What to Say to Someone Who Relapsed

What to Say to Someone Who Relapsed

what to say after a relapse

If you have a friend or family member in recovery from a substance use disorder, you’ve seen how diligently they’ve worked toward their health and wellness goals, and you likely have gained a newfound respect for them. That’s why it can be so disappointing when you discover they have relapsed.

As frustrated as you may feel, your encouragement is still one of the most essential assets in your loved one’s sobriety toolkit. Their relapse has probably already made them feel immense guilt, so now is not the time to be critical or place blame. Here are some things you can say to someone to help them get back on the right track.

1. “I’m still here for you.”

Along with the shame that often accompanies a relapse, your loved one might be worried that you’ll turn your back on them. Their disease has probably already caused them to lose the support of some people who refused to tolerate their self-destructive behavior. Maybe they’ve had to cut ties with others who wouldn’t respect their new boundaries. After a relapse, it’s essential to reassure your family member or friend that you still love them and want to help them get sober. Just make sure you aren’t enabling them, financially or otherwise.

2. “What can I do for you?”

Addiction and isolation often go hand in hand, so you need to reinforce the message that your loved one is not alone and can always turn to you when they’re struggling. For example, you might volunteer to help a friend research accredited treatment programs, drive them to therapy appointments or babysit young children while they participate in an outpatient program.

3. “Have you learned anything from this?”

It’s a common misconception to equate relapse with failure, but you can turn this trope around by reframing it as a learning experience. If you ask your loved one to analyze the events leading up to their return to substance abuse, you might uncover a pattern you can use to help prevent a future relapse.

For instance, perhaps a hectic week at work led them to feel nostalgic about the days when they used to blow off steam at happy hour. They might then have stopped by their former favorite bar “for old times’ sake,” which proved to be the tipping point. In this case, one conclusion you can draw is that your loved one needs more effective coping mechanisms for handling high-pressure situations, so drinking isn’t their knee-jerk reaction to stress.

4. “You’ve quit before, and you can do it again.”

Optimism is crucial for helping your friend or family member push the reset button. Having recently encountered a significant roadblock to recovery, they’re probably feeling disheartened. You may be sad too, but it’s vital to stay upbeat. Remind them of how much progress they’ve made since they determined to get sober. They’ve probably already gone through detox, participated in therapy and learned new ways to preserve their mental health. The continuum of care is no longer a mystery. Forging ahead is a matter of finding renewed motivation and trying to avoid the same setbacks.

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If someone close to you is struggling with addiction and has recently experienced a relapse, they may need to reenter treatment to address the underlying causes of their illness and inspire them to pursue lifelong sobriety. Contact us today to learn more.

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