How Do I Deal With the Relapse of Someone I Care About?

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As a person in recovery, you likely have many friends who are working hard to lead a sober life. What happens in your social circle when someone is headed for relapse or has already done so? Not only are you dealing with trying to get the person back into recovery but you may find yourself so shaken that you’re afraid you might relapse yourself. Don’t be afraid–all that hard work was not in vain and you may see that person back on the recovery track again. You can help your friend and help yourself.

Sometimes Relapse Isn’t So Obvious

You would think that someone in recovery would know exactly what to do when there’s a relapse in your social circle. But don’t be so sure. You now have to learn about recovering from substance abuse from the other side of the problem as a friend or family member of the substance abuser.

Remember what your family and friends were told when you went into rehabilitation: don’t ignore or enable the problem. You may also want to get involved in Al-Anon to get the kind of support you need to be able to help your friend with relapse and recovery. There are the three C’s from Al-Anon that will apply to you now: “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it.”

Don’t Take the Blame

While you may know that you are not to blame from an intellectual standpoint, you may still feel guilty or like you may have done something to cause the relapse. Did you hand your friend drugs? Did you hand them a bottle of alcohol? If you can answer “no” to both of these questions, you’re not at fault. If you start beating yourself up mentally and telling yourself that you contributed to the relapse, the self-loathing and guilt can trigger your own relapse if you let it. You can’t control what other people do but you can control how you react to it. Support them but don’t get caught up in their downward spiral and get sucked in too. You’ve all got enough on your plate with getting your friend back to sobriety without taking the blame for it as well.

Take Care of Yourself

Whether or not you remember it, as you were going through rehabilitation, someone might’ve advised your family members about the importance of self-care. Now that advice is coming your way. You’ve probably learned all about self-care when you were going through rehabilitation yourself, and now it’s more important than ever.

If you’ve been cruising along in your sobriety and neglecting your self-care, now’s the time to start or restart your program. Self-care looks different for each person. You can begin by focusing on finding things that will specifically help with your health and stress levels like exercise, meditation, or getting out into nature. Many people love to splurge on shopping trips or spa days now and then, and it’s okay to indulge. Just make sure to include things that will support your recovery in your self-care.

Get Professional Help

This can be one of the hardest things you have to face. You may confront the person about the relapse, and they may deny it at first and then start making promises to you. They might promise to stop drinking or using drugs. They may tell you that they realize their mistake and that they don’t need professional help. They can do it without going back to rehab. Or better yet, you can help them so they don’t have to go back to rehab.


It’s only two letters, but it’s going to be an agonizing word to say. You understand where your friend is coming from, after all, and it’s even harder if that person is an intimate partner or a best friend. You want to believe when they tell you that they don’t have to go back to rehab, but don’t you know the truth? While you can’t force someone into professional treatment, you can encourage them to do so, and you will have to hold strong to be able to withstand their torrent of promises and excuses. You’ve been through this. You know what they’re feeling. They probably even believe those things that are telling you but it’s best to let the professionals handle it. Set boundaries and hold your bottom lines just like you should do for anyone else.

Going through detox, rehab, and recovery is hard. Watching someone you love go through the same steps and then relapse is even harder. Now you know the pains of being on the other side and watching a loved one harm themselves. Just as others did for you, it’s important not to ignore the problem, enable the person who has relapsed, or blame yourself. Give them support and encouragement to seek the professional help that they need. At Everlast Recovery Center, we know that sometimes people go through our programs and come back after a relapse. That’s natural for substance abuse disorders and we know sometimes it takes more than one stay in our program to get lasting recovery. Our facility in Riverside, CA is always open and welcome to you, whether it’s your first time or if you’re getting back on track after a relapse. We won’t give up on you, and neither should you. Call (866) 338-6925.

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