The trials faced by an addict in recovery are immense. The effects of the drugs are often long-term and the individual must go through this physically and mentally challenging phase in order to sustain sobriety.
In many cases, it is advised that the recovering addict surrounds themselves with the support of friends, family, and other groups for motivation and strength to overcome the trials of this phase. If a person experiences a relapse, it doesn’t mean that the rehabilitation was not successful. It simply means that much more work needs to be done to ensure that triggers are kept at bay.
It is pertinent to note that the challenges of sobriety differ from one addict to the other, depending on their history and frequency of drug use.
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What is Relapse?
Many individuals who have been addicted to drug use for a very long period usually find it very difficult to maintain sobriety even after rehabilitation. This is because the brain has adjusted to high levels of certain chemicals in the brain, and the deficit of these chemicals, that the brain has become accustomed to, will result in occasional physical and emotional discomfort. This discomfort can be triggered by different things or can occur on its own without triggers.
Many addicts find themselves using substances again even after a long time of sobriety. This is because there is no actual cure for drug addiction, but it can be managed, and the affected individual can live a normal drug-free life.
In definition, relapse is the act of returning to drug use after a period of sobriety due to the negative physical, mental and emotional effects and discomfort that occurs internally. A relapse is risky and can lead to overdose and death. Mental relapse is a terrible stage to encounter and most people never return from this.
One of the leading causes of relapse is depression. Without drugs the brain goes into a state of “down” the person becomes uninterested in everything, and depression sets in. some are able to mask their depression while for some, it can be very easy to notice. Some signs of depression are:
- Loss of interest in things
- Low energy
- Feeling of worthlessness
- High irritability
- Change in sleep pattern
- Feeling of hopelessness
- Appetite fluctuations
- Lack of concentration
Stress is also a very common trigger. So how do you communicate with someone who has relapsed? This is important because at this stage the person is experiencing a sense of defeat, worthlessness, may be emotionally unstable, and likely to do something irrational.
As a friend or a loved one, choosing the right words to say to a person who has relapsed is absolutely critical. Usually, the feeling towards the addict’s situation may be unpleasant, you may even feel anger, sadness, or even lose your cool especially as a spouse. However, you must remember that the effects of addiction hit in difficult ways.
Best Ways to Talk to a Person Who Has Relapsed
When a person in recovery relapses the initial feeling isn’t pleasure, it is likely devastation; the feeling of guilt, and the fear that they may never be able to get themselves out of the mess that they got themselves into. At this point, more encouragement is needed to get them back on track. A slip-up isn’t abnormal for drug addicts, but with encouragement, they can find the strength to hold on stronger.
Showing understanding and care is important as the individual in question is already feeling guilt and remorse for going back on all their efforts and promises. You can show empathy by letting the person knows that you understand how difficult their journey to recovery is, and treating them no lesser than you’ve always done.
3. Ask how it feels
Everyone assumes that keeping away from drugs or staying sober is simply a matter of choice and that there isn’t any push or pull. If your partner who has been making conscious efforts to stay sober suddenly relapses, you already know that this couldn’t have been what they wanted.
Ask him how he feels and how often he feels this way, and to what extent? Drug addiction has really strong effects and requires a lot of encouragement to recover fully, so it pays to be a bit empathetic.
You may be completely lost for words at the news of relapse, having mixed emotions about the situation. However, you should also know that this is the same for the addict and in some cases, they are too shocked to believe that they are back to this again, and they may try to lie to you to avoid seeing you unhappy or disappointed in them.
Here Are a Few Lines You Could Try To Say:
- You have not failed, you have learned something new and now you can do better this time
- This is a fight you can win; you are stronger than you know
- I am with you 100%, we can do this
- Did you learn something new about your triggers?
- How can I help you right now?
- You have done it before, you can do it again, and it gets easier
- Sobriety is never a walk in the park but you are a tough person
- I believe in you, don’t give in
Things Should Never Say to a Loved One Who Has Suffered a Relapse
While reacting to a loved one’s relapse, there are words that can be helpful, there are those that may empower them, and there are words that would completely tick them off or just make them feel unwanted or even worsen the depression.
The 12-step program is founded on positive counseling and activities that help to soothe the person’s discomfort and mood. The moment these services become unavailable in the outside world, the individual has to muster up everything they have learned in order to keep up with sobriety.
The support of loved ones is, in its own way, a continuation of the counseling program that they had access to at the rehab. Words of discouragement and any form of negative feedback may have a ripple effect that may be difficult to erase. Here are a few words that you should never say to a loved one with addiction relapses:
“It is your entire fault”
“Why did you mess up your long streak?”
“You are so weak”
“I’m very pissed at you”
“I just can’t help you anymore”
“You are a waste of my precious time”
“You would never make it in life at this pace”
These sorts of feedback should never be blurted out as they have a way of latching on to the person’s subconscious mind even when everything has been resolved. These words breed doubt, fear, anxiety, depression, uncertainty, and other emotions that may lead the recovering addict to take a drastic decision or start telling lies instead.
Remember That The Fight Isn’t Yours
You are not responsible for your loved one’s drug addiction recovery and it is not your fight. You can support the person with words and resources, but they have to be ready and willing to fight the addiction themselves. Sort the best help for them and approach them with words of affirmation and they would certainly apply more effort on their recovery journey.