By Steps to Recovery on December 5, 2012

When a friend or loved one in recovery suffers a relapse, their actions don’t only impact their own life but also the lives of the people around them. It seems the most affected by a person’s relapse is often their recovery friends. These individuals might not only feel sad because of the loss of their friend in recovery, but they may worry that their own sobriety is at risk. It can be even more upsetting if a person who had been considered to have a strong recovery falls off the wagon. Especially for people in early recovery, this may be deeply triggering, as they may have been looking to that person as a role model.

When a friend relapses, it can create a big impact. Some of the most typical emotional responses will include: deep sadness about the loss of a friend to addiction, worry for what this means for the person who has relapsed and for their loved ones, anger at the individual for giving up on their recovery, a feeling of abandonment if the person still in recovery felt in any way dependent on the person who relapsed, worry about how to interact with this person if paths cross, fear that this could mean that the person still working on his or her own recovery’s sobriety could be in danger, jealousy that the other person is enjoying something that those in recovery have to avoid, and confidence crushing thoughts such as, if it did not work for them then how could it work for me?

If a friend or loved one of yours relapses, the number one thing you have to do is put your own recovery first. You have to make sure to put your sobriety above everything else, protect it with everything you have. To reinforce this, it is important to talk with others about what is going on. Talk about the situation with people in your meetings or groups, talk with your sponsor if you have one, seek support and advice from other people in recovery. Keep doing your self care, meditating, movement, journaling. Sometimes writing out your thoughts and emotions about what is upsetting you is one of the best ways to process what’s coming up, especially if you are in a situation where you can’t get other one on one support right when you need it.

How can you help a friend who has relapsed? If you have reached out to them, called them, tried to get them to a meeting or other supportive environment but they are refusing, unfortunately there isn’t much that can be done. The choice to return to recovery has to be made by the individual who has relapsed. The only way to really support this person is to simply remind them that they can come back at anytime, it’s up to them and the help is always there. And keep up your own recovery work. Be an example that recovery does work.