When someone relapses after a period of sobriety there can be significant ripple effects. Their actions will not only impact their own life, but also the lives of the people around them. It can be particularly upsetting when relapse occurs in those who we considered to have a fairly strong recovery.
Because the 12-steps of AA is a selfish program-individuals need to put their own sobriety above everything else. If a friend relapses, the number one priority is to protect your own sobriety. It is important to talk about what happened with other people. A friend’s relapse can act as a warning of what happens when people fail to take their recovery seriously. Sometimes the warning signs of a friend’s impending relapse were noticeable, and it may be beneficial to take notes and learn from their mistakes. In some instances it may seem like your friend’s relapse happened completely out of the blue. However, I think it’s safe to assume that a relapse starts long before the first drink-yet it’s not always easy to spot.
Sobriety is made possible by establishing friendships and connections with others in recovery. The fellowship of sober people reminds those in recovery of the challenges they came from, the root cause of their struggles, and the amazing progress they made in overcoming them all. The more addicts separate themselves from their support network and their sober friends at large, the more likely it is they will enter a downward spiral of hopeless feelings and negative thoughts. The friends you make within your recovery program are probably some of your closest friends, right? These friends understand you, they are honest with you, and they share their deepest feelings with you. At one point, these friends were the ones who walked with you, when others walked away. But these friends are not bulletproof, each one can relapse at any time.
Helping Friends through a Relapse
One of the things that concerns people most when a friend relapses is how they can help them. Having an intense desire to help and do something for your friend is understandable, but ultimately it is up to your friend to get back on track. Nobody else can do this for them. At this point, it is more important than ever to remember exactly why you got sober in the first place. Of course it is hard to see somebody returning to the dark- giving up the smile for no understandable reason. Be ensured that your friends relapse has nothing to do with your friendship, and the actual reason might never surface or will get treated later. For now you must take take certain steps to protect your own sobriety. No friend is worth giving up our new found freedom from drugs or alcohol just to be with them. If that friend asked you to jump off a bridge with them, would you? You can be supportive up to a point, but you can’t fight it for them. Stand firm-hold them accountable for their actions and offer support when you can. Overall, your purpose and mission in recovery is to take care of yourself first. When your friend relapses, take a step back-look at it from outside. What you can do is encourage and motivate them to give it a new start. You can guide, but you can’t push. Be optimistic that your friend will make it back to sobriety and show your optimism instead of questioning the outcome.
Experience shows that during years of recovery we see many leaving us and going back out. Some make it back, others don’t. Some need a day, others need years. But somebody who has the support of family and friends in this situation has a greater chance to re-recover. There are many, many addicts that don’t make it on their first attempt. Do not be discouraged if your friend is one of them. His relapse has nothing to do with you and you can help best with encouragement from a healthy distance. If he doesn’t make it back to the bright side, please let go. Sometimes we have to let go of what’s killing us, even if it’s killing us to let go.