Are you feeling anxious your child might relapse now that he is sober?
Would you like to have some strategies that could help?
As a parent, it is easy to feel that all the support you’ve given has been in vain if your child has a relapse.
Yet there are things you can do to support your teen or young adult and help them get back on their recovery path.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to relapse. Relapse is common and often a part of the recovery process.
Your child can learn new coping strategies to strengthen their resiliency in recovery.
Generally, a relapse happens due to a trigger.
The following are common triggers for relapse:
- Overwhelming stress
- Prolonged symptoms of withdrawal, even after detox
- Being around friends associated with your addictive behaviors
- Your child’s environment with close access to the substance of choice
- Negative emotions, like grief or anger
- Holiday parties, birthdays, weddings, and other celebrations
- Symptoms from underlying mental health issues
- Physical health issues, especially those leading to chronic pain
It might be because your child is around friends who are using, a familiar environment, stress, withdrawal symptoms, or a lack of support.
Any change is a process filled with ups and downs. It helps to prepare yourself in case a relapse happens. Habits take time to develop. Your child may slip up at some point before they build the skills needed to sustain long-term recovery.
Here are some ideas that can help you support your child:
1. Plan ahead for the possibility of a relapse.
Your child will do relapse prevention planning in their treatment program. It helps if parents do it too.
It may feel awkward or that you are willing a relapse to happen if you bring it up. But it is better to discuss a slip or relapse before it happens so that you both have a sense of your next steps in case it happens.
How would you like to respond in case a relapse happens so that you can help your child return to healthy behaviors? When we react in the moment, we tend to get emotional or start yelling. That will only cause your child to feel more shame about the situation. What can help is to think through how you would want to react so that you can both learn from the experience and move forward in a positive way.
Planning for relapse is like taking out insurance. You hope it never happens, but if it does, you have a backup plan. Planning will help you worry less and feel more in control.
Create an environment where you can have a healthy conversation with your child. Explore what went wrong. What can we do better?
Have a Plan B in case relapse should occur. You can remain flexible, yet having a plan in mind may help you feel less worried.
He could detox and reenter a treatment program if the relapse is severe. If it is more of a slip and your child is ready to get back to recovery, he could gather support around him. A counselor, recovery coach, or support group can help.
While it is frustrating and painful, relapse can often be a bump in the road. With a few small steps, your child can get back on their recovery path.
2. Maintain a positive relationship
Create an environment where your child feels safe talking with you. A positive relationship can help if they are experiencing challenging moments in their recovery.
We know that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
How can we stay away from insanity? How can I support you and help you live a healthy life?
Listening helps. Allow your child to have a conversation with you where they don’t feel judged, shamed, or disrespected.
Any kind of change is hard. While it is a disappointment, your child has done the hard work before and can return to more healthy behaviors.
Praise them for what they’ve done in the past. Ask how you can support your child in the future.
It’s like riding a bike. Your child knows what he needs to do. It’s a matter of climbing back on and pressing the pedals forward once again.
When they relapse, okay, let’snot condemn them. Let’s not put them to death because they had one or two days where they went backward. Let’s start all over again and keep that positive attitude. ~ Robert Meyers, PhD
3. Manage Your Anxiety
Obsessive thinking involves a lot of “what if’s”. What if he relapses, loses his job again, or has to go back to treatment? What if she never wants to quit? This type of thinking is fear of the future.
Ask permission to talk to your child ahead of time so that you both are clear.
Have a conversation about your worries. Ask, “If I notice that your child’s behavior is a sign of being high in the past, can I bring it up to you? Is that okay?
Stay as positive, calm, and hopeful as possible. It will help you both continue on the journey to healthier living.
From SMART Recovery. Here are some tips for tackling your anxiety when negative thoughts linger.
- Call someone you trust. Let them know that your anxiety has gotten the best of you and that you need their support. That may mean asking them to stay on the line with you until you’ve worked through your symptoms or coming over to keep you company and help you put your mind at ease.
- Do something physical. Take a brisk walk, go up and down the stairs, or do some jumping jacks. Give your body a way to use up some of the excess energy.
- Distract yourself – try an adult coloring book, knit, crochet, or draw. Repetitive activities, like meditation, can have a calming effect.
- Go somewhere, safe and quiet. Challenge yourself to have a full-blown anxiety attack. Many people find that challenging themselves to have an anxiety attack has the opposite effect.
- Deep breathing can help. One popular method is belly breathing. Lie on your back and breathe in through your nose, watching your belly rise as you inhale. Hold your breath for a few seconds, then exhale deeply through your mouth. Watch your belly fall as you exhale. Repeat until you notice yourself feeling more relaxed. Singing can also regulate your breathing if you find yourself starting to hyperventilate.
- Write it down. Getting thoughts out of your head and onto paper can be helpful. It could be making a to-do list to organize your thoughts if your mind is racing and it’s hard to focus. Or write in a journal to express what is bothering you.
- Focus on things you can control and take action. Pick out your clothes for the week. Plan your meals for the next couple of days, and organize your desk. Taking care of small things empowers you to take charge of larger tasks.
Catch yourself when you drift into “what if” thinking territory. Pull yourself back to the present. In the present moment, what is happening? Remember, the situation can change on a dime. There are many paths to recovery – perhaps, not in the straight line you would wish for, but it happens all the time. ~ Pat Aussum
4. Consider Possible Triggers to Relapse
Unfortunately, relapse is sometimes part of addiction recovery.
This process of considering what triggers could get in the way of your child’s recovery is helpful so that you can be supportive. You may want to share this with your child too.
Here are six questions to consider in case a relapse should happen from Dr. Carrie Wilken’s article, “Finding Your Way Through a Relapse.”
Questions to Ask Yourself:
- What were the internal (e.g., thoughts and feelings) triggers that contributed to a return to old behaviors? For example, were you feeling lonely because you avoided friends who continued to use? Were you struggling with critical thoughts about your ability to make a change at all?
- What external triggers (e.g., stress at work, fighting with a friend, or financial worries) contributed to a return to old behavior patterns?
- Once you have identified the triggers, try to identify ones that could be changed or avoided.
- Think about the plan for change you had before the relapse; was it specific enough? And if you had a plan, did you carry it out or just think about it.
- Was there something unexpectedly hard that happened? Something you did not see coming or anticipate as a problem.
- While you were trying to make changes, what were the biggest problems you faced?
5. Stay optimistic
Rather than looking back, do appreciate what your child has accomplished. Support your child as they continue to take baby steps forward.
It takes courage to live in recovery. Every day, your child must choose to lead a new life without the crutch of drug or alcohol use.
Celebrate the steps that your child has taken to change their life. Please encourage them to continue on their recovery path. You will have a more optimistic outlook when you are grateful for how far they’ve come.
Finally, take care of yourself. That’s the best way to help your son or daughter. Eat well, get enough sleep, be sure to exercise, and keep doing the things you like, such as hobbies, sports, or crafts — whatever it is that you enjoy. You will be a role model for your child, and self-care will help you stay resilient.
Even though a relapse is not the outcome you were hoping for, it’s crucial to have a positive outlook, both for your sake and your childs’.
Article Source: cathytaughinbaugh.com