Relapse is very common in early recovery. It is also very frightening for the person in recovery and for their loved ones. 

In early recovery, the recovering person is afraid of relapsing and may even isolate themselves to prevent relapse. The family is excited about the person entering recovery, but fear of relapse quickly overshadows any excitement because the family knows that it only takes one time of using for a person to overdose and die. 

How Relapse Feels for An Addict

The addicted person is already experiencing shame, guilt, hopelessness, and feeling like a failure. Once they enter treatment, you can add fear to the list. 

The last thing the patient wants to do is disappoint their loved ones again by relapsing. They want to be perfect at recovery, and there’s no such thing as perfection when getting sober. Every patient has to find what works for them.

When it comes to avoiding heroin relapse, support is key. A counselor can help you find a community resource for support.

How Relapse Feels for the Family of An Addict

Family members may feel relief once their loved one enters treatment, but that relief is short lived. It is quickly replaced with fear and doubt. 

It’s common for the family, especially parents, to blame themselves for their loved one’s addiction. They often ask themselves, ‘Where did I go wrong?’, but they won’t find the answer. This is because only the addicted person is responsible for their addiction. 

The family’s fearful that their loved one will relapse, which can lead to death. So, what should family members watch for when they are concerned about relapse?

Most family members never saw their loved one using heroin, but they knew when it was happening once they knew there was a problem. They knew because of the loved one’s behaviors. 

In recovery, family members are often watching for a return to using behaviors. This could be lying, manipulating, isolating, disappearing for periods of time, or irritability. Remember, these are the behaviors they associate with drug use.

The best thing a family can do is become educated on addiction and relapse prevention. They would benefit from attending treatment themselves. This could be a support group, 12-step group, or counseling.

What Are the Common Causes of Relapse?

Emotions are a huge trigger for relapse, and people tend to become overly emotional when it comes to their money and their heart. Therefore, two of the most common triggers of relapse are relationships and finances.

Another major trigger for relapse is over-confidence. Once a patient enters early recovery and begins medication assisted treatment, they feel better. They think their problem is solved because the heroin is out of their lives. 

Then, when a life problem pops up, they have difficulty handling it because they are still lacking life skills so they use again. Remember, heroin has been their solution to life problems. They are reacting to the negative emotions and lack of control over the situation. 

Counseling can assist patients in learning how to better regulate these emotions rather than reacting to them.

How to Avoid Relapse

One defense against relapse is to know what your main triggers are and develop a plan to deal with them. This will be your relapse prevention plan.

Triggers for relapse can be environmental factors such as having contact with old friends you used with in the past, hanging out in places where you used in the past, and common rituals that led you to using.

Personal factors can also lead to relapse. Examples would be certain emotions, memories, anniversaries, and feelings.

It is important to think of as many triggers as you can that have led you to use in the past. It could be cashing your paycheck and having a handful of cash or even a smell that can trigger you to think about using.

Attending counseling along with medication assisted treatment will increase your chances of success in recovery. You’ll be able to develop a relapse prevention plan, improve life skills, and work on past issues in counseling.

Support groups, church, 12-step meetings, or finding a hobby are also important in developing a support system. It is important to find activities that we feel passionate about. We all need support and hobbies are a good way to meet people with interests similar to yours.

Can Family Members Help Prevent Relapse?

The best thing family members can do to help prevent relapse is to be honest with their loved one. Don’t tip-toe around, being afraid that you may trigger them to use again. You don’t have that much power.

You may see some behavior that the addict doesn’t see, and you can actually prevent a relapse if you point it out to them. But this doesn’t mean you should be overly critical or constantly pointing things out. You’re not their keeper. 

Don’t forget to point out the positive changes you are seeing as well. If you are trying to improve a relationship, it is important to identify the positive aspects of the other person and the relationship as a whole.