What to do After an Alcohol Relapse
When it comes to recovery from alcohol addiction, maintaining sobriety is an ongoing journey. Life will inevitably throw up temptations, which means that relapse can happen. It is crucial, for both those with addiction and those around them, to expect and plan for this. Maintaining the effort to avoid alcohol relapse is a key part of the abstinence process, so although you may feel disappointed when someone relapses, try to be mindful of what they have already achieved and that this is a blip.
If your partner, or anyone else you know, has had an alcohol relapse, it’s important to understand the challenges they are facing. Read on to find out more.
Understanding why alcohol relapse happens
Every day is a test for people in recovery, so it isn’t their fault if the root causes of their addiction resurface, or if they are presented with a trigger for their drinking. Life’s daily responsibilities and routines are full of potential pressures that can put anyone’s wellbeing under strain, so this is even truer for those who are prone to alcohol dependency.
The particular weaknesses around alcohol use will vary in everyone and each person will usually have addressed these, likely during their initial treatment. However, even with awareness of what will make their determination waver, those old cravings can sometimes feel too powerful to resist. It is especially important to be aware of these risks in the early stages of recovery, but the reality is that is takes continued commitment and self-care for the rest of someone’s life, so patience is key.
Acknowledge and be open about what has happened
Compassion is crucial in helping your partner after an alcohol relapse, supporting them as they get back on track. They may have had their willpower shaken, but they are only human and shouldn’t be too hard on themselves, as nobody else should either. With loved ones by their side, they can return to the recovery process and continue to lead a healthy lifestyle, free from the symptoms of their addiction.
While empathy is key, it’s also crucial to have open conversations and encourage the other person to air any thoughts they have about their relapse. Although you should be careful not to force the conversation if they aren’t ready, it will be highly beneficial for them if you try to open up the lines of communication. Let them know that you’re available to talk and then they have a safe space in which they can process any important emotions.
Know how to approach the conversation
When the person is ready to talk, meet in a private place and listen to what they have to say. You don’t have to make them feel guilty, but don’t minimise these feelings if they have them. Simply allow and sympathise with what they are feeling, emphasising that is it normal to have these emotions. If they admit to feeling badly about what happened, this can be a positive sign as they probably aren’t in denial, so they may be more likely to be ready to go into treatment. You can still encourage their progress by reminding them of how far they’ve already come. It’s also important to let them know how you’re feeling, as this will help them to see the effect of their alcohol addiction on those around them too. You can do this in a way which is non-accusatory, by starting sentences with phrases that focus on you rather them them, such as “I’ve been worried that…” or “I feel like...”.
Avoid enabling addictive behaviours
Although it is important to be supportive and not react negatively, you can support your partner without minimising the reality of their alcohol relapse. Enabling their behaviour can be equally as damaging as condemning it. Show them that you are there for them without submitting to any requests that will facilitate unhealthy behaviours. This might include lending money to them, or calling into their workplace for them when they’re unable to attend.
Focus on learning from mistakes
Helping your partner to learn from their experience will enable them to move forward confidently. Going over why this happened will be so constructive for them, particularly if they’re likely to face the same triggers again. Alcohol relapse can teach you a lot about the pitfalls of recovery, the warning signs to be aware of and managing day-to-day challenges in future. There is a saying that those who fail to learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them, so let the other person take this as an opportunity to move on with renewed strength, knowledge and motivation. Many other people have been able to proceed with long-term sobriety after relapse.
Prioritise your own self-care
It’s natural to feel a sense of responsibility towards your partner’s wellbeing, which can result in guilt when they are struggling with alcohol relapse. Just remember that it isn’t your fault and in order to help someone else, you need to look after yourself too. This will help you to gather the required energy and positive state of mind. Putting your own physical and mental health at risk won’t help anyone. Investing too much of yourself into someone else’s problems won’t make it more likely that you can solve them. They are ultimately the only person who can help himself or herself. You are simply there for support. Remember to continue doing activities you love, seeing other people you like to spend time with, and getting appropriate rest and sleep.
Help someone to get treatment
The best way of recovering from alcohol addiction is with professional treatment. At Life Works, our experts have helped many people to move forward with long-term abstinence, enjoying a more fulfilling way of life with the ability to face their triggers and reduce symptoms. We offer a free alcohol addiction assessment to anyone who gets in touch with an enquiry, which helps us to assess their current situation and needs.
We can then recommend an appropriate treatment programme, which may start with a medically-assisted detox process. This helps the person to become physically stable for the withdrawal process, before embarking on treatment. We offer day care and outpatient therapy as an entry point to treatment, or as a step-down option for those who have already undergone treatment. We also offer a residential (inpatient) programme for those requiring treatment that is more intensive. This gives the benefit of 24-hour support, in the striking and comfortable setting of our Georgian Manor house in Surrey. We also offer family support to those in our residential programmes, helping the whole support network to understand the process and deal with the impact of addiction on everyone. Get in touch today and we can advise on the recommended next steps.