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A Friend from Rehab Relapsed. Now What?


February 1, 2018

What do you do when one of your friends is struggling? If you have been to rehab and you have created a new social network that has many people in addiction recovery, it is possible that over time, one of your friends could relapse. How can you help, and how can you make sure that you stay in recovery at the same time?

Why Do People Relapse?

There are as many reasons for relapses as there are alcoholics, but according to The Healthy Place, “sobriety is made possible by establishing friendships and connections to other sober alcoholics.” Of course, you can also establish or re-establish connections with other friends or family members as well. Relapses can happen when people are physically, mentally, or emotionally isolated. Being around your friends is not enough; you can be in a room full of people and still feel disconnected. The key is social interaction and deep connection.

Your friend has probably experienced this to some degree. She may view the relapse as an experiment to see if she can handle alcohol, or she could be upset by circumstances in her life and turn to alcohol or drugs to try and manage this, just as she did before.

What You Feel Is Normal 

You may feel guilty about your friend’s relapse, thinking that you could have done something to prevent it. You may also feel angry. You enjoy your friends, but you want to stay in recovery, not join them in a relapse. Finally, you could feel curious or worried. Since your circumstances and your friend’s circumstances may be similar in some ways, your friend’s relapse could get you thinking about your own ability to avoid addictive substances in the long term. These feelings are perfectly normal.

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How Your Friend Will See You 

If you are steadfast in your desire to abstain from drugs and alcohol, your friendship could become more difficult. Your friend may respect your decision, but she could also decide that you are no fun or she may resent time spent with someone who is interested in staying sober. Your friend is struggling, and as part of this struggle, she could ignore you or speak in ways that seem uncharacteristic. Remember that she is having a hard time, but protect yourself as well. If the relationship is unhealthy for you, it is all right to leave it, even if it is just for a while.

If you can listen and avoid being judgmental, you can continue to be a strong connection for your friend. Your friend may decide to abstain from alcohol again, and you could preserve the friendship through gentle support.

Grounding Yourself in Sobriety While Supporting Your Friend 

Your friend’s relapse can be a reminder to you of the importance of sobriety. If you see your friend engaging in behavior that you have let go, you can remind yourself why you decided to go a different way. You can talk with your friends about their relapse, but remember that they ultimately make their own decisions.  Seek out your own support systems as well, to make sure that you have emotional support during this challenging time.

At Advanced Recovery Systems, we want to help you create the long-term support that you need in order to stay sober. Talk to us about drug or alcohol addiction recovery. Contact us today.

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