How to Help a Chronic Relapser

How to Help a Chronic Relapser

What is a Relapse?

Relapse is resuming the use of a drug or a chemical substance after one or more periods of abstinence; a recurrence of symptoms of a disease (addiction) after a period of improvement; to slip or fall back into a former worse state (active addiction).

What is a Chronic Relapser?

Many addicts have a lifetime of drug and alcohol abuse but have never actually attempted to get sober. What makes chronic relapsers distinct is that they have tried and failed at maintaining sobriety many times over.

Profile of the Chronic Relapser

  • Numerous failed attempts at sobriety, or a return to drugs/alcohol after a substantial period of sobriety
  • Unable to maintain sobriety despite having a wealth of knowledge about addiction and recovery
  • Continued substance use despite significant, severe and repeated consequences
  • Chronic relapsers often feel hopeless that they will ever find lasting sobriety
  • Multiple treatment episodes, including psychiatric treatment, detox, residential, outpatient, and halfway houses
  • Significant exposure, attendance and/or participation in 12-Step programs. Chronic relapsers have a history of repeatedly working Steps 1, 2 and 3, but have never completed all 12
  • Treatment-savvy have learned to navigate their way through the treatment industry to meet their own agenda
  • A unique talent to exhaust the financial resources and emotional support of loved ones. Chronic relapsers leave their loved ones depleted of energy and emotional resources
  • As with most addicts, a pervasive cluster of personality characteristics are frequently exaggerated in the chronic relapser; they are very charming, intelligent, manipulative, convincing, deceitful, lovable, talented and passionate; chronic relapsers have mastered the art of survival, in and out of treatment.

How to Help a Chronic Relapser

Below are ways to get involve, support, and encourage successful recovery for a chronic relapser.

Encourage a long-term length of stay. It is a well-established fact that long-term treatment increases the chances of lasting sobriety. It is important to define the term “long-term treatment” as in a length of stay in excess of nine months. It can take a chronic relapser three to six months to wake up out of the fog in which they have been living. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is very significant in chronic relapsers and frequently interferes considerably with their ability to comprehend recovery principles in early sobriety.

Remove outside distractions. Chronic relapsers are masters at distracting themselves and others from seeing the truth about them. It is essential to remove all things they use to change the way they feel and to force them to sit in their own skin.  It is well within the boundaries the treatment center to limit distractions through therapeutic contracts, clear-cut facility rules and guidelines, and limited family contact. As a loved one or family member of a chronic relapser, be aware that you may be asked not to visit early on or often throughout treatment.

Emphasize the mental and spiritual nature of the disease. It is essential that chronic relapsers understand they have a disease of the mind body and spirit, and that the solution through the 12 Steps is spiritual in nature.

Be active in getting your own treatment. In most cases, the family has participated in the progression of the illness in the chronic relapser through intense enabling behaviors. Therapy for the family cannot just be a suggestion; it must be non-negotiable. Get involved with Al-Anon or Nar-Anon and consider counseling for yourself and other family members.

Put an end to enabling. Family leverage is usually the most significant in keeping a chronic relapser in long-term treatment. Chronic relapsers must recognize in no uncertain terms that they will not receive any emotional or financial support from their family if they do not complete long-term treatment or remain sober.

Stay one step ahead. It has been established that chronic relapsers are treatment-savvy, tricky and highly manipulative. When you, as the family, do get to speak and/or visit the chronic relapser, don’t take what they say at face value. Don’t give them an inch.

Emphasize that they work all 12 Steps with a sponsor. It is important that working the 12 Steps is not just a suggestion, but a requirement. These individuals must be held accountable to obtain a sponsor and work all 12 Steps while they are still in treatment.

Be relentless with accountability. Treatment for the chronic relapser should include a constant emphasis on accountability, responsibility and consistency. It is essential that there be rules, limits, boundaries and consequences with chronic relapsers. Family and friends can support but knowing what is expected of their loved one and reinforcing these policies and practices in their encounters with the chronic relapser.



What should I do if my Sponsor relapses?

What should I do if my Sponsor relapses?What should I do if my Sponsor relapses?

In any 12 step fellowship there are numerous sponsors who also have sponsees. Sponsors and sponsees are merely just recovering alcoholics and addicts trying to help each other. This means there is always a chance that someone could relapse, sponsor or sponsee.

So if you have a sponsor in a 12 step fellowship you may be wondering what you should do if they relapse. It can be hard because your sponsor is the person who is taking you through steps and is someone who you are relying on in sobriety. While this really shouldn’t be the case, the reliance should be on a higher power, we all look up to our sponsors initially. So what should you do if your sponsor relapses?

It is fairly simple if your sponsor relapses you want to find a new sponsor. It is as easy as that. If your sponsor relapses it is not the end of the world. Everyone is human and everyone is just doing their best on a daily basis and if your sponsor relapses it is because of something going on with them and has nothing to do with you. In fact we can go so far as to say if your sponsor relapses it really isn’t that big of a deal. Sponsors are not meant to be your best friend, nor are they supposed to be your therapist, and they definitely aren’t supposed to be your only support. Sponsors should merely be the people who are taking you through the 12 steps and if this is the case then it is fairly simple to just find a new one if yours happens to begin using drugs and drinking again.

If your sponsor relapses they will most likely tell you that you should find a new sponsor because they can no longer do it. This is the right thing for them to do as someone who can only give away what they already have and if they have been drinking or using drugs they have nothing to offer you. So even if you don’t see your sponsor relapse they will most likely tell you what happened and tell you to find another sponsor. Some sponsors may even suggest a good person who can continue taking you through the steps now that they no longer can. Just remember if your sponsor relapses there is nothing you can do and nothing you should do. You are trying to get sober and stay sober yourself. Your sobriety is not dependent on your sponsor, it should be dependent on a higher power and if it is regardless of who relapses and when you are going to be ok and just keep moving forward. This is the only thing you should do if your sponsor relapses, find a new sponsor as quickly as possible and continue working your steps with that new person. You may find that it all happened for a reason. This is not an uncommon occurrence and is not something that should be a huge factor in your own sobriety.

How to avoid relapse

How to avoid a relapse

How to avoid a relapse

How to avoid relapse

Drug addiction and alcoholism is a disease. So when you make the decision to stop using drugs and alcohol the disease still remains and this makes stopping no easy feat. As with any disease, such as hypertension or diabetes it is possible to relapse. When you reach your goal of sobriety and then use drugs again it does not mean you are a failure or that rehab didn’t work. Relapse just means that the symptoms of your disease have reappeared and some adjustments need to be made to your lifestyle.

If you have a problem with drugs and alcohol, you may be wondering how to avoid relapse. Here are some ways that you can be most successful at avoiding relapse once and for all.

Change your friends.

When you have made a decision to not use drugs or drink anymore, than you have to change everything about your lifestyle. Choosing new friends could be the first step for you in the process of avoiding relapse. If you are going to stay sober then it is important that you no longer expose yourself to the temptation of drugs and alcohol. Spending time with people you used drugs and alcohol with may tempt you so a good way to avoid relapse is to stop spending time with your old friends and get some new ones that have the same goal as you-sobriety.

Don’t go to old places where you used to get high or drunk.

One of the best ways to avoid relapse during early sobriety is to stay away from certain locations where you used or were drinking. Certain places are part of our drug use and may include places like:

  • Raves
  • Bars
  • Clubs
  • Parts of college campuses
  • Friend’s Houses

Going to these locations in sobriety could tempt you and cause you to relapse. So if you are trying to get sober and avoid relapse then it is best if you avoid these locations.

Consider going to a halfway house or sober living house.

A halfway house or sober living house is a great way to avoid relapse. This is because a halfway house or sober living house is a residence where only individuals in recovery live. These people can offer you encouragement and support when you feel like you might relapse. A halfway house or sober living house also helps you to avoid relapse because it helps you to achieve the first two tasks outlined in this blog, avoiding old places and old friends.

Have a plan to avoid relapse.

Part of the disease of addiction and alcoholism consists of having cravings for drugs and alcohol. As you get more clean time these cravings will lessen but they will always pop up. The best way to avoid relapse when cravings pop up is to have a plan. This plan can consist of what meetings you will go to druing difficult times and discussing your situation with non-drug using friends and supportive family members. Having a network of people to talk to during this time of craving is a great way to avoid relapse.

If you want to know how to avoid relapse the best way you can do so is to change everything about life and to utilize a 12 step program and fellowship. While relapse is a symptom of the disease it doesn’t have to be a part of your recovery. You don’t have to relapse. You can stay sober for the rest of your life its just a matter of taking it one day at a time and doing the next right thing. If you do this then you are guaranteed to not only avoid relapse but bypass it all together.

If I relapse, who should I call?

As an addict and alcoholic you are already an expert on relapses. Either you have seen someone you know relapse or you have relapsed yourself. If you have racked up a significant amount of sober time then you know all too well how scary the thought of relapsing can be. Relapses can kill.

If your loved one is an addict or alcoholic you may experience watching your loved one relapse and that also is a scary thought. So the question here is.

If I relapse, who should I call?

A relapse happens when a person who is an addict or alcoholic stops drinking or using drugs for a certain period of time and then begins using those drugs and drinking again. So pretty much a relapse is beginning to drink or use drugs again.

Relapses can be scary.

Going back to drugs and alcohol after having been clean for a certain amount of time is daunting for the addict and alcoholic. Watching your loved one go back to drugs and alcohol after being clean for a certain amount of time is also frightening. Because this can be so daunting and frightening it is a good idea to know, if a relapse does happen, who to call.

Most likely if the addict and alcoholic have been clean for a certain amount time you will have attended a treatment center for substance abuse or a detox facility. If this is the case for you then calling the treatment center that you attended may be your best bet.

Definitely ask for help.

As an addict and alcoholic it is hard to stop drinking or using the drugs on your own. You are going to need help to stop using and drinking. That is why it is best that you do call someone and a place that has helped you before.

Maybe you didn’t attend treatment or detox but have a therapist that you have been seeing regularly? They would also be a good person to call if you relapse. Anyone who can get you the professional help you need during your relapse is the person to call.

For those who have loved ones that are addicts and alcoholics, you are also probably wondering who you should call if a relapse happens. The feelings of desperation to try and help your loved one are most likely intense and very strong at this time. Calling the treatment center your loved one may have attended is also the best idea for you.

If for whatever reason your loved one has relapsed and you cannot call the treatment center they attended because they never attended treatment. Or say they don’t have a therapist, outpatient program or anything of the sort. If their relapse has caused them to become violent or potentially harmful to themselves or others…

It’s time for a last resort.

Your best bet may be to try to either schedule an Intervention. You can use the SAMHA treatment locator to find a treatment center. They can also ask them for help setting up an intervention. If an intervention is impossible then using the law to your benefit is an option. You can use the Marchman Act to get an addict who cannot or will not voluntarily seek treatment even though their putting themselves and/or others in danger. If you’re still not sure what to do pick up the phone and call the police.

If you have a loved one who is relapsing and unwilling to get clean then you may want to look into the involuntary commitments that can be instated in your state. This could save your loved ones life if they relapse and you have no one else to call.

The best options if you relapse and need to call someone are to call:

  • the treatment center for substance abuse you attended or medical detox
  • a therapist
  • a sponsor if you or your loved one was working a 12-step program
  • a treatment center that does Interventions
  • law enforcement