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How to deal with relapse?

Old 06-16-2017, 01:41 PM
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How to deal with relapse?

I posted a while ago about my friend (the thread is called "My friend" and I am sorry that I cannot link it because I don't have enough posts to be allowed to post links) and actually he is still going strong. He has broken all of his personal records of staying sober in the last 20 years. He managed to double his amount of time he ever managed to stay sober.
I have to say that I am really happy for him but on the other hand, I must admit that I do not really trust it... I don't know why but I feel like he will relapse sooner or later. I actually feel a bit mean about that but for me everything just went too easy and too well to be trusted.
We talk a lot about many things and his drinking and drug problem often comes up. He is very open about it and admits how hard it is for him emphasizing the positive effects of sobriety at the same time. He actually told me that he was a couple of times in situation he was about to relapse but managed to walk away from it, feeling like a looser right afterwards and feeling great the next day for having been able to resist.

I know that if he relapses, I will most probably be the first person he is going to tell but at the same time it would be a huge effort for him to do so (he respects me very much, up to a point that sometimes I feel like he is scared of me in a very awkward way).

Since I am already mentally prepared for that moment, I am kind of easy with it. I mean, I would not be disappointed or anything, I just see it as part of the journey and for me personally it would not be such a big deal, since I am expecting it anyway (you know, when you expect something to happen but for yourself it won't change much if it will really happen or not).
On the other hand, I don't want to upset him with my reaction. I know how important I am to him just listening to him. I cannot offer any advice and I don't feel like being in the position to offer him advice on his addiction but I know that it helps him very much that he just has somebody he can tell anything (not just his addiction, all the good and the bad things happening in life) and who will listen without judgement (this is actually going into both directions: I can blow off steam with him too if I need to or share my happy moments with him and he will listen and be happy with and for me).

Anyway, I would be grateful if you could tell me about your personal experiences with relapse and how you wish your loved ones would react/would have reacted to it.

I once offered him that he should feel free to call me if he feels the need to talk to somebody and he replied that he for sure would not call me just for the fact if I would give him **** he would go for some extra hard drinks hehe!

Well, I would not grumble at him because I would just take it as a fact. I am well aware that I would not be able to change anything about it and so I am kind of indifferent of the fact itself. On the other hand, I don't want to hurt a person who means something to me and who I like. If it happens he will hate himself so much that there will be no need for another person making him feel even worse and I don't want to be that person.
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Old 06-16-2017, 01:55 PM
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Does he have the support of other addicts/alcoholics in recovery? Is he working a program? Or is he just bulling through/white-knuckling on his own willpower?

I get the sense he is doing it on his own. If he relapses, I'd wait till he's sober-ish and tell him that you care about him, and that you hate to see him doing this to himself. Suggest it may be time to do something different. You could offer to call someone from AA or NA to come talk to him, and offer to stay for the talk if it would help make him more comfortable about it.

Beyond that, I don't see that there's much you can do, other than look out for your own well-being so you don't get wrapped up in the insanity of addiction.
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Old 06-16-2017, 02:45 PM
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Thank you very much for your reply @LexieCat

This time he is doing it on his own (at the beginning his doc was involved). I think it is about the 7th time he is trying to get/stay sober. As far as I got it, he was an in-patient as well as out-patient in different rehabs and he also went to AA but it did not work for him in his 20 year career of drinking and doing other substances.
Actually this time is the different try for him because he never did it alone before and he went always in recovery with the idea to get back to moderate drinking but he is well aware now that this won't work for him.

Actually I am really glad that he really is not pulling me into his addiction. In one of our many talks he told me that he screwed up so many relationships and hurt so many people by involving them in his self-destroying behaviour that he just wants to stop it because he feels so bad about it. I see how cautious he goes with me and I remember when he still was drinking he was holding back very much whenever he was with me. He respects my boundaries and even respected them when he was drinking heavily (he called me a couple of times drunk and babbled on the phone and after I asked him not to call me anymore when he was drunk he respected it). Actually he was keeping me out when he realized that I was starting to get too involved (and then I found this place, read a lot and things became much clearer to me).
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Old 06-16-2017, 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by BFT View Post
Actually he was keeping me out when he realized that I was starting to get too involved...
What does this mean? And how did you feel about this?
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Old 06-16-2017, 03:36 PM
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I went through this with my husband last year. I call it a relapse because since college the times its happened have been infrequent. Last year was bad. This was basically my thinking:

Relapse happens, and its not failure. There is much talk in the medical community to start calling the problem a substance use disorder.. and understanding that it can be a relapsing problem does do just what you said.. 1. You know it can happen 2. you can prepare for it emotionally and physically/financially (the last part I hadnt really done.lesson learned).

The biggest thing that helped me was learning to stay calm, respond calmly, think rationally. Remember many negative behaviors are symptoms of this awful problem.

I told my husband I wasnt upset that he relapsed, but that he needed professional help if he couldnt stop on his own. There is a lot of shame in dealing with this stuff, so I tried to take all of that out of the equation. Its a medical problem (which he also believed prior to this).
And at times he would open up and talk about what he was feeling, which seemed to lead to how his emotions got out of control, he was triggered, and ultimately the relapse happened. So we also talked of the underlying issues at play, and not just the addiction issues.

It wasnt like husband just jumped at the chance to make changes, and he struggled to find the proper source of help. Eventually he got a psychologist who specialized in addiction medicine and started therapy. The thing is professionals often know how to motivate and work with a person. There is a whole process of change model involved.

I dont think the major issue is that we as family are too close or arent knowledgeable enough to offer guidance or support.. its that often we cant handle our own emotions and can flame up whats already an unstable situation. And we also make ourselves miserable in the process.

There are behaviors just like what he told you - if you came down on him then it would be his excuse to use. Anything can be an excuse to use, but we often play right into it by not stepping back when we see this dynamic happening. Wait, step back, and that mood of his will change.

I found that when he was high or drunk then I couldnt talk to him, but when he wasnt then there were opportunities. Also at these times, I would also talk about me. I tried not to guilt or blame him. But there is no reason to cut someone out of your life at times when they are semi stable.

My husband was drinking and using drugs. There was a couple times I had to move out because he was actually physically violent when high, but it doesnt look like you have this problem to deal with.

Hope this helps a little. I like that you are trying to prepare. He's lucky to count you as one of his friends and supporters.
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Old 06-16-2017, 03:50 PM
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so how many days sober does he have?

i notice that you still "think" of yourself as somehow integral to his recovery - I know that if he relapses, I will most probably be the first person he is going to tell - and maybe, just maybe, with him staying on the sober bus, for now, you feel like you lost your job a bit?

I once offered him that he should feel free to call me if he feels the need to talk to somebody

On the other hand, I don't want to hurt a person who means something to me and who I like. If it happens he will hate himself so much that there will be no need for another person making him feel even worse and I don't want to be that person.

you can't be his everything. nor do you have as much power over his life and his decisions as you think or wish. this is when you get to stand back, hands off, and give him the courtesy of living his days as he sees fit. you needn't DO a thing.
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Old 06-16-2017, 04:02 PM
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"Anyway, I would be grateful if you could tell me about your personal experiences with relapse and how you wish your loved ones would react/would have reacted to it. "

my personal experience with relapse it that i had one, but i didnt drink.
relapse ends with a drink and starts way before a drink is taken.

IF i drank again, how other people react wouldnt be my problem they are allowed to react however they want. i dont own them.
however, i would hope that if i were to drink again, theyd push me out of their lives. the reason being is because im thoroughly convinced that IF i drink again, i wont pick up where i left off, ill pick up and it will be as if i never stopped.
i would want my family to keep their boundaries
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Old 06-17-2017, 12:53 AM
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Huge Thank you! To everybody who replied.

@FallenAngelina
We are professionally involved and this was also the way we got to know each other. We were working together for a couple of years and a couple of months ago he started hitting on me (I guess because some love story he had ended and so he was looking for a new girl). First I only midly laughed about his attempts to score with me and I am that kind of girl who goes out with such guys and set things straight with them. Usually I am not interested in such guys and they lose interest in me when they understand how I function. This time it was different and it was me who got interested. Getting to know each other on a private level was a whole different story and initially I developed a crush on him (see my old post).
I have never gotten that close with an addict (although I know enough people around me who had/have addiction problems) and knowing back then what I know now would have helped me a lot.

Anyway, he knows that his addictions badly affects the people surrounding him, he is well aware of how much harm he caused to people he loved and he feels a lot of guilt and shame about that. Because he has this experience (which do not have) he realized what he was going to do to me so he started to back off. I can give you examples: He stopped messaging about private things (only if it is about our job), no private meetings (after work yes but no making up just to meet privately), respecting my boundaries (like not calling me drunk) and so on. A short time later he stopped drinking.

At the beginning it made me angry and upset but later (and after coming to this place and learning a lot) I am grateful for it.
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Old 06-17-2017, 01:00 AM
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@aliciagr

Thank you very much for your reply! Very well written and very helpful. This is the way I feel about the whole thing.

There are underlying problems and they are crystal clear to me (no need to be a psychologist to understand them, the classical stuff actually). He is aware of them and when he was an in-patient he was treated for them, unsuccessfully.

Oh yes, the excuses: He used to have them but obviously he is well aware when he uses excuses (which I personally think is a sign that he is on the right path).

"I tried not to guilt or blame him. But there is no reason to cut someone out of your life at times when they are semi stable."

Thank you also for this. It is the way I feel about it.
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Old 06-17-2017, 01:11 AM
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@Anvilheadll Good question...I don't know but it must be about his 6th month if I remember properly.

Hehe :-) nono, I still have my job and actually my job is much better if he does not drink. As I said, we are professionally involved and the situation is a bit tricky as we are both in positions of power over each other but at the same time we do not depend on each other. Sorry if this is complicated and I can PM anybody who would like to know the exact situation. It is not a secret (everybody knows who knows the two of us) but I just do not want it to be hoovering around on a public board.

Part of my job is counseling (not just him, also others) and I get all kinds of calls at nearly any time of the day of people freaking out over something. Usually I can handle the problem within minutes and calm people down so that they can go to bed and calmly sleep over their problems knowing that they have somebody helping them just in case.

@tomsteve Thank you for sharing your experience and your feelings

"my personal experience with relapse it that i had one, but i didnt drink.
relapse ends with a drink and starts way before a drink is taken."

Thank you for this. This is true and shows how deep it go! Very good information to know.
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Old 06-17-2017, 05:16 AM
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Originally Posted by BFT View Post

Well, I would not grumble at him because I would just take it as a fact. I am well aware that I would not be able to change anything about it and so I am kind of indifferent of the fact itself. On the other hand, I don't want to hurt a person who means something to me and who I like. If it happens he will hate himself so much that there will be no need for another person making him feel even worse and I don't want to be that person.
I took a radical acceptance approach with my XABF and never once admonished him about his drinking. I was the one person who knew when he was drinking (yes, he was able to hide it from his family and friends) and I knew how much - and it got to be a lot. We never got into judgement of each other and I never monitored his drinking. For me, it was never about the alcohol, it was about my experience in the relationship. For awhile, the open-heart policy was a beautiful thing. I always felt special with him and indeed I was/am. But slowly, i had to take a difficult look at myself and question why I was so drawn to an alcoholic. He is irresistible to me in every way. So I went to Al-Anon and there I started learning about myself. My point being: in my view, as those who love an alcoholic, sober or drinking, we do ourselves and our A no good when we focus on the presence or absence of the liquor. Our evaluation of the relationship should always be based on our experience in the relationship. When we focus on number of drinks, or presence of alcohol, we are missing the whole point of a love relationship (whatever kind of love it is.) The point of a love relationship is to love. Pure and simple. If we are not feeling "the love," if we are instead feeling overwhelmed by fear, resentment, confusion, anger, guilt, then we need to seriously evaluate why we are in that relationship. It's not, to me, about relapses and number of drinks, it's about whether I feel that this is a relationship that is loving. I know "loving" when I'm in it and I know when it's mostly not there.

Also, I've learned that "being there for someone" isn't a good thing to base a relationship on. I broke up with my BF for many reasons, the least of which was that I increasingly felt that he just wasn't a person who was equal to me in the ability to be there. As I learned more about alcoholism, I came to learn why this was so. Again, it wasn't ever his drinking that was any issue, it was him. Drinking or sober, a good partner (for me) is present for the other in a big way. Evaluate the relationship, not the drinking.
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Old 06-18-2017, 07:38 AM
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@FallenAngelina I really like this approach. This was a reason why my last relationship ended (non-drinker): I felt that I invested much more than he and I never got anything back.
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