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.



3 Ways You Are Enabling Newcomers

3 Ways You Are Enabling Newcomers

Most of the time when you think of enabling and enablers, especially when it comes to addicts and alcoholics you think of the family or loved ones. But enabling is something that can happen between any people in any type of relationship, including the relationship between newcomers and people with more clean time.

So what is enabling?

Enabling is “removing the natural consequences to the newcomer of his or her behavior.” People with more clean time will often feel compelled to solve a newcomer’s problems. If they’re involved with them deeply, they usually end up taking on the irresponsible addict’s responsibilities. Their behavior starts as a well-intentioned desire to help, but in later stages of addiction, they act out of desperation. The dynamics between friends, newcomer and person with more clean time or even sponsor and sponsee, become skewed, so that the person with more clean time increasingly over-functions and the newcomer increasingly under-functions. This builds resentment on both sides, along with the newcomer’s expectation that the person with more clean time will continue to make things right when they doesn’t meet his or her responsibilities.

Here are 3 ways you are enabling newcomers:

  • Giving them money: Most newcomers are broke. For the most part this is usually true. They have no job and have been scrounging up money most of their lives to fund their drinking or using habit. It can seem really tempting to give a newcomer money but this is enabling them. A newcomer needs to learn how to stand on their own two feet, especially when it comes to money. They should be finding a job and won’t have the drive or desperation to if they aren’t suffering the consequences of having no money.
  • Fulfilling their commitments to others: If a newcomer has made a commitment to be somewhere and can’t show up you don’t show up for them. You also don’t save them if for some reason they want to flake out on a ride somewhere. A way you are enabling a newcomer is by making excuses for them. Let them handle their own responsibilities and suffer the consequences if they are being accountable. This is how a newcomer will learn.
  • Bailing them out of jail: If for whatever reason a newcomer you know relapses and goes to jail or relapses in a halfway house and has nowhere to go. Enabling is letting them stay in the halfway house and enabling is bailing them out of jail. This is another scenario where letting them suffer the consequences is when they will learn. It is not your job to save them or make sure they don’t have to deal with the pain of their decisions. If a newcomer chooses to relapse they know the rules of the halfway house and the law so if they end up paying for that; they should deal with the consequences.

Enabling a newcomer can be very dangerous because they are teetering a fine line of trying to stay sober but not sure if they want to be sober. Enabling can make it easy for them to do what they want and stay in sick behavior. They will begin getting well when they have to suffer their own consequences and learn from their mistakes instead of being saved from them.



What are the 12 steps of AA?

What are the 12 steps of AA?

What are the 12 steps of AA?

The 12 steps of AA are the spiritual foundation for recovery from the effects of alcoholism. These steps are not just a way to stop using drugs or drinking. They are the foundation of a new way of life. The twelve steps of AA have been adopted by other programs to treat addictive and dysfunctional behaviors.

The first 12 step program began in the 1930’s and has since grown to be the most widely used approach to deal with addiction and other dysfunctional behaviors. The first book written to cover the 12 steps of AA was entitled “Alcoholics Anonymous” also known as the Big Book by program members.

The 12 steps of AA are as follows:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The 12 steps of AA have been adopted by other groups to address their own addictive or dysfunctional behaviors have similar ideas, usually with only minor variations. The 12 steps of AA are meant to be worked sequentially with a sponsor, which is a member whose purpose is to guide others through the steps.

The 12 steps of AA involve certain basic ideas including:

  • Admitting that one can’t control one’s addiction or compulsion
  • Recognizing that a higher power can give strength
  • Examining past errors
  • Making amends for past errors
  • Learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior
  • Helping others who suffer from the same addictions and compulsions

The 12 steps of AA are suggested as a program of recovery for Alcoholics Anonymous, but the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees required to join Alcoholics Anonymous. Ultimately, the 12 steps of AA are more than just a way to stay sober. They’re a blueprint for a new, spiritual way of life, and they consist of universal spiritual principles.

Anonymity in Recovery

Anonymity in Recovery

The 12th tradition of 12-step programs states “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.”

Anonymity in Recovery – Personal Privacy

The simplest meaning of anonymity is privacy. People come into a twelve step meeting and give their first names only. There are no membership rolls and no records kept of any kind. On a personal level, anonymity in recovery protects all members from identification as alcoholics. Society still stigmatizes those that suffer from the disease of addiction. Stigma is one of the meanest and most difficult aspects of addiction because it makes it harder for individuals and families to deal with their problems and get the help they need. People who are victims of stigma internalize the hate it carries, transforming it to shame and hiding from its effects. Newcomers especially are ashamed of being “ousted” as alcoholics. Anonymity allows those people to come to AA without the fear that people will find out about it. It allows members to be more honest and open in meetings.

Anonymity in Recovery – Protection for the Program

Another aspect of anonymity in recovery is that it protects 12-step programs as a whole. Anonymity is often referred to as the single greatest protection the fellowship has. It is credited as the principle that has allowed AA to thrive and grow for all these years. Anonymity in recovery ensures that no one person can tarnish AA’s reputation. If a high profile member relapses and has a widely observed disgrace, which is possible for any alcoholic or addict, they would disgrace themselves. AA remains untouched, because that member never spoke for Alcoholics Anonymous. AA maintains its anonymity as a group.

Anonymity in Recovery –  Spiritual Principles

Anonymity in recovery serves two spiritual principles. First, it reminds us that we are all equal. Anonymity in recovery means that I am not better than you or worse than you, in any way. It means that the person who has twenty years of sobriety is no more important than the person who has twenty days. When we treat someone differently because of our perception of who they are, we are violating their anonymity in recovery-not because we are telling their secrets, but because we are not treating them the same way we would treat anyone else. We should be just as willing to help any person in the group as we are any other person.

The second spiritual principle of anonymity in recovery is that we are letting go of our own sense of uniqueness. In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it states that “Selfishness — self-centeredness! That we think is the root of our trouble.” Anonymity in recovery is about letting go of that individuality and the things that make us different and embracing the things we have in common.

Anonymity in recovery gives us the opportunity to let go of old ideas. Everywhere else in the world, we are judged by who the world thinks we are. Anonymity in recovery allows us to let go of this identity and really see that we are all equal and that every person is a child of God.