Relapse Prevention Guide

In the United States, an estimated 21.5 million people have a substance abuse disorder. The family members of a person who is struggling with an addiction is just as important as the individual where recovery is concerned, because they play a critical role in relapse prevention. Helping a loved one avoid relapse once he or she commits to treatment should be a top priority of a supporting family.

More than 50 percent of individuals who seek treatment for a drug or alcohol problem will relapse after they have successfully completed a recovery program. However, those people who have proper support from their close relatives could be much more likely to follow through with their life of sobriety for the long term after treatment has concluded. If you are a family member of someone who is receiving treatment or plans to get treatment, there are a few key ways you can help your loved one avoid falling into old patterns and relapsing.

How to Support a Loved One During Recovery

While a loved one is in recovery for drug or alcohol dependency, family members should immediately begin building a good support plan for the individual at home to create an atmosphere where relapse prevention is the primary focus. Education about the addiction is the first step to understanding why a loved one may behave the way he or she does or what could trigger certain behaviors. It is also imperative that you try to do what you can to create a stable environment for the person in recovery.

Eliminate problems at home or stresses that could be triggers for the individual, and carefully assess how life at home with the existing family dynamic could hinder the recovery process. Additionally, it is important to know warning signs of impending relapse or a relapse and create a plan of action just in case.

Relapse Warning Signs

There are specific signs of which to be aware while your loved one is in recovery. These red flags can warn you that he or she may either relapse or may have already relapsed. Some of the most common signs to look for when individuals are recovering include:

  • Refusing to attend their scheduled therapy or support group sessions
  • Changes in emotional state or behavior, or signs of depression and anxiety
  • The re-emergence of habits, such as hanging out with old friends who are not sober or staying out late
  • Suicidal thoughts or signs of extreme despair and anguish
  • Poor eating habits and shying away from the routines learned in recovery
  • Isolation from family members and loved ones

Actions to Take If You Suspect Your Loved One Has Relapsed or Is About to Relapse

Handling a relapse or a suspected impending relapse should be carefully done to prevent further pushing your recovering loved one toward bad behaviors. First and foremost, talk to the individual and encourage him or her to openly discuss any feelings. Try to gently convince your loved one to attend a therapy session, offering to go with him or her if you can. It can also be helpful to reach out to the individual’s therapist or sponsor with your concerns.

If there is no concrete proof of a relapse, do not accuse this person until you know for sure. Being accusatory toward individuals who are in recovery and doing good can make them lose interest in trying to remain sober because their family members suspect they are using anyway. Lead conversations about your concerns with your interests in their new sober life. Encourage openness and honesty by restricting your personal emotions about the situation until you are certain.

Family and closely related individuals play a central part in the recovery process. People in treatment and during recovery who do not have support are far more likely to return to unhealthy behaviors. While family therapy and substance abuse treatment are two seemingly unrelated sides of psychological treatment, addiction treatment should come along with family involvement and therapy, if possible, for successful relapse prevention.

View the Relapse Prevention Plan for Families Infographic

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