What to do when an alcoholic relapses

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Alcohol relapse is widely misunderstood. Understanding how it works will simplify how you handle someone who relapses on alcohol. Understanding that relapse occurs in three distinct emotional, mental, and physical stages. Relapses and recoveries are not one-time events but continuous processes that might not always follow a linear pattern.

Alcohol abuse is clinically termed AUD (alcohol use disorder), a progressive, chronic, and relapsing brain disorder with a high relapse rate. Up to 40% – 60% of those in AUD Recovery will relapse once or more. As such, the addiction relapse rate mirrors that of other chronic diseases. How you negotiate any roadblocks during your recovery can be the difference between ongoing sober living & reprised relapse.

Why Choose Pure Recovery

Those struggling with alcohol relapse can benefit from Pure Recovery’s various programs and services. Our programs are designed to provide our clients with the tools they need to overcome their addiction and stay sober for life. If you or someone you care about is struggling with alcohol addiction relapse, please get in touch with us as soon as possible. Our team can assist you with finding the right treatment program to begin your recovery process.

Relapse in Alcoholics: Understanding the Process

Alcohol relapse transpires when someone returns to consuming alcohol after a spell of abstinence. It doesn’t happen overnight for someone to relapse into alcohol abuse, like with any addictive behavior. Relapse stages must be understood before knowing what to do when an alcoholic relapses.

The following stages characterize alcohol relapse:

  1. Emotional alcohol relapse: Psychological and emotional withdrawal symptoms are more prevalent during the emotional phase of alcohol relapse. It is possible to become defensive about your recovery during this precursor to relapse. You will also likely experience mood swings, anger, anxiety, intolerance, and isolation during this period. Sleep patterns can be disrupted as well as poor eating habits. You may stop engaging in treatment or peer support group meetings at this early stage of relapse.
  2. Mental alcohol relapse: A fierce internal battle is often associated with this phase of alcohol relapse. You may begin to reminisce about the time you spent drinking. While glamorizing the experience, you may downplay all the negative consequences that sent you seeking addiction treatment. Some people undergoing mental relapses start thinking about drinking again, while others actively plan to get back into drinking alcohol.
  3. Physical alcohol relapse: Some people quickly realize their error, correct it, and reengage with recovery after experiencing physical alcohol relapse. In other cases, relapse means months of trouble with alcoholism, followed by the need to detox again and begin the healing process from scratch.

A guide to talking to Relapsed Alcoholics

In the event that an alcoholic family member relapses, here are some actionable tips.

  • Keep in mind that addiction is a chronic brain disorder
  • Instead of criticizing or judging, show love and concern
  • Avoid blaming each other
  • Engage in active listening
  • Make self-care a priority
  • Codependency and enabling should be avoided
  • Support your loved one in seeking treatment

Chronic brain disorders are responsible for addiction

If you are struggling with an alcoholic family member who has relapsed, remember that your loved one is not their addiction. The person is not the addiction, as alcohol use disorder is regarded as a chronic disease. You need to be supportive and understanding of your loved one.

Criticism or judgment should be replaced with love and concern

Approach the conversation with love and concern, not judgment or criticism. Give your loved ones the assurance that you care about their well-being and will support them in their recovery. Avoid making accusations or criticizing their behavior. Often, this can result in the person responding defensively rather than listening to what you have to say.

Leave blame out of the equation

Under no circumstances blame your loved one for relapsing. Alcoholism is a chronic and relapsing condition, with four to six in ten people in recovery relapsing at least once. Your loved one will likely feel lots of shame, so resist attaching any blame when discussing their relapse.

Practice active listening

Listen actively and try to understand your loved one’s perspective better. Instead of interrupting or attempting to solve their problems, listen actively. Ask lots of questions and demonstrate that you are trying to understand the situation from their viewpoint. This can help your friend or family member to feel supported.

Prioritize your self-care

Helping a loved one can be draining. Ensure that you take care of yourself at the same time as you help others. Remember also that you cannot force someone to seek help or to change their behavior. Consider taking a step back and focusing on your own self-care if your loved one is unwilling to seek help or engage in a productive dialogue. Although this can be challenging, it will benefit you and your loved one over time.

Avoid enabling and codependency

If you make excuses for your loved one with alcohol use disorder, or you take the blame for their negative behaviors, you could be enabling their addiction. The same applies if you supply your loved one with money to spend on alcohol. Continual enabling can lead to the development of a co-dependent relationship.

Encourage your loved one to seek help

Under no circumstances blame your loved one for relapsing. Alcoholism is a chronic and relapsing condition, with four to six in ten people in recovery relapsing at least once. Your loved one will likely feel lots of shame, so resist attaching any blame when discussing their relapse.

Get Help for Alcohol Relapse at Pure Recovery Located in Manhatten, NY

If you find your recovery is suddenly derailed by relapse, what can you do to get back on track? It’s important to know what to do when an alcoholic relapses.

Firstly, accept that relapse is often a part of the recovery process. Resist any feelings of guilt or shame, and double down on your sobriety rather than slipping back into active alcoholism.

You should reach out to your loved ones, alleviating their concerns about this roadblock and getting the help you need to recalibrate. Make use of this opportunity to speak openly about your relapse with someone in your sober network, whether a counselor, a recovery coach, a psychologist, or a sponsor.

Whatever stage of your recovery journey, always remain vigilant for possible relapse. If it occurs, how you handle it could mean the difference between months of more chaos and a rapid return to sobriety with renewed focus. We at Pure Recovery LLC can help you or your loved one power through a relapse and get back on track. Call us at 888-524-2748 to learn more.

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