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How to Help Your Child Prevent Relapse

How to Help Your Child Prevent Relapse

Sun, 20 Mar 2022 19:15:05 +0000

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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 helpless if you find your child has had a setback in their recovery. You can do things to support your teen or young adult and help them get back on their recovery path.

Every situation is different when it comes to relapse. Generally, a relapse happens due to a trigger. It can be a withdrawal symptom, untreated mental illness, or a lack of support.

Relapse is something you should plan for to prepare yourself in case it happens.

You can do things to help your son or daughter avoid relapses and stay in recovery.

Many parents are, of course, thrilled that their child has decided to change their life. Yet early recovery can be uncertain for all involved.

Temptations may come from many directions for your child. Old friends, familiar stomping grounds, or toxic communication between family members can be a trigger.

Parents can do a great deal to help their child overcome their misuse of drugs or alcohol.

Whether your child is living at home, on their own, or in a sober house, your approach can go a long way towards helping your child stay healthy.

Dr. Robert Meyers says, “When they relapse, let’s not condemn them because they had one or two days where they went backward. Let’s start all over again and keep that positive attitude.”

Here are some ideas on how you can best positively support your child in early recovery.

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 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. It 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 you have a backup plan if it does. Planning will help you worry less and feel more in control.

Creating an environment where you can have a healthy conversation with your child is helpful. Explore what went wrong. What can we do better?

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?

According to the counselor, Pat Aussum, “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.”

2. Tackle Your Anxiety

You may also find yourself continuing to feel anxious that your child will relapse. Obsessive thinking involves a lot of “what if” thinking. 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.

It is something to talk about rather than worry about. Ask permission to speak with 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 indicates 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.

Here are some tips from SMART Recovery.

Tackle your anxiety when those negative thoughts continue to linger.

Call someone you trust. Let your child 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 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 stomach 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.Could you 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, or organize your desk. Taking care of small things empowers you to take charge of more significant tasks.

3. Encourage Aftercare to Help Prevent Relapse

Sober living is a beautiful support system for someone in early recovery. If your child is finishing up his treatment program, ask the counselors to recommend a sober living home. Some programs suggest being at least three hours from home to minimize triggers from the past as much as possible.

Sober living is an excellent way to ease back into real life. My daughter was in sober living for six months. One of the requirements was that the girls were either going to college or working part-time. They had weekly meetings with only the house members and the normal curfews and rules like no young men in the house.

Sober living can be a safe, supportive place for your child to feel more confident. She will be more prepared and ready to face the pressures of the outside world. It’s not easy for anyone to stay sober, particularly for young people. It’s awkward to be the only one not drinking. Having a group of housemates on the same path can make a difference in your child’s ability to stay sober.

Aftercare can also include meeting with a counselor, a recovery coach, or regular meeting attendance. Other things that help are regular exercise and eating healthy food. The key is having a support plan that feels doable.

4. Don’t Try to Manage Your Child’s Recovery

Remember, this is your child’s recovery, not yours. It may ease your anxiety to remind your child about attending meetings, going to their counselor, or looking for a job.

Yet, over-involvement in someone else’s recovery is not helpful. Living at home can sometimes work. However, if your child is in a sober living home, you won’t be so tempted to get involved in monitoring your child’s recovery process.

Although you are trying to encourage and support your child by reminding him to stay in recovery, he may begin to feel rebellious. It leads to tension, which is not what you want when someone is trying to recover. It would help if you had patience during this sensitive time. Give your child the space to find his way to motivate him to change.

Instead of reminders, notice what your child is doing well. If you see him often, try and acknowledge his hard work in creating change. It is an excellent time for rewards, as well. Gift cards, special dinners, or a fun outing can all be rewards for your child’s efforts to live a healthier life. Making positive comments also helps you keep a more hopeful frame of mind.


5. 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 if 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 were continuing to use? Were you struggling with critical thoughts about your ability to make a change at all?What were the external triggers (e.g., stress at work, fighting with a friend, or financial worries) that 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?

6. Brainstorm options

What can help with obsessive thinking or anxiety is to have a Plan B in case relapse should occur. This plan can remain flexible, yet having a plan in mind may help you feel less worried. Consider how you could put all the options in place if your child relapses.

He could go to 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 sponsor can help with supporting your child’s recovery

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.

7. Practice gratitude

Rather than looking back, have gratitude for what your child has accomplished. Gratitude allows you to continue taking baby steps forward to living in a positive, healthy way.

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.

This article was updated on March 20, 2022.

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