7 Things To Say When A Loved One Relapses

7 Things To Say When A Loved One Relapses

When a loved one recovering from alcohol or drug addiction relapses, it can be difficult to know what to say or how to help. 

Luckily, there are a few non-judgemental things you can say that allow you to support and encourage the person in their time of need. Here are seven.

1. “This Doesn’t Mean You Failed”

Whether we like to think so or not, relapse is part of addiction recovery. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), relapse occurs for 40-60% of those in recovery. 

However, your family member or friend may not want to hear about statistics, so simply telling them that they haven’t failed can go a long way to make them feel better. They can get back on their road to recovery and begin again as long as they are willing to try. 

Remind them that they can use relapse as a learning experience. They have so much more knowledge than they had before when they first started recovery. 

2. “I Still Support You”

One of the worst parts of an addiction relapse can be thinking you let down the people you love and care about. By saying you still support your loved one, you can take away some of that shame. It also lets them know that you will be there even if they have another misstep.

You can also let them know that you are willing to help them get sober again. Just make sure you are setting healthy boundaries and that you aren’t enabling them either financially or through other means.

3. “Did This Experience Give You Insight?”

By asking your loved one questions like this, it allows them to reflect on what they learned about the relapse experience. What do they think went wrong? What could they change about their behavior?

Having them reflect can get them out of a negative thought spiral and lead them to think about why it happened and what triggered it. Perhaps their recovery has been stressful and they need more from their support system or alumni community than they originally thought.

4. “Do You Want To Talk About It?” 

If you’re unsure how to begin, you can ask your loved one if they would like to talk about their relapse. You don’t want to force them into it as that can trigger feelings they may not be ready to deal with. 

If they are ready for that conversation, great. But if they aren’t, you can simply let them know you are here for them anytime they want to talk. 

5. “Can I Do Anything To Help?”

One of the easiest things you can say to a loved one who has relapsed is to ask them if there is anything you can do to help them. It may be difficult for them to ask for help so you can at least take that stress off their shoulders and ask them yourself.

You can also let them know what you’re willing to do, whether it be taking them to an Alcoholics Anonymous support group or a substance abuse treatment center. 

Maybe they need help finding a good accredited treatment program or want you to be the person they call when they have a strong craving. You can even be the person they go to when they need a distraction or some self-care.

6. “I Know You Want This To Work”

One of the common relapse myths is that the person with a substance use disorder relapsed because they didn’t want to be sober. By telling them explicitly that you know they want to be sober, you can break through that negative thought in their brain. 

You can also show them proof. If they created a relapse prevention plan when they first started, point to that as evidence that you know they want this to work.

Since addiction is a chronic disease and mental health disorder, anyone living with it is not doing so by choice. It’s important that your loved one knows this and that you’re aware of it as well.

7. “You Did It Before & You Can Do It Again”

Your loved one may be very pessimistic after hitting a roadblock in their recovery. Bringing in some optimism about how strong they are and what they’ve already accomplished can never be a bad thing.

This can remind them of their earlier success, especially if they’ve sustained long-term sobriety up until this relapse. 

Stopping use a second time is not like the first. Now they know more about how to get past triggers or difficult social events. They may even have a therapist or healthcare provider that they like and trust.

If your loved one relapsed and needs further support, Recovering Champions can help. We offer a variety of outpatient addiction treatment options to make the recovery process easier, including behavioral therapy, peer support, medication-assisted treatment, and more.

For more information, please call our helpline today.

Written by
Recovering Champions Editorial Team

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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