Working with a Partner After Relapse

2 min read · 2 sections

Many people who have been in long-term relationships admit the longevity is due to their sincere commitment, open communication, and consistent effort. This may also include a multitude of other variables, subject to what different couples find to be effective for them.

Every relationship has their own set of challenges, but those facing a substance use disorder and relapse have a unique set of obstacles to work through.

Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard are currently working through those challenges, as Kristen is offering her full support, love, and care to her husband with his recent relapse. The two Hollywood celebs seemed to have had a solid relationship to begin with, which helps.

Battling an addiction with alcohol or with other substances is hard enough, but seeking help, getting sober, living in recovery, and figuring out how to navigate the disease with a relapse may feel like starting over.

But it’s not. It’s just part of the process.

At American Addiction Centers, a nationwide leader in addiction treatment, we provide medical detox and treatment in a supportive environment with licensed physicians. If you or your loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, please reach out for the help that you need.

Relapse Prevention

 Two women speaking across a deskAfter having not used drugs or alcohol for a period of time, and then using them again, is what is known as relapse. Individuals may have one or more relapses in their goal to achieving long-term sobriety. Staying sober takes practice.

Relapse prevention is the reason that the majority of individuals with a substance use disorder look for treatment. Many people have already attempted to quit on their own before reaching out for help.


4 main ideas in relapse prevention:

1. It’s a progressive process with specific stages. The purpose of treatment is to help patients to pinpoint the early stages of relapse where the likelihood of success is greater.

2. Sobriety is a process consisting of milestones and personal growth. It’s understood that each stage has a risk of relapse.

3. Mind-body relaxation and cognitive therapy. These devices contribute to healthy coping skills.

4. Many relapses can be defined by basic rules. These rules may include: creating a new life, practicing self-care, asking for help, being honest, and not breaking the rules.

Recognizing and understanding the stages in the relapse process, setting rules to use as guidelines, and having coping tools to handle challenges that arise may empower individuals to maintain long-term sobriety.

Although a supervised medical detox can benefit individuals recovering from a variety of different substances, consult with your physician or other treatment professional to know what’s best for your unique situation.

Ways to be Supportive in Relapse

 As a spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, or even a friend who is choosing to remain in the relationship/friendship with a loved one who has relapsed, you should discuss your immediate concerns with a licensed therapist or a counselor specializing in these situations.

However, here are some suggestions that may be useful to be supportive:

  • Being there for them through challenges. This does not mean to put yourself in danger with physical or emotional abuse or otherwise. Simply be supportive.
  • Don’t blame them for their relapse. By not blaming them, you are showing empathy when they’re vulnerable. This doesn’t mean that you’re not holding them accountable for their actions. They’re already blaming themselves and don’t need someone else verbalizing blame at this moment as well.
  • Ask them what’s the best way to support them and listen. This is an opportunity to open up dialogue and to understand their perspective.
  • Remind them that they’ve been sober before and can do it again. Encouragement from a loved one goes a long way, and this reminds them of what’s possible because of what they’ve accomplished before.
  • Ask if they’ve learned anything about their addiction/sobriety during relapse. This is an opportunity to be a good listener, which is what they need.
  • Remind them that they aren’t a failure just because they relapsed. Relapse is simply part of the process.

If you or a loved one has relapsed and is struggling with a substance use disorder, you’re not alone. There are resources here to help you to achieve long-term sobriety and to live a healthy and productive life, regardless if you’ve relapsed or if you’re seeking help for the first time.

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