How to support an addict or alcoholic who has relapsed


Dealing with reentering recovery after going through a drug addiction or alcoholism treatment program and subsequently relapsing can be extremely difficult. For some, this process can be more difficult than entering recovery initially. It can make an individual feel like all of their effort was wasted or that they are hopeless and cannot recover. There can also be great deals of shame and guilt associated with an alcohol or drug relapse.  If a loved one or someone you know has relapsed, there are a few things you can do to help them find their way back to recovery. The list below is by no means exhaustive but is a great starting point.

  • Provide accountability.– Individuals experiencing a relapse into active alcoholism or addiction will benefit from being held accountable for their actions. The goal here is not to try and induce or increase guilt and shame but to help them see the consequences of their actions and that the consequences may continue to intensify if they continue to use drugs and alcohol. It is usually advisable to recommend the individual re engage in some form of substance use disorder treatment. This leads us to the next point….
  • Encourage re-entering treatment– The individual may be feeling hopeless about themselves. Knowing that loved ones have not given up on them is important. You can do this by encouraging them to re-enter addiction or alcoholism treatment and get back on a healthy path. Relapse is not a failure or sign treatment was ineffective, it is an unfortunate part of the recovery process for many. It may simply be a sign more alcoholism/addiction treatment is needed or adjustments need to be made.
  • Be the example – Do not let their relapse derail you and your personal life. Continue your regular life activities and self-care routine. It is common for family members or loved ones to let their needs go by the wayside when their loved one relapses into active alcoholism or addiction. This does not benefit you or the individual dealing with the relapse. The best thing you can do for them is to continue to be at your best and provide a positive example for them. As the old saying goes “you cannot pour from an empty cup.”
  • Stay positive– Addiction and alcoholism are diseases. This is a medical fact. As with many other chronic illnesses, sometimes more than one round of treatment is needed to achieve long-term remission. Alcoholism and addiction are no different. Relapse does not indicate an inability to recover in the future.
  • Set Boundaries- This is a difficult task for many loved ones. Setting boundaries and enforcing them is crucial to the health and wellness of all parties involved. This will look different depending on the situation and severity of the situation, for more guidance on this, please feel free to reach out to us.
Here at Harbor Wellness and Recovery Center, we offer various levels of care to treat alcoholism, alcohol use disorder, substance use disorder, and other co-occurring conditions. For more information on our services please call us directly at 732-847-4555. We are available 24/7 to help. All calls are no obligation and are strictly confidential.