There is a particular set of emotions that comes along with a relapse, and a whole other set of emotions that comes along with the relapse of a significant other. A recovery relationship is, in many ways, like any other relationship, but is associated with a unique set of circumstances— the risk of relapse probably being the most notable.
Many people in the recovery community will encourage those in early recovery to stay out of romantic relationships for at least one year. Whether or not one chooses to do so is a personal decision, and neither choice is right or wrong. Relapse is a part of recovery relationships, no matter how early or late into recovery either or both of you are.
If you do continue or begin a relationship in recovery, what should you do when your partner relapses?
Keep your emotions in check.
Making accusations, yelling, or crying is probably not going to solve anything. Do your best to maintain a clear head and manage your emotions, so you can rationally discuss what has happened with your partner.
Gauge recovery progress on effort.
It’s a lot different if your significant other slips up when you know they are committed to their recovery 90 percent of the time than if they slip up when they are committed only half the time. Recovery is difficult, so demonstrated effort is often a more fair and accurate measure of how someone is doing in their sobriety than is abstinence. It is a fact that most addicts relapse, especially within the first three to six months of sobriety. If you are in recovery yourself, you likely already know this, but if you have never faced addiction, this is something you should be aware and understanding of.
Be supportive but do not enable.
Recovery is a continuous road, and every road has speed bumps. A relapse does not erase your partner’s successes, and it does not mean that what they’ve achieved is any less significant. Remind them of this and let them know that you are there for them, but encourage them in a way that lets them know that relapse does not support their sobriety. Don’t blindly reassure them that everything will be okay; as someone your partner loves and trusts, your words carry weight, so make them count.
Dive into why the relapse took place.
Don’t be afraid to ask your partner questions about their relapse. How are they feeling? Why do they think this happened? What do they need to do now to prevent this from happening again? Is there something you can do to support their recovery efforts, such as attending meetings with them or reminding them to call their sponsor? Understanding why the relapse took place is good for both you and your partner because it will help you to recognize potential triggers and how to avoid/handle them.
This is particularly important if you are in recovery, too, because your partner’s relapse could trigger your own. Be cognizant of the fact that you need to protect your own mental and physical health before someone else’s. Of course, you want to be there for your partner in recovery, but you should be okay with the idea that if your relationship gets to the point that it becomes harmful to one or both of you, it should end.
If your partner keeps relapsing on drugs or alcohol, please reach out to us to learn more about what treatment options are available. Royal Life Centers at the Haven treats dependence on alcohol, opioids, methamphetamine, benzodiazepines, and cocaine. Our admissions team is available 24/7 at (877)-RECOVERY.