What To do When a Loved One Relapses on Alcohol

If somebody close to you has relapsed on alcohol, or you think they’re getting close to doing so, this can take quite a toll on you, not just on them. It’s widely discussed how a relapse can affect your loved one, but how it can affect you isn’t discussed as often.

Here’s some helpful information about what you can do if somebody you care about is relapsing on alcohol, or if you think they might do so in the near future. In addition to what you can do for them, it’s crucial for you to think about what you can do for yourself, too. It might feel counter-productive and like you want to put all of your energy towards helping them, but you won’t be able to help them if you aren’t taking care of yourself and avoiding caregiver fatigue.

Things To Keep In Mind For Yourself When a Loved One Relapses

There are some things you’ll need to keep in mind when a loved one relapses on alcohol or with any other addiction. Here are some things that you’ll want to keep in mind for yourself.

  • It’s not your fault: You aren’t responsible for their actions, at the end of the day (or at the start of the day, for that matter). You aren’t the one picking up the bottle and even if you feel like you’re falling short in terms of helping support them, if you start to take their relapse personally you will quickly grow to resent them and it will be painfully obvious. They need support, but that support can look very different depending on your situation.
  • You need to take care of yourself: There’s only so much you can do for somebody else, and this is really hard to hear when you’re watching a loved one battle with addiction and everything that comes with it.

Things To Keep In Mind For Your Loved One’s Sake When They Relapse on Alcohol

Learn more: What Causes Relapse? Why Do People Relapse on Alcohol?

  • It’s not their fault, either: This can be the tricky one. If someone is an alcohol, they have a disease that can manifest itself in a lot of different ways. One thing remains true, they don’t want to have a drinking problem – they would rather be able to control it like many people can. They aren’t drinking to disappoint you, even if that’s a consequence. Everyone is responsible for their own actions, but someone who is battling alcoholism has much less control. It’s not about what they “want”, it can go a lot deeper than that, so having empathy for them is incredibly helpful. It’s not always easy to know how to support someone.
  • They don’t want to drink again: If your loved one has quit drinking and they start to relapse, it can feel so crushing for them. However you feel about it, you can imagine they feel a lot worse, even if they aren’t showing it. The fact that they had quit drinking in the first place shows how they feel about it and how important it was for them to stop.
  • They probably feel devastated, hopeless, and bad about themselves: It never feels good to lose progress on an important goal, especially when it feels like the people around you are judging you and thinking less of you. This could even lead to some alcoholics being more reluctant to seek help, since they’re afraid of disappointing their friends and family after a relapse.
  • This is part of the process: It’s widely accepted that relapsing can be a part of the process towards recovery. Ideally, nobody would relapse, but that simply isn’t realistic. It happens. If a relapse is seen as the end of the line and a complete failure, it’s a lot harder to try quitting again. So, remember that the relapse is part of the journey, you may not have been able to predict it and you may have dreaded it, but it’s not a reason to give up.

Here’s What To Do When a Loved One Relapses

It can be really difficult to overcome alcoholism alone. There is support for your loved one. Encourage them to seek treatment if they’re not able to stop drinking on their own – it could be the best thing they ever do for themselves.

Martijn van Eijk
Martijn is a passionate creator and the driving force behind StopDrinking.com. He created this website to assist individuals and their families in conquering alcohol addiction and finding a joyful, fulfilling life after alcohol. With a deep understanding of the challenges they face, he empowers readers with valuable insights and practical guidance on their journey towards recovery. Author of the Stop Shaking Book.