How to help an alcoholic who has relapsed

Although relapsing is a common part of the long-term recovery process, for a recovering addict, it can feel like the end of the world.

An alcohol relapse is categorised as failure. It is seen as full regress, which cannot be recovered from. Whilst any degree of relapse does reflect regress, recovery is however possible, still offering the chance to lead a sober, fulfilled life.

Knowing how to support and help an alcoholic through this challenging time is really important. Your family member or loved one may be experiencing withdrawal symptoms, they may be feeling worthless and hopeless, or they may be experiencing compulsive thoughts which can increase their risk of further alcohol abuse.

Understanding alcoholism, being aware of addiction relapse signs, and offering emotional support will be helpful through this testing time. Ongoing relapse prevention, professional input, and honest conversations, moving forward, can also help to reduce future risks.

Here’s some guidance on how to help an alcoholic who has relapsed, along with the type of treatment we can offer here at Rehab Clinics Group.

What is a relapse?

An addiction relapse is a common form of regress which can occur once an addict withdraws from alcohol. Alcoholism is a reoccurring condition, meaning that symptoms of addiction can resurface if the condition is untreated or unmanaged.

An alcohol relapse can occur emotionally, mentally, or physically, starting from mere justification of consumption to actual consumption. The cause of a relapse can be anything from uncontrollable stress, a lack of routine and poor mental health. Whilst a relapse is pictured as binge-like stints or secret drinking, the reality of experiencing a relapse is far from this stereotype. A relapse can begin to develop as soon as sobriety hits, triggered by emotions, by a lack of direction and by the newness of recovery.

Through treatment and rehabilitation steps, relapse prevention planning is promoted as a supportive armour. It is effective whilst working through any high-risk situations or causations. Yet even the most robust plan can sometimes diminish against the strength of an addiction, found to result in a relapse.

Relapsing is seen as failure, which is why your loved one may be struggling to digest the occurrence. It is however a sign that greater treatment, management, and focus is required to maintain an alcohol-free lifestyle

In the event of regress, here’s how to help an alcoholic who has relapsed.

Understanding alcoholism

Before offering your full support, an understanding of alcoholism as a brain condition must be present. There are many misconceptions surrounding alcoholism which heavily stigmatise and stereotype alcoholics. By instead becoming educated on alcohol use disorders, how to spot them, how to treat them and how to manage them, you’ll understand the complicated and uncontrollable nature of alcoholism.

To help an alcoholic who has relapsed, it is also recommended that you work to understand their relationship with alcohol. Placing yourself in their shoes will offer a greater understanding of how difficult alcoholism, recovery and relapse can be.

Awareness of the warning signs

Although you may be looking for ways to work through an existing relapse, it’s also imperative to be aware of relapse warning signs. An emotional relapse may have occurred, which without control, can develop into both a mental and physical relapse.

Being aware of the signs can help to reduce the severity and intensity of an addiction relapse

If an alcoholic is feeling low, displays poor mental health, is struggling with the newness of sobriety or cannot digest their emotions, this is a common early sign of emotional relapse. From here, such mental imbalance can begin to justify alcohol as a coping strategy, can increase the urge for consumption, and can reduce self-belief and confidence. A mental relapse can quickly trigger the physical act of alcohol abuse, resulting in a physical relapse.

With an understanding of personal triggers and relationships with alcohol, combined with the signs of relapse, you’ll be more prepared to intervene and offer help

Common warning signs include:

  • Social isolation
  • Poor self-control and routine
  • Emotional distress
  • Irrational thinking
  • Living in denial
  • Viewing alcohol as a coping strategy
  • Justifying ongoing consumption
  • Sabotaging the recovery process
  • Secret drinking
  • Physical consumption of alcohol

How to help an alcoholic overcome temptation

Temptation is one of the hardest feelings to control whilst aiming to stay sober. Especially for alcoholics within early recovery, it can be difficult to regulate the cravings and the urges to return to alcohol as a coping strategy, habit, or comfort blanket.

Giving into any form of temptation is a sign of relapse. Even justifying short-term use of alcohol is a warning sign, which can develop into stronger urges.

By minimising all forms of temptation as much as possible, risks of future/long-term relapse can be reduced. To help an alcoholic who has relapsed, temptations can be controlled by maintaining a clean house, being selective with certain environments, and being aware of personal triggers.

Early recovery and relapse can both be mentally draining and difficult to manoeuvre around. Your help can direct your family member or friend towards the routine, coping strategy, or place which will reduce further relapse.

You can help them overcome temptation and high-risk situations by:

  • Encouraging them to attend support groups
  • Offering strong support networks
  • Arranging alcohol-free plans
  • Redirecting them to their relapse prevention plan
  • Encouraging healthy lifestyle choices and routines
  • Reminding them of their success
  • Helping them return to a positive and sober mindset
  • Reminding them of the true lessons behind a relapse
  • Redirecting them to further addiction treatment and professional addiction support
  • Maintaining environments by eliminating high-risk situations
  • Sustaining a transparent and healthy relationship
  • Encouraging them to seek help in the event of a relapse

There are many different tips to consider whilst asking yourself ‘how to help an alcoholic who has relapsed’, or even if you are hoping to reduce future temptations. Finding what works for your relationship and the level of help you can offer is important.

How to begin the conversation about help

It can be very difficult to approach a loved one about their habits, no matter where they may be within the recovery process. However, it is important to approach them in order to begin the conversation about personal and professional help.

Once you’re equipped with awareness of alcoholism, of relapse and of how to manage temptation, you should begin the conversation with a patient, compassionate and understanding attitude.

To help an alcoholic who has relapsed, you will need to be empathetic, calm and caring, yet you’ll also need to think on your feet and minimise all risks. Approaching with supportive messages, a plan of action and relapse prevention techniques will be wise. The aim will be to stop consumption, motivate acceptance and help your loved one get the support that they need from their sponsor or local rehab facility.

Whilst a relapse may have paused recovery, with direction, motivation and further recovery steps, long-term sobriety can be worked towards. The recovery process is a learning curve, for all parties. With full commitment, life-long lessons can be realised, to stay and support a sober life.

If you require further professional help, at Rehab Clinics Group we are here to assist, to support you as loved ones and to also offer advice on the next best steps. Some alcoholics who relapse will require further treatment, whilst others will benefit from self-help and management.

We’re here to offer alcohol detox plans, alcohol addiction rehab programmes, and long-term recovery support throughout sobriety and possible relapse. Reach out for further insight on how to help an alcoholic who has relapsed.