A guest post from family counselor and interventionist Ricki Townsend
In the disease of addiction, as in most diseases, there is the chance of relapse. Both the substance abuser and the family must remember that we are only in remission. Addiction doesn’t disappear; it is a chronic disease that may include relapse.
What does it look like when remission ends and relapse sets in? Typically, recovery for all family members has been going well. The family has been going to Al-Anon. The addict/alcoholic has been going to AA or NA. An agreement is in place, and everyone has been abiding by its terms. Things have been getter better, one day at a time, for six to nine months. The rough edges are smoothing out. The beloved addict is now showing up in an honest way, and everyone starts relaxing.
Bit by bit, though, people become complacent. The addict misses a meeting, or two. The parents slack off on the drug testing. Other elements of the agreement are overlooked. All of a sudden, relapse barges through the front door.
Old behaviors return in full force. The addict starts using or drinking again, the parents resort to their earlier behaviors, whether enabling or withdrawing from the chaos. The entire family is in relapse.
This scenario brings heartbreak, anger, stress, and panic. What do you do now that it’s all falling apart again? How do you get back on track? This is a time to call an addiction professional that you trust and ask them to listen to you, your fears, and your pain. Then listen to their ideas, which will be much more objective than yours. Is your loved one heading the right direction after relapse? Going to meetings? Testing clean? Humble? Scared? Did you stick with your agreement? What do you need to do differently this time around? The answers to those questions will guide you as you think about the steps you need to take. Perhaps you will want to invite the professional to mediate between you and your loved one to reset the rules.
Because your family is a “system” with interlocking parts, you need to look at your role in the relapse. Are you heading the right direction after the relapse? I invite you to breathe, spend some time alone to regain your balance, and consider your next steps. You can’t change the addict, but you can change yourself. What might you do differently this time around?
There is no one “right” answer for everyone. You need to find the answer that works for you and your family; the only “must” is that you seek that answer thoughtfully, constructively and respectfully.
Board Certified Interventionist, Drug/Alcohol Counselor
NAADAC Certification Commissioner
Ncac1, CAS, RAS, Bri-1