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How to Help an Alcoholic Who Has Relapsed

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Many people believe that an alcoholic relapse can only mean that their loved one has given up on sobriety, but this isn’t necessarily true. For example, if you have an alcoholic friend or family member who has relapsed in the past, it doesn’t mean they will always fail at sobriety again in the future. If your loved one has relapsed after some time in recovery, you should know that there are many ways to help them get back on track with their recovery and avoid a full relapse into alcoholism again.

Get support

If you or someone you love is an alcoholic and has recently relapsed, it’s important to understand that alcohol rehab centres near you don’t have to be a scary place. By getting in touch with a rehab therapist[1]  you can receive support and help as you work through your issues. This support network can help make a relapse recovery easier than ever before.

Offer practical support

The most important thing you can do is be there for your loved one. Alcohol rehab counsellors suggest that family members make themselves available by picking up their loved one from every event. Even though you’re probably stressed out and may feel uncomfortable, avoid being judgemental or antagonistic towards your loved one during a relapse; it will only push them away further.

Remove any alcohol from your home

One important step to helping someone who’s relapsed is a straight-forward one: remove all alcohol from your home. Don’t make it easy for your loved one by offering him or her something alcoholic in your house; if he or she has already relapsed, that person is at risk of doing so again.

Know signs of relapse

Many people who have relapsed never actually tell others about it. That makes it especially important for friends and family members of alcoholics to be aware of signs that someone may have relapsed, including: a return to old behaviours (e.g., excessive drinking), sudden mood swings, social withdrawal or isolation, blaming others for problems, and lying about one’s activities or whereabouts.

Focus on recovery, not blame

When someone has relapsed, it’s natural to be angry. After all, relapse is viewed as a failure of sorts—and that’s something nobody wants attached to them. Rather than focusing on blame and anger, however, it’s important for friends and family members of someone who has relapsed to be supportive in their recovery process. The support you offer will help your loved one become healthier and more likely to stay sober long-term.

Understand treatment options

Once you identify that someone has relapsed, it’s important to understand what options are available. Some people benefit from inpatient alcohol rehab programs (where they stay in a facility while they receive treatment), while others may be more comfortable with outpatient programs (in which they go home after treatment and continue counselling through regular check-ins). It’s important to assess your loved one’s needs and choose a program [2] that is best for them.

Make a plan for what happens next

If you’re worried that someone has relapsed, one of your best courses of action is to make a plan. This plan will include certain things you can do—but also has steps that should be taken in order for your loved one to see recovery as a path forward. If they have recently relapsed, encourage them to seek professional help at a rehab centre or with a professional counsellor who can provide resources and support. Having such support is vital for those who want their lives back.

Set boundaries

Setting boundaries is important when helping someone else through their recovery. Whether you’re providing a place for them to stay, lending them money or supporting them in another way, know your limits and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Be firm but compassionate when you say no. Remember that enabling—or any kind of behaviour that makes it easier for someone with an addiction to avoid their problem—can be extremely harmful for both parties involved.


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