How can I help someone prevent relapse?

The NUMBER ONE key to preventing relapse is honesty. More on what family members and addicts themselves can do to prevent relapse here.

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Relapse prevention is the one of the most critical components of recovery from any addiction. Everyone involved in the love and care of someone in recovery, including the recovering addict themselves, has a role to play in order to help prevent relapse.

So, what steps can you take to be sure that you are on the center of the path to addiction recovery? And what should family members keep in mind? We explore here. Then, we invite your questions, comments, or feedback at the end.

The Number One Key to Preventing Relapse

The first thing that family members, friends, and the recovering addict themselves must do in order to support recovery is to be honest. If it seems like an old pattern of addiction-related behavior is emerging (i.e., disappearing for hours at a time without explanation, delusional thinking, unhealthy coping behavior, etc.) say something!

Family members should sit down with the recovering person and calmly and honestly tell them what they think they see. Silence in these situations can put sobriety in jeopardy. Keep in mind that honesty is a two way street. Recovering addicts should be honest with their family about their thoughts of using or strong temptations to do so and reach out to their sponsor (if they’re in a 12-step program), or their therapist. Triggers can bring on strong drug cravings, which can be overcome. But this first and most important tool to use is to “tell on yourself”. Be honest, and the rest of the pieces can fall into place.

How the recovering addict can prevent relapse

As a recovering addict, it is beneficial for you to embrace the idea that you have a chronic illness that has no known cure. Addiction, like cancer, is a life-long disease that must be carefully managed and monitored. How can you prevent relapse? These tips can help you prevent stepping back into the chaos that is active drug addiction.

TIP 1: Keep close ties with people who don’t abuse drugs or who are in recovery. Seeing a daily example of life without drugs and addiction reinforces the idea that drugs aren’t necessary to have a good time or get through a tough time in life.

TIP 2: Adjust the manner in which you think and talk about your addiction and drug use in general. Thinking of drug use or talking about drug use as being absolutely fun, entertaining, “cool,” or other positive things (especially around younger family members and children) reinforces a toxic notion: You’re “missing out” on not abusing drugs. Too often, reflecting upon addiction as a 100% positive thing can have a relapse-triggering effect on recovering addicts.

TIP 3: Create a relapse prevention plan. Planning what to do in crisis situations, or when cravings become strong, can be a lifesaver. Anticipate triggers for relapse. If you outline the worst case scenario, and truly complete this risk assessment tool, you will then identify how to cope with situations…and are in a better place to take positive ACTION rather than to slip into old patterns.

How the family can help prevent relapse

All you family members (and friends) of recovering addicts can do your share to help prevent relapse, as well. There are things you can do for yourselves and for the recovering addict to help protect their sobriety.

TIP 1: Reduce stress levels early on. When your loved one first returns home from a treatment hospital or recovery center, give them time to ease back into their routine without drugs. Start with smaller responsibilities like taking out the trash, doing laundry, or washing the car. Over the course of the next month or two, begin to add in larger tasks such as paying household bills.

TIP 2: Go to family recovery meetings. Going to Al-Anon, Ala-Teen, or other family support groups for the friends and family members of addicts helps them stay sober. The dynamics within their social circle or household that helped nurture their addiction may still be present once they are home, and that puts their sobriety at risk.

TIP 3: Have fun! One of the most helpful things you can do as a friend or family member is to be sure to engage in lots of pleasurable activities with your loved one that don’t involve drugs. These could be board games in the kitchen, a night out at the movies, or a walk in the park with your dogs.

Working together for long term sobriety

Following all of these guidelines can help foster closer, stronger, more genuine and healthier relationships between the recovering addict and their family and friends. These relationships can give them the support, motivation, encouragement and resiliency they need in order to prevent relapse.

If you are in need of immediate support, please post in the comments section below. We’ll do our very best to respond to you personally and promptly, or to refer you to local community services in your area.

About the author
Tracy Smith covers topics within the drug addiction niche being a recovering addict herself. She is thankful to have found treatment for her substance abuse that helped her become sober.
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