Helping Your Young Adult Navigate Relapse: A Parent’s Guide to Resilience
Just like other diseases, anyone who suffers from the disease of addiction can experience a relapse. As a parent, it can make you feel hopeless or even guilty when this happens. However, understanding why relapse happens and how you can support your child through it, will offer the best results.
Recognizing Warning Signs of Relapse
Many times, relapse can happen gradually. This means that weeks or months before a person takes a drink or starts using drugs again, the relapse process has started. There are multiple stages of relapse including emotional, mental, and physical.
Some signs of early, emotional relapse include:
- Bottling up emotions
- Isolating themselves
- Going to support meetings, but not sharing
- Missing support meetings
- Focusing on other people’s problems
- Focusing on how other people affect their lives
- Bad eating and sleeping habits
- Poor self-care
The most common of these warning signs is poor self-care, which means not taking care of their physical, emotional, and psychological needs.
With mental relapse, your young adult is fighting a battle within his mind. Look for these signs:
- Cravings for alcohol or drugs
- Fixating on people and places associated with past use
- Minimizing consequences of previous use
- Looking for chances to relapse
- Thinking of ways to better control use
- Planning a relapse
With these signs, it’s important to help your young adult avoid high-risk scenarios without trying to control their lives.
The last stage of relapse is physical relapse. This is when they start using drugs or alcohol again. Most physical relapses happen when a person feels like they can get away with it. The best way to manage these situations is to plan for when they might happen.
Before a relapse happens, talk to your young adult about how they would feel or what they would do if the opportunity to use came up again. While talking about it in advance might feel like you are willing it to happen, being mentally prepared is the best way to prevent it.
Support Strategies After Relapse
After a relapse, you and your young adult might feel defeated. However, continuing to support your son will be crucial in his continued path to recovery. Try some of these support strategies:
- Encourage him to attend a support meeting.
- Avoid being judgmental.
- Talk with him about what caused the relapse.
- Work with him to develop a relapse prevention plan.
By viewing the relapse as a learning opportunity instead of a failure, you can encourage your son to create a plan that will help him avoid those triggers in the future.
Learning from Setbacks
Most life experiences are met with setbacks, including the path to full recovery. How you and your child handle setbacks will be a significant factor in their recovery. While a relapse is a significant setback, other setbacks can include participating in high-risk scenarios, breaking boundaries, not asking for help, and ignoring self-care.
Try to change your mindset from seeing setbacks as a failure to seeing them as a step along the way to recovery. You wouldn’t give up on your child if they had a cancer relapse, so don’t give up on them after a substance use relapse.
A Sober Living Home Can Help Prevent Relapse
A major factor in avoiding a relapse is to make changes in your lifestyle and surroundings. If your young adult son is continually surrounded by the people, places, and things that contributed to his addiction, he is constantly having to fight against those urges.
Once he is on the path to recovery, a sober living home, like Ethos Recovery, can offer a safe environment away from constant triggers and temptations. We even work with residents who have experienced a relapse, as long as they are willing to be open and honest about what happened.
If a sober living community sounds like a good option for your young adult son, please contact us today.
Author – Chris Howard
Chris Howard is the Founder and Director of Ethos Recovery. He has a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA and has served as a community advocate/mentor for men and women in recovery since 2010.