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My Loved One Isn’t Staying Sober. What Now?

My Loved One Is not Staying SoberIf your loved one is struggling with drugs and alcohol, the hope is that they can either go to rehab or quit and stay clean and sober. Unfortunately, that’s often not the case. Instead, the National Library of Medicine reports that people report an average of 5.34 attempts to quit on their own before seeking treatment and an average of two recovery attempts in professional treatment before longer-term recovery.

However, while actual likelihood of relapse varies significantly from person to person, it does mean that it’s not unusual for your loved one to continue drinking, even after getting treatment. However, there is still hope and they can still move into a sober future without drugs or alcohol.

The following article offers some tips on how you can approach the problem if your loved one isn’t staying sober.

Talk to Them

Sitting down and having a conversation about substance use is an important step in getting your loved one back into sobriety. However, it’s important to take careful steps and to ensure that you and your loved one are on the same page.

For example, you’ll want to be nonjudgmental and non-accusatory. That can be extremely difficult, especially if you’re feeling betrayed.

In addition, your loved one may be hiding their drinking and they may even be lying to themselves. Addiction results in significant changes to the brain and how people think, which can lead to self-deception. Your loved one may also react with denial or even anger to being told they are drinking again.

Some good ways to start this kind of conversation include:

  • “So, I noticed you’ve been drinking again, I’m really worried about you”
  • “Are you okay? I feel like quitting alcohol was a really important goal for you and I’d like to understand why that’s not working out so I can try to help”
  • “I’m sorry I invaded your privacy here, but I felt like something was wrong and I overstepped bounds and checked your room and I found alcohol bottles there, can we talk about it? I’m worried about you”

two family members having a conversation about her substance abuseThe idea here is to:

  • Express concern over your loved one’s wellbeing
  • Ask if you can help
  • Express that you’ve done something wrong if finding out they’ve been drinking has meant invading their privacy
  • Acknowledging and referring back to their goals to quit alcohol as something they wanted, not something for you

These tactics won’t always work, but they will help you to start on a better footing and will help you to steer the conversation towards getting help and moving into recovery again.

Get Your Questions Answered

Practice Nonjudgment

You may have had an agreement with your loved one that they wouldn’t drink anymore. They may have made promises to you that they haven’t kept. Their drinking may feel like a personal letdown and you might be feeling angry and betrayed or even hopeless. But, getting your loved one into treatment means practicing nonjudgement of their actions. That means treating substance abuse like a disease or illness. 

You may have had an agreement with your loved one that they would not drink anymoreThey aren’t drinking again because they’ve failed as a person but because they are struggling with a disease and they lost.

Making that distinction and mindset can shift you away from anger and giving up on the person to pity and understanding that your loved one needs help. And, that will make a difference in your communication with your loved one.

Here, it may be a good idea to learn more about addiction and how it impacts people before you talk to your loved one. If you learn about the behavioral function of alcoholism and how it is classified as a temporary disability, it might give you more basis to believe that mindset, so you can approach your loved one in a critical and helpful way.

Eventually, blaming people never works, even if you’re right to blame them. Taking a nonjudgmental approach of “this happened, let’s see how we can fix it” will always make it easier for you to get your loved one on your side and into treatment.

Set Boundaries

It’s important to protect yourself and to set boundaries for yourself when your loved one starts drinking again. That’s for your mental health, your stress levels, and your ability to continue enjoying life. Good boundaries mean setting your limits and drawing lines that should not be crossed.

Most importantly, there should be direct consequences to failing to respect boundaries. However, if you set a boundary with a consequence, you have to follow through if your loved one crosses it, or you essentially don’t have boundaries. Good boundaries look like:

  • If you come to bed drunk, I will sleep on the couch
  • If you raise your voice or are unreasonably upset at me I will leave until you sober up
  • If you overspend budget, I will ask you to give up your bank card so we don’t’ have financial problems
  • If you are late because you are out drinking, meals and activities will go on without you
  • If you are too drunk to function or too hungover, I will not lie or make excuses for you

These boundaries are healthy, non-threatening, and easy to follow up on. They’re also good examples of boundaries rather than ultimatums like “If you drink again, I am leaving”. Ultimatums are much less healthy because they are difficult to follow up on and require an all-or-nothing approach. They’re rarely realistic or achievable. And, in this case, a healthier version would be “I don’t think I can manage you drinking more, so if you do, I will want to live somewhere without you for a few weeks and see if it improves how I feel”.

Work Towards Professional Help

male client consulting an admission counselor about inpatient and outpatient rehabWhile even professional help won’t get your loved one to stop drinking the first time, every time, it does help. If your loved one is drinking again, getting them into or back into rehab is the way to go. That should mean finding a facility, looking for evidence-based treatment like cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling, and asking your loved one to go to the program. Often, that can mean significant talking and working up to that ask – but just getting your loved one to go can mean a lot for their future and the tools they have to get help in the future.

If your loved one isn’t staying sober, it’s probably extremely difficult for you. Make sure you take time out to take care of yourself as well as your loved one. And, good luck getting them into treatment.

Asana Recovery is located in Orange County, California. and offers detoxresidential, and outpatient addiction treatment services in our modern and comfortable addiction treatment facilities. Please contact us today to speak with one of our experienced addiction treatment team if you have any questions about our programs.