When a good friend relapses, it can be heartbreaking, infuriating, or just plain baffling. There are a number of ways to help them stay sober—the most important of which is encouraging them to continue treatment. Addiction treatment doesn’t end when the addict walks away from the rehab clinic; it continues forever. Even if they say they’re not addicted anymore, the risk is still there. The majority of recovering addicts relapse, but must don’t stick with aftercare, either. On the other side are those who do.
IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE TORTURE
Maybe he just can’t swallow the religiosity involved in AA, or maybe he just doesn’t feel comfortable around sponsors or other group members. Whatever the problem may be, it shouldn’t stop you, because there are tons of recovery programs out there that tailor to all kinds of personalities, interests, and needs. If your friend likes horses, tell him about equine therapy. If he’d prefer to vent anonymously, or if he doesn’t have time to attend formal meetings in person, have him check out some internet-based recovery venues, of which there are many.
BE THE RIGHT KIND OF SUPPORTIVE
This doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with the addict, as they might expect. It means encouraging them to make the right choices, the healthy ones, the safest ones. If he’s hanging with old friends, working too hard, or jumping back into the dating game too quickly for his own good…it’s your responsibility to tell him. Your friend may get offended or even angry, but that’s the ballgame. Real friends say the things we don’t want to hear.
IF THEY DO RELAPSE, DON’T FREAK OUT
It’s easy to take relapse personally, especially when the addict promised you, with all their heart, that they wouldn’t use ever again. Broken promises are a part of the territory that comes with this disease. Focus on moving forward. There are two kinds of relapse: full-blown relapses and slips. Just because your friend took that sip or puff doesn’t mean all the progress he made is wrecked. If we stumble, we can catch ourselves. If he accepts the setback and gets back on the horse, and learns from the experience, then you’ve merely encountered a bump in the road. Just make sure he consults his sponsor, his recovery group, his therapist – whoever is supporting him – about the situation.
Sometimes — a lot of the time — it’s necessary to repeat treatment. That doesn’t mean you failed, it means you’re still fighting.