If the addict relapses, it doesn’t mean that the family member has to go into action. The family member may want to call the treatment center and say,
“Jimmy just relapsed can you help us?”
The family member might ask the addict they love if they want to get some help, but it is really a judgment call. There are treatment centers that accept insurance and there are places that are self-pay, so the opportunity for help is there for the addict and they don’t have to go to treatment.
The most important thing for the family member to do when their loved one relapses is to get help and support for themselves. The family member should be seeing a therapist and should be a member of Families anonymous , Alanon or Naranon.
When a person is in school to become a doctor they are going to look to other doctors for advice, support or guidance. The same mentality should be applied here. The family member should seek out other people who have a loved one who is an addict for support. Addicts and alcoholics relapse, so finding an addicts Mother, Husband or Brother for support and guidance should not be hard.
The addict finds hope, guidance and support through other addicts so the same should be done by the family. The family members can always benefit from bouncing their situation off someone else. They don’t have to figure these things out alone. The addict and the family member actually must do the same things for themselves after a relapse: go to more meetings, go to extra therapy and seek out others who have been in this situation before.
What the spouse, parent or family member should not do is try to manage the addict’s crisis for the addict. When the addict or alcoholic relapse they either get help from AA, therapy, treatment or they turn to enablers.
“Please fix and help me I screwed up, can you help me, can you help me?” they say. Well, what the family member needs to say is,
“Have you been to your AA meetings, have you talked to your sponsor, maybe you should call your old rehab?”
The addict or alcoholic needs to begin to start to manage there own crisis as the family member needs to reach out for help to manage what could be there crisis, that is the addict relapsing. Both the family member and the addict need to demonstrate change. Yes, if its the first relapse you might offer assistance, but the addict must also invest in their recovery. So How do you help them do that?
Some family’s I have worked with continue to jump in to manage the crisis and wind up doing the work that the addict can do. Once again the family member begins to enable by fixing the alcoholic’s problems after each relapse. They drive their loved one back to treatment, they clean them up, pay the rent or mortgage, make sure the credit cards are paid up, make excuses for work and other responsibilities, they get in the way of the addict experiencing reasonable consequences in response to their return to using. This is not helpful in the long run because the alcoholic is being taught that when I relapse “magic happens” everything is taken care of. Then you hear “ok I’ll go to rehab”.
Submission after a relapse means very little. This is no more that superficial compliance which usually leads to the addict returning to using. Remember recovery never really happens unless someone actually gets into recovery. So its hard to even call this return to using a relapse. So how do you help the alcoholic move towards acceptance and surrender? I think by allowing them to experience some of the pain, discomfort, inconvenience , some reality! If the dog destroys the couch you don’t give him a treat.
So what should one do if their loved one relapses? Go to meetings, get a sponsor, go to therapy and get help for yourself! Family members may feel ashamed scared or hurt that their family member is drinking or drugging again. You do not have to feel this way but if you are, well…
Be ashamed, scared, or hurt but reach out for help anyway. Help is available and you don’t have to do this alone.
Written By Michael Herbert