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.

Sources:

http://www.addictionpro.com/

http://www.merriam-webster.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org

 

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.