Skip to content

What to Do When an Alcoholic Relapses

“What to do when an alcoholic relapses.” Many people have Googled this in a panic when a loved one suddenly veers off the road of recovery. 

Recovery from alcohol addiction isn’t always smooth sailing or linear. Sometimes, people who have been sober for months, a year, or even 10 years, will relapse and go back to rehab. Other times, recovering addicts are able to maintain sobriety for their entire lives. There is no perfect science to sobriety, and unfortunately it is a lifelong battle. 

If your loved one is a recovering alcoholic, and you think they may have relapsed, keep reading to learn some tips on what to do and how to help them. 

What Is a Relapse?

A relapse in alcohol or drug recovery means resuming drinking or drug use after a period of abstinence. Healing from addiction is a process. It takes a while for the addict to learn new coping mechanisms and manage their cravings.

In the meantime, they are susceptible to triggers. Anything from making a bad decision to feeling depressed or receiving bad news is enough of a trigger to make someone turn back to alcohol or drugs. When an alcohol addict slips up during recovery and starts to drink alcohol, it is known as an alcoholic relapse. 

Alcoholic relapses and relapses, in general, are very common. It is always possible to bounce back from a relapse and it shouldn’t deter someone from trying to achieve sobriety again. However, some recovering addicts don’t see it that way. 

They feel so strongly like they have failed in their recovery journey. This feeling either makes them more serious, or it derails them completely. As a result, it’s important for loved ones, co-workers, even neighbors, to know what to do when an alcoholic relapses.

While a few relapses elongate the time for total recovery, they don’t derail the recovery process overall. However, relapses can be dangerous, physically and emotionally. In some cases, a relapse has led to an overdose or death. When an addict starts getting clean, the body and brain undergo a reorientation. 

One of the first things to change is how the body reacts to the previously addicted substance. When an addict takes more and more of an addictive substance, the brain develops a tolerance for it. This is why addicts find themselves taking more and more of the substance overtime. 

During recovery and detox, the brain gets used to functioning without the addictive substance. It ‘unlearns’ everything about the addiction. So, when an addict relapses, the possibility of an overdose is possible because they take the same amount of drugs in high doses. 

At this time, the brain has lost its tolerance for such high doses, and the addict ends up overdosing or losing their life. 

What to Do When an Alcoholic Relapses

Alcoholic relapses are so common that up to 90% of recovered addicts have had a relapse at some point. 

So, how can you help a loved one who is going through an alcoholic relapse? Below are some suggestions on what to do: 

  • Be Attentive 

When we often notice that someone has relapsed, they are in the last stage of relapsing. An alcoholic relapse starts from the mind and grows until it becomes your loved one starts actually drinking alcohol.

If you start to notice this person is isolating or maybe becoming more moody, it’s probably a good idea to check in with them. Best case scenario they haven’t relapsed yet and let you know they’ve been thinking about it. Worst case is they have already relapsed but is open to going back to treatment. 

  • Have a Conversation 

A relapse is tough on everyone but more so on the addicted individual. They will be dealing with guilt, hopelessness, and other negative emotions. Having an open conversation can help them realize that relapse is a common hiccup in the road to sobriety. 

A simple conversation can renew their hope and set them back on. It can also be an avenue to suggest that they seek help if they feel unable to manage their cravings. 

Hillside Mission Is Here to Help Your Loved One Recovery From a Relapse 

Unfortunately, you can’t do much to help an addicted person during a relapse except care for them without judgment. More than anything, they need understanding and love. They also may need to seek a treatment center again to get further help. 

Hillside Mission is a luxury addiction treatment center located in California. We offer a wide range of treatment programs and support for relapses and alcohol addiction. Reach out to us today for more information regarding our addiction treatment program!