A friend’s relapse can be a difficult thing for a recovering addict to handle. You may have spent many hours in rehab talking about your addictions and about life, discovering what you have in common, and planning your sober futures after rehab. Now, your friend has decided to give up on sobriety and go back to abusing drugs or alcohol.
While it is never easy to deal with a friend’s relapse, it is possible to handle this situation well while protecting your own sobriety and needs in the process.
Challenging Friends’ Thinking About Relapse
Your initial reaction when friends relapse or say they want to relapse is to try to talk them out of it. It is worth a try to explain to your friend why relapsing is a bad idea and to try to get him or her back into treatment of some kind so your friend can get back on the right track.
It is important to understand, however, that you are unlikely to convince your friend to return to sobriety in many, if not most, cases. Friends who persist in their relapse can cause a significant amount of emotional turmoil for their sober friends like you, as you watch them spiral downward even though they cannot see what they are doing to themselves.
It is important to be able to let go after you have tried to help your friend see the need for help, for your own sobriety and well-being. Reminding yourself that your friend alone is ultimately in charge of his or her own life and choices will help you remember that you cannot singlehandedly save your friend, no matter how badly you might wish to do so.
This type of thinking is not heartless even when it feels that way; it demonstrates good boundaries that are healthy and recognizes that people have free will and cannot be saved by anyone else unless they want to be saved, or save themselves.
Protecting Your Own Sobriety
Observing healthy boundaries is the first step to protecting your own sobriety, but you may need to go further to ensure that you do not end up going down the same path. Finding out about a friend’s relapse can bring up all sorts of feelings, including the temptation to relapse yourself. Your friend may even pressure you to go back to using drugs or alcohol along with them.
It is not wrong to put distance between you and your friend if you are feeling like being with them triggers your own addiction and threatens to make you slip. Your friend may or may not understand your reasons for keeping him or her at arm’s length, but you should do whatever you need to do to keep yourself on the straight and narrow.
If despite getting distance from your relapsing friend, you think you are still at risk of relapse yourself, you should get the help you need by going back to treatment, counseling, or ongoing support programs that you may have thought you moved beyond. There is no such thing as a cure for addiction; it only works as well as your efforts to make it work, and that includes getting as much help as you need in order to stay sober.
Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is a Colorado drug rehab that offers comprehensive addiction treatment, including for relapse when it does occur. Learn about admissions to Recovery Village to see how we can help you prevent relapse and overcome addiction.