless or worthless, or even hate themselves. None of those feelings will lead them to make a new effort at recovery treatment; instead, they could have the opposite effect.
Instead, hold a positive intervention. Let the addict who has relapsed know that you care about them, you believe in them and you will help them get back on the road to recovery. Remind them of the tools they gained during addiction recovery treatment, and encourage them to reach out to their doctor and seek further treatment.
What to Do When Someone Relapses
It can be hard to know what to do when a loved one relapses, in part because so many powerful emotions can accompany the news of a relapse. No matter how you feel, the most important thing you can do it is to encourage them to seek help from someone who knows how to help addicts.
This is particularly important because a relapse can be more dangerous than the initial addiction. This is because people returning to substance abuse can easily overdose if they try to use as much of the drug as they did before they went through treatment, as their body is no longer used to that level of exposure. A relapse can also be discouraging and cause someone to want to quit trying; they erroneously think that because it didn’t “work” the first time, it never will. It’s crucial to combat that way of thinking and build hope instead.
If you or a loved one are seeking a drug rehabilitation program for overcoming an addiction or relapse, reach out to The Phoenix Recovery Center today. We look forward to assisting you on your treatment journey and giving you continuing support as you return to living your best life.