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Relapses can happen-What to do when someone relapses is important information you need to know. While some individuals are more predisposed to relapsing after recovery, some individuals are just unfortunate and fall back into bad habits. Regardless of how your loved one was led to their relapse, it is important that you help them get back on track in order to save their life. Learn about ways you can help someone who relapses by reading the following tips.

How You Can Help: What To Do When Someone Relapses

An individual holding their hand out to a friend an offering support to help prevent relapses

#1 Don’t Give Up

A relapse can happen to anyone in recovery, no matter the level of addiction or substance. Roughly 40-60% of people will relapse at some point during their recovery, but that doesn’t mean they are broken or incapable of achieving sobriety. The important thing to remember is that it could just be other forms of treatment did not work for them, so they need a different approach more suited to their personal needs/situation. While negativity may feel like the only option left, it’s an outlook that rarely ever leads to success.

Negativity rarely breeds success. Breaking an addiction is one of the hardest things anyone will ever do, the important thing to remember is to pick yourself up and and try again.


#2 Don’t Make Excuses or Buy Theirs

You want to support your friend, family member, or spouse, but you shouldn’t coddle them and make excuses for their relapse. Addiction is a complex disease of the brain, but addicts are still responsible for recognizing their disposition towards substances and holding themselves accountable for their actions. It’s not your responsibility to take away the feelings of guilt or anxiety about a relapse. The addict should feel the full extent of what their actions have incurred.

It’s not your responsibility to make an addict feel better about their relapse. It’s important to set boundaries and let them understand there are repercussions to their actions.


#3 Offer Encouragement

According to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, long term recovery is possible and increases your chances of staying sober. For those who achieve a year of sobriety, less than half will relapse, and those who make it to 5 years of sobriety have less than a 15% chance of relapsing. Extended abstinence is a huge indicator of sustained recovery, meaning the longer you stay sober, the better it gets.

An addict who has relapsed needs to know that they are not broken. Show that you care about them and that long term sobriety is achievable.


#4 Channel Emotions Constructively

When an addict relapses, it can be incredibly frustrating for those closest to them. From the outside looking in, addiction seems like a senseless, self inflicted crime. From the inside however, it is a cry for help. Addicts don’t want to be reliant on substances to feel good, but for their own personal reasons and circumstances, substances are seen as the only option. You likely feel frustrated or angry at them and want to express it, but you need to do so in a manner that communicates exactly why you feel that way. In other words, channel your negative emotions into constructive feedback to encourage them to seek treatment.

Express your negative feelings through positive, structured, constructive criticism. Lashing out in anger will only push the addict away or cause them to feel worse about themselves.


#5 Help Them Identify Triggers

Avoiding triggering situations can be difficult. Especially when returning from rehab, recovering addicts may run into friends, situations, or locations that could trigger their relapse. You can help by talking to them about what triggers their desire to use substances, and work on removing those triggers. This could be done by helping them move, encouraging new relationships and hobbies, and speaking openly with one another about what could be triggering them and why it’s happening.

Work with the addict to identify what their triggers are. Discuss what about these situations makes them want to use, and help them build a more conducive environment for recovery.


#6 Find Support

You may feel at the end of your rope when it comes to finding a treatment option that will finally work for the addict close to you. And you’re not alone, many addicts enter addiction treatment programs again and again without achieving the desired outcome of sobriety. If this is where you’re at, it’s time to find a treatment center that does more than just house your recovering addict for 30 days. Different methods of treatment work for different people, so you need to find a center that will treat your close one as a human being, not another number on a list. You need a treatment center with a focused and engaged alumni program that ensures care continues well beyond the doors of the facility.

Just because one form of treatment hasn’t worked doesn’t mean that another will. Talk with the addict to find out what their specific needs are before beginning a new treatment plan.


Relapse Prevention Tips

  • Avoid Locations/People That Remind You of Using
  • Join an AA or NA Group
  • Develop Habits That Occupy Your Mind & Body
  • Eat Healthier and Have an Exercise Routine
  • Call Your Support Network When You Feel Like Using
  • Practice Daily Gratitude or Meditation
  • Develop a Relapse Prevention Plan That Includes Triggers, Coping Tools, and Support Contacts

Next Steps

At Landmark Recovery, our program encompasses a variety of drug addiction treatment methods tailored to meet the individual needs of our patients. If someone close to you has relapsed, we can help. Whether you need help staging an intervention or enrolling in a complete residential program, our team of professionals are ready to speak with you and get started on finding the best possible treatment option.

About the Author


Landmark Recovery Staff

This post was written by a Landmark Recovery staff member. If you have any questions, please contact us at 888-448-0302.

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