What Do I Do if My Child Relapses After Treatment?

Relapse can occur during anyone’s recovery following treatment. By being proactive and prepared, we can help our kids minimize the risk of relapse. However, if relapse does occur, we might feel upset, disappointed, or feel like treatment is not effective or useful. If your child relapses, you might need to look at this as a learning opportunity to build more skills for your child’s further growth into adulthood.

What Is Relapse?

Relapse does not necessarily mean a resurgence of past maladaptive coping mechanisms. If your child was using alcohol to numb emotional pain, they might relapse with a different type of maladaptive behavior. During the podcast “The Truth About Relapse,” Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center’s Co-founder, Aaron Huey, reminds us that addiction is the set of “survival behaviors that we are using as a coping mechanism to mask the pain that we feel.” 

Sometimes, before your child turns to past behaviors, they might be masking their pain in other ways. Relapse is broadly defined as something going wrong, dealing with emotional distress, and not facing head-on issues. Looking at this broader definition of relapse can put things into perspective for us as parents. Relapse does not always mean that our child has hit “rock-bottom” again. We can catch relapse in the early stages by remaining proactive and consistent after treatment.

Relapse Is Not a Sign of Failure

There are many reasons that relapse can occur following treatment. The critical thing to remember is that relapse is not a sign of failure or a reason to give up hope. Our kids are still growing up and coping with new situations as they approach adulthood. When faced with a new challenge or painful emotions, our kids might “default” in response to past behaviors, including the maladaptive coping skills of addiction or other problematic behaviors. 

Breaking bad habits can take a long time, and recovery is a lifelong journey with ups and downs. Moving forward and learning from mistakes and relapses can be part of the journey. If your child relapses, keep some things in perspective to remain optimistic:

  • Following treatment, most people can recognize the signs of relapse more quickly than in the past.
  • With the knowledge gained from treatment, your child can get back on the right track sooner than in the past.
  • Relapse might mean that something new has come up in your child’s life that they are now better equipped to manage and recognize.
  • Remember that addiction is a disease without a cure or a quick fix.
  • Now that you and your child have been through the process of treatment, you have connections to professionals and support that you did not have before they began treatment. You now have resources to go back to instead of treading water or not knowing what to do!

Relapse Is an Opportunity to Grow

Your child might feel shame during a relapse. They might give up on themselves or feel like they have failed. They might even think that they are a hopeless case and cannot get better. This not true, and relapse is a time to focus on solutions and strengthening weaknesses.

Relapse is not a time for lectures or judgment. Your child needs understanding and compassion during this time. Relapse is a time when your child needs your support and understanding the most. Remember these tips if your child relapses:

Relapse is a part of the recovery journey that is not always “rock bottom.” By realizing that relapse can occur with “smaller” behaviors, we can catch relapse early on before things spiral out of control. You can best help your child during a relapse by using this opportunity as a “teachable moment” for learning new skills. By meeting your child with compassion, empathy, and understanding, you can support them through this moment and help them grow in their recovery!

Relapse can be expected during the recovery process. We might feel discouraged during a relapse; however, we can realize that this is an opportunity for growth and find solutions to help. With a broad definition of relapse, you can recognize the signs quickly for your child. Relapse is not always a “rock bottom” situation. It can mean that your kid is not dealing with their problems and are using escape or avoidance tactics. We can help our kids by being proactive with their treatment. Behavioral contracts can help to define signs of relapse and solutions for one clearly. Once we notice a change that our child is not using healthy coping skills and habits, we can get ahead of further issues down the road. If your child continues to struggle despite other treatments, then residential treatment might be the right next step. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center of Estes Park, Colorado, can help you get your kid back. Call us today at (303) 443-3343.

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