talking to alcoholic spouse

Navigating Life With an Alcoholic Spouse: What To Do (And What NOT to Do)

When your spouse is addicted to alcohol, your marriage—and your life—can feel out of control. So, what can you do to help your alcoholic spouse? And, what actions are unhelpful?

At Creekside Recovery Center, we offer sober living programs to help those struggling with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Visit our admissions page today to find a supportive home environment for your spouse.

5 Ways to Help Your Alcoholic Spouse (And Yourself)

Untreated alcoholism will have a negative impact on your spouse, yourself, and your entire family. You can’t just ignore the problem and hope it goes away on its own. On the other hand, you can’t control your spouse’s behavior—and this might make you feel helpless.

However, you can empower yourself—and your family—by taking the following steps:

1. Learn More About Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a disease affecting millions of Americans each year. According to the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 28.8 million people aged 18 and older had a past year alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Learning more about alcoholism puts things into perspective. As you learn to understand alcohol addiction as a disease, you can separate your spouse from their problematic behaviors. This will help you focus on dealing with the problem for what it is: a mental disorder that can be treated.

The following resources can help you learn more:

In addition, you can attend open Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings to learn more and hear stories from other alcoholics.

2. Set Healthy Boundaries

Healthy boundaries are critical for living with an alcoholic spouse. This means you have clear rules and expectations about alcohol use in your home. It also means there are consequences to crossing certain boundaries.

You have to be reasonable and temper your expectations when setting boundaries. Otherwise, you could set yourself and your spouse up for failure. For example, if the boundary is simply, “you need to stop drinking right now,” you aren’t giving your spouse any chance to recover.

Instead, you can set boundaries around seeking treatment or about unacceptable times for drinking. You might not allow drinking around children or during holidays, for instance.

3. Get Support for Yourself

You can’t control your alcoholic spouse and how they will deal with underlying issues regarding their drinking. However, you can get help and support for yourself.

Support groups, like Al-Anon Family Groups, are a great place to start. In family groups, you can learn from and share experiences with others who have been in your place before.

4. Take Care of Yourself (Self-Care)

It is crucial that you take care of yourself and don’t neglect your own needs. Oftentimes, you are so preoccupied with your spouse’s behaviors, that you don’t take any time for yourself. Learn to let go a little and do things for yourself, like taking a break, relaxing, talking to a friend, or engaging in your own interests.

Engaging in self-care will help to keep tensions at a minimum at home. This will also help you from burning out and ultimately will enable you to be there for your loved one when they are ready to get help.

In addition, you can seek therapy or counseling to learn how to deal with the stress of living with an alcoholic spouse.

5. Helping Your Kids

If you have children, you need to ensure that their needs are met as well. You might not think that your children understand the situation. However, you’d be surprised at how much kids know about the problems at home.

It’s best to speak openly about the problem. Let your kids know that their other parent has a disease, and this disease causes them to seem different. Also, encourage them to share their feelings and attend support groups or therapy as well.

However, if your spouse is abusive to you or your children, you need to understand your legal rights if you need to remove an alcoholic from your home.

5 Things NOT to Do When Dealing With an Alcoholic Spouse

It’s also important to know what not to do when living with an alcoholic spouse. Sometimes, people with alcoholism in the home either ignore the issue or aggravate it. Knowing what not to do can help you from unintentionally worsening the problem.

1. Don’t Enable Their Addiction

“Enable” is a word that is used often when discussing family members of alcoholics and addicts. Essentially, enabling means that a person thinks they are helping their loved one, however, they are actually creating conditions that allow the problematic behaviors to occur.

Examples of enabling include making excuses when an alcoholic spouse is drunk or hungover and misses work or social events. Another is protecting them from dealing with any legal consequences, like a public drinking charge or DUI.

2. Don’t Ignore the Problem

Many families of alcoholics hope that the problem will go away on its own. They ignore the issue or tip-toe around it. Unfortunately, this won’t help anyone.

Ignoring the problem can lead to increased tension, passive-aggression, enabling, and “para-alcoholism” (taking on the problematic behaviors of an alcoholic without drinking).

3. Don’t Blame Yourself

Spouses of alcoholics also have a tendency to blame themselves for the problem. Remember: this isn’t your fault. Your spouse has a disease—and neither you nor they can control that.

Blame often leads to guilt, shame, doubt, and low self-esteem. Over time, you could develop a mental health disorder, like depression or anxiety as these thoughts become overwhelming.

Instead, talk to a support group, friend, or counselor about your feelings to develop healthy ways of coping with the problem.

4. Don’t Try to Control Their Drinking

Any attempt at controlling your spouse’s behaviors could lead to conflicts and escalate their drinking. For example, you might lecture them about it, complain about their behavior, create ultimatums, or shame them. Not only is this not helpful, but it wastes time and energy that could be spent doing something more productive.

Instead, talk to them about your concerns, express empathy, and encourage treatment. Of course, you don’t want to hold back either—let them know how this behavior affects you and the family.

5. Don’t Talk About Drinking When They’re Drunk

It’s tempting to give in to knee-jerk reactions when your loved one is drunk. After all, this is when conflicts, tensions, and issues arise. However, talking to your spouse about changing their behaviors when they are under the influence won’t help.

For one thing, they probably won’t remember anything you’ve said. Even if you seem to get somewhere with them, it’s unlikely that they will follow through after they sober up. And, even if they agree with you that they need help, they might just be trying to get you off their back.

Make sure to have the important conversations about drinking and treatment programs when your spouse is sober. Even if they don’t change their behavior, at least they’ll be in a state of mind to hear your concerns and consider their next steps.

Get Help for Your Alcoholic Spouse Today

Creekside Recovery Residences offers sober living homes and other treatment options for those struggling with alcoholism. If your spouse needs help and a stable place to live while they get treatment, we can help. Contact us today for more.

woman talks to her alcoholic parent

How To Help An Alcoholic Parent

Knowing how to deal with an alcoholic parent is vital to the health of your family. You can’t control their behaviors, but establishing healthy boundaries can keep you from burning out or overreacting. In addition, you can help them find treatment—when they are ready to accept help.

Creekside Recovery Residences can help your alcoholic parent when they accept that they need treatment. But, if they are not ready yet, the following tips can help you deal with your parent’s problematic drinking:

8 Tips to Deal With an Alcoholic Parent

It can be tough to deal with an alcoholic parent—even when you are an adult. Oftentimes, unresolved feelings about past behaviors during childhood can get in the way of seeing your parent as a person who struggles.

However, there are ways that you can help your alcoholic parent—or at the very least, accept the situation for what it is without burning yourself out in the process.

#1. Help Yourself

The first and most important step in dealing with any loved one who struggles with problematic behaviors is to help yourself. You’re going to have strong feelings come up when dealing with your parent. These feelings can start to drive your reactions and behaviors when they are unresolved.

Helping yourself can include a lot of things. Sometimes, it’s as simple as walking away for a few minutes to calm down if you’re arguing with your parent. Other times, it’s engaging in self-care activities, like exercise, listening to music, or journaling.

But you might need to go deeper and work with a therapist to resolve any lingering issues with your parent. If your parent has been drinking all of your life, they can help you cope with the long-term effects of growing up with an alcoholic parent. After all, addiction is a family disease that affects everyone—not just the alcoholic.

In addition, support groups like Al-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) can help you feel less alone and provide additional tips.

#2. Learn More About Alcoholism

One of the other benefits of the support groups mentioned above is that you will learn more about the disease of alcoholism. This can help you put things into perspective so you see your parent as a person struggling.

You can also attend open meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Open meetings allow nonalcoholics to observe. Sometimes, hearing about other people’s experiences can provide insight into your parent’s behaviors.

There are also resources online that provide valuable information about alcoholism, including:

#3. Build a Support System

Dealing with an alcoholic parent isn’t easy, but it’s easier when other people support you. Adult children of alcoholics often feel shame about their parent’s behaviors. This can get in the way of talking to other people about what is going on.

However, it is critical that you develop a good support system to prevent yourself from getting burnt out. If you have siblings or a non-drinking parent, reach out to share the responsibility. Also, if your alcoholic parent has siblings, they can offer support for you as well.

Your support system can help you host interventions and encourage your parent to get help. They can also pitch in if you need to take your alcoholic parent to an AA meeting or a rehab program. Some examples could be someone to babysit your children or watch your pets if you need to be with your alcoholic parent.

Other times, you just need someone to talk to. You can talk to a trusted friend about the issues or a sponsor in a support group for families of alcoholics.

#4. Let Go of Guilt and Responsibility

Besides shame, guilt and responsibility over your parent’s drinking can get in the way of helping them. Their drinking is not—and never was—your fault. Taking on guilt and too much responsibility for other people’s behaviors can lead to burnout.

#5. Set Healthy and Respectful Boundaries (Without Enabling)

Healthy and respectful boundaries are important when dealing with an alcoholic parent. On one hand, you want to be firm so you aren’t enabling their behaviors. On the other hand, they are still your parent, and you want them to be a part of your life.

Boundaries are going to look different for everyone. Essentially, you are setting your own expectations and limits while not trying to control another’s behaviors.

Examples of healthy and respectful boundaries with alcoholic parents include:

  • Not allowing any drinking at your home. What they do in their home is their business, but you won’t let it happen under your roof.
  • Avoid them when you know they are most likely to be drinking. For example, if certain dates or holidays trigger your parent’s drinking, then you might not want to contact them at that time. Also, if your parent drinks at a certain time of the day, avoid calling or visiting at that time.
  • No longer paying for fines and legal fees. If you’ve paid for any legal consequences—like DUI or disorderly conduct charges—for your parent’s problematic drinking, you can refuse to do so from now on.
  • Don’t allow your parent to babysit their grandchildren when drunk. This can be tough—you probably don’t want to cut your parent out of your grandchildren’s lives. However, you can set a limit—perhaps they can visit, but can’t be relied on as a sitter.

#6. Don’t Talk to Your Parent When They Are Drunk

As mentioned above, not talking to your parent when they are drunk is an important boundary. However, this point needs to be emphasized. When you find your parent drunk, this is not the time to talk to them about their drinking.

Oftentimes, you want to succumb to knee-jerk reactions when your parent is drinking. You might want to lecture them or confront them about what they are doing in the moment. You might even believe they need to hear it out when the problem behavior occurs or the consequences won’t stick.

Unfortunately, talking to your parent about their behaviors while they are drunk doesn’t help anyone. Maybe it feels good for a fleeting moment to let it out, but it never helps in the long term.

For instance, they will likely say something you don’t want to hear. Conversely, they might agree with you to get help just to get you off their back for now. But, in the end, they probably won’t remember anything you’ve discussed.

#7. Helping Vs. Enabling (What’s the Difference?)

There’s a difference between helping someone with their problematic drinking and enabling their behaviors. Sometimes, what you think is helpful could enable them to continue drinking. In other words, you unintentionally send the message that problem drinking is okay.

It can be difficult to define enabling exactly, but some examples can illustrate the point. For instance, if you bail them out of jail when they get a DUI, you could be enabling. Or, if you make excuses for them when they are unable to fulfill their responsibilities to work or the family due to being drunk or hungover.

Essentially, enabling shields your parent from the consequences of their actions. Helping, however, requires maintaining your boundaries, offering support to help them treat their addiction, or taking care of things for them at home if they go to treatment.

#8. Be Realistic: You Can’t Control Their Drinking

Lastly, remember to be realistic about your expectations when dealing with an alcoholic parent. You can’t control their drinking and related problematic behaviors. You can only control your responses to their drinking.

By letting go of control, you will be more effective and present if your parent is finally ready to get treatment.

Treatment Options for Your Alcoholic Parent

Depending on where your parent is in their addiction or their recovery, there are several treatment options available, including:

  • Alcohol Detox: This is the first step to treating addiction. During detox, your alcoholic parent will get the professional support they need to manage withdrawal symptoms safely.
  • Residential Treatment: After detox, many people go into a residential treatment center, also called inpatient rehab. Many clients stay in residential treatment for 30 to 90 days to build a foundation for long-term recovery.
  • Outpatient Rehab: After residential treatment, it’s best to continue with outpatient treatment. Many treatment centers offer step-down programs so that your parent can transition gradually from higher to lower levels of care.
  • Sober Living Homes: During outpatient treatment, your parent might want to consider a sober living home. That way, they still get support and accountability for their sobriety in the early stages of recovery.
  • Recovery Coaching/Sober Companions: Recovery coaches and sober companions can accompany your parent during the early stages of recovery. They can offer additional support, check-ins, and companionship.
  • Case Management: The role of a case manager is to help their clients obtain additional resources to support their recovery. For example, your parent might need a doctor, legal services, safe housing, or co-occurring mental health treatment.

Get Help for Your Alcoholic Parent Today

If you have to deal with an alcoholic parent, remember that you are not alone. Support groups can help you deal with your own emotions and offer valuable tips about what to do—and what not to do. In addition, it helps to contact addiction treatment centers for more information about their services.

Creekside Recovery Residences is here to help your alcoholic parent when they are ready. Contact us today to learn more.

father isn't sure how to deal with alcoholic adult son

7 Ways To Help Your Alcoholic Adult Son

Knowing how to deal with an alcoholic son is a challenge for parents of adult children with an addiction. However, there are ways to help your son to put them on the path to recovery.

Creekside Recovery Residences offers sober living programs for men in recovery from alcohol addiction. When your son is ready for treatment, we’ll be here to guide you through the process.

In the meantime, here are seven ways you can help your alcoholic son:

#1. Get Help for Yourself

When your adult son struggles with alcoholism, this can take a toll on your mental health. It’s understandable to be upset or stressed out dealing with an alcoholic adult son. But it’s important to acknowledge how it affects you and to learn healthy coping skills.

Oftentimes, addiction treatment centers offer support for family members of alcoholics or addicts. This gives you a place to vent, process, and manage your emotions about your son’s behavior.

#2. Attend Family Support Groups

Support groups for families of alcoholics and addicts are great places to get additional help for your own feelings on the issue. One of the most common groups is Al-Anon, which is geared specifically toward family members of alcoholics. However, you can also find other support groups in your community to help you.

#3. Build a Support System

It’s also important to build a support system of family and friends. When you deal with an alcoholic son, other members of your family are affected by the issue. You can all lean on one another for support so that no one gets burnt out by taking on too much.

Your support system can include people you can talk to about the situation, like friends and co-workers. In addition, the people in your support system can help when you need to take your adult son to appointments or treatment programs. For example, you might need a friend to watch a pet while you drive your son to a rehab center out of town.

#4. Set Boundaries and Limits

Setting boundaries and limits are important skills when learning how to deal with an alcoholic son. Without boundaries and limits, you could be unintentionally enabling their addiction or other problematic behaviors.

Some examples of healthy boundaries and limits for an alcoholic son include:

  • Not making excuses for their behavior
  • Not allowing alcohol in your home
  • Not shielding them from the consequences of their actions
  • No longer giving them money or financial support

Remember: the key to setting healthy boundaries and limits isn’t to control your son’s behavior. Rather, it is about controlling your responses to their alcoholism and problematic behaviors.

#5. Learn More About Alcoholism and Treatment

One of the best ways to deal with an alcoholic son is to learn more about alcoholism as well as treatment. Learning more about alcoholism can provide the following benefits:

  • Alleviates feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame
  • Sympathize with what your son is dealing with
  • Understand the underlying causes of addiction

By learning more about how alcohol addiction is treated, you can help your alcoholic son explore options when they are ready for treatment.

#6. Know What NOT to Say or Do

Of course, there are some things that you want to avoid doing or saying when helping your alcoholic son. The following are things to avoid:

  • Don’t give ultimatums or make threats. Although you might feel like this is in their best interest, ultimatums and threats can ruin your relationship with your son. They can also be difficult for you to uphold—making you seem inconsistent.
  • Don’t confront them—especially if they are currently under the influence. Confrontations about alcoholism aren’t helpful. Instead, discuss the issue from a place of concern and be non-judgmental. Also, never confront an alcoholic about their drinking when they are under the influence. This won’t help anyone and could ignite intense emotions.
  • Don’t blame them. Alcoholism, and any issues related to it, are your son’s responsibility to manage and face the consequences of. However, acknowledging responsibility and facing consequences isn’t the same as taking blame. Blaming them for the issue doesn’t help them come around to dealing with it—it usually makes things worse.
  • Don’t lecture or criticize. Sometimes, parents revert to how they dealt with their son as a child or adolescent. But, now you must talk to your alcoholic son as an adult. Lecturing or criticizing them for their actions could create distance from you and your son.
  • Don’t give mixed messages. If you keep your drinking under control, you might struggle to understand what alcoholism is like for your son. Sometimes, you might pressure them to have a drink or two on holidays or special occasions—rationalizing that they can handle just one. Alternatively, you might drink heavily in front of them. This sends mixed messages to your alcoholic son.

#7. Be Patient and Acknowledge the Wins

It takes time to see significant changes when you deal with an alcoholic son. Oftentimes, you might overlook the small steps they take because you want them to overcome their disorder entirely. But, it’s important to be patient and to acknowledge the wins—even the daily victories.

And, remember that alcoholism is a chronic condition. This means that a relapse is more likely than not. However, a relapse doesn’t mean that your son cannot recover from addiction. They shouldn’t give up because of any setbacks—and neither should you.

Help Your Alcoholic Son Find Treatment Today

Creekside Recovery Residences offers sober living programs for those who need a safe and secure place to continue their recovery after inpatient treatment. We also connect our residents to outpatient programs and other helpful resources that put your son on the path to long-lasting recovery from alcohol addiction.

Contact us today to learn more.

alcoholic drinks alone after being legally removed from home

How to Legally Remove an Alcoholic From Your Home

Alcohol addiction can bring several problems into a person’s home. The alcoholic could be putting others in danger or creating an unhealthy environment for children. While many people recover from alcohol addiction, some people refuse to get help or won’t get help until they face severe consequences. Whether a tenant or a family member, it is important to learn how to legally remove an alcoholic from your home.

While no one wants to be put into this position, there are sober living programs that can provide a safe place for alcoholics to live if they cannot stay at home. Creekside Recovery Residences helps people get back on their feet when they are unable to stay sober while living at home.

Tenant vs. Family Member

When an alcoholic is living at another person’s home, their behaviors could be a cause for concern. For example, they might be disruptive to neighbors or others living in the home. Or, the alcoholic could be at risk of overdose or other negative consequences. Family members, especially children, could be in danger when living with an alcoholic.

No matter the reason, legally removing an alcoholic from your home could look different depending on your relationship with the person.

How to Legally Remove an Alcoholic Tenant

Tenants have some legal protections from being kicked out of rental properties. These protections help people who might otherwise face discrimination by their landlords. Since alcoholism and other substance use disorders (SUD) are considered disabilities, “the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing and housing-related transactions” due to these disorders. Thus, a landlord must go through the proper eviction channels to remove an alcoholic tenant.

A landlord needs to go through the following steps and must prove that the person broke rules and regulations or poses a threat:

  • Provide a warning. It is best to begin with a verbal warning if you can do so safely. For some people, a warning could get them to turn their behavior around.
  • Get law enforcement involved. If a warning isn’t enough, you might need to report the issue to law enforcement. That way, you can report any illegal activity or safety concerns as you prepare to evict the person.
  • File an eviction notice. Each state and city might have different laws regarding evictions. However, you can file an eviction notice at your local courthouse and consult with legal professionals if an eviction is warranted.

How to Legally Remove an Alcoholic From Your Family Home

Addiction often affects not only the person struggling but those closest to them as well. Unlike a landlord, family members need to consider the impact on their relationship with the alcoholic. They also have to deal with the negative emotions associated with kicking a family member out of the home.

However, when an alcoholic refuses treatment or engages in abusive behaviors driven by their addiction, family members are left with few options. Depending upon your relationship, your approach may vary. Still, you want to begin by getting legal advice and support from others.

Consult an Attorney and Get Support

It is best to get legal help when you need a family member to leave your home. Unlike a tenant, who is bound to follow the rules and regulations of a lease, families don’t have such documents. Therefore, it helps to talk to an attorney about when, why, and how to legally remove an alcoholic from your home.

In addition to legal counsel, get support from other family members, loved ones, and rehab professionals. Removing an alcoholic from your home can be challenging and emotionally draining—especially for a family member. You can also seek support from a therapist or a support group for families of alcoholics, such as Al-Anon.

Children (Under 18)

According to the Partnership to End Addiction, children or teens struggling with alcohol addiction could be involuntarily committed to addiction treatment in many states. Hopefully, a parent doesn’t need to resort to legally removing their child from their home to attend rehab, however, sometimes, this is what it takes.

Adult Children Living at Home

Unlike children under the age of 18, parents are not legally required to provide the needs of their adult children. Therefore, you can legally remove any adult children living in your home—especially if their behavior is disruptive or violent.

Abusive Spouse or Parent

If the alcoholic in your home is abusive toward any family members—whether this is physical, emotional, or sexual abuse—you can file an order of exclusive occupancy. You will need to gather evidence of the abuse to ensure that you can build a case for the order to go through.

Can I Get a Loved One into a Sober Living Home?

If there is abuse in your home, you must consider your safety or the safety of others in your home and evict your loved one. But, if your loved one is willing to enter treatment, there are options for them. Sober living homes are a great place for alcoholics to get a fresh start as they learn the skills they need to maintain long-term sobriety. Most homes require residents to attend an outpatient rehab program during their stay.

However, if your loved one is actively drinking, they should enter a detox or other form of inpatient rehab before sober living. You can reach out to professionals about their programs, what type of insurance they accept, and what type of program your loved one needs. In some cases, rehab professionals can meet you and your loved one during an intervention.

Overall, if your loved one is willing to get help, it is best to help them find treatment options rather than evict them without a plan. But, no matter what, you must be firm and set limits on what behaviors you will allow in your home.

Find Help for an Alcoholic Living in Your Home Today

When an alcoholic is living in your home, you might be concerned about their safety as well as your own. Sometimes, family members must put limits on their loved one’s behavior and remove them from their homes. On the other hand, a landlord might need to evict a tenant due to problematic behaviors like unpaid rent or destruction of property while under the influence.

Regardless of the reason, legally removing an alcoholic from your home isn’t easy. If you are concerned about a family member or tenant struggling with alcohol addiction, a sober living program might be the best option for them when they can no longer live in your home.

Contact Creekside Recovery Residences today to find solutions for the alcoholic in your life.

family member supports an alcoholic after relapse

What to Do When an Alcoholic Relapses

When an alcoholic relapses, family members, friends, and loved ones are often taken aback. They could feel confused—or even betrayed—as they’ve already seen their loved one doing well, and now they are back where they started before treatment. However, by understanding what relapses are and what to look for, there is hope to get an alcoholic back on track.

Creekside Recovery Residences offers sober living options for those in need of a structured environment for recovery from alcohol addiction. We also provide outpatient treatment services that further help those struggling after a relapse.

What is a Relapse?

A relapse is a re-occurrence of symptoms of a disease or disorder. For alcoholics, this means that they begin drinking again. They might also engage in other problematic behaviors that accompany alcoholism or even supplement drinking with replacement addictions. These could include things like sex addiction, gambling, or excessive shopping.

However, the key takeaway when an alcoholic relapses is that this is not a sign of failure nor does it mean that the person is hopeless. Remember that alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic disease–and all chronic diseases carry the risk of relapse.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), relapse rates for substance use disorders (SUD) are about 40-60%. Compared to other chronic diseases, like asthma and hypertension, this rate is relatively low. But, despite the lower relapse rates of SUD compared to other diseases, a relapse on alcohol can be dangerous or even deadly.

What to Do When an Alcoholic Relapses?

Knowing what to do during a relapse is critical to recovery from alcoholism. Many treatment programs include relapse prevention as part of the process. That way, clients are equipped with the coping skills they need to recognize a relapse and get back on track in recovery.

However, even with a relapse prevention strategy, an alcoholic in recovery must have a support system to help them in case of a relapse. Oftentimes, during a relapse, alcoholics could be in denial of the problem, or they falsely believe they can handle it on their own.

The following tips can help when an alcoholic relapses:

  • Approach them without judgment. They are likely aware that they’ve made a mistake. They could also be struggling with something else, such as a co-occurring mental health disorder or a distressing life event that caused them to resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Seek medical attention. After a period of sobriety, an alcoholic’s tolerance for alcohol lessens. They could be in danger if they drink excessively, as their bodies cannot handle the amount of alcohol they consumed before treatment.
  • Talk to them about treatment when they are sober. Safety comes first when an alcoholic relapses. Many loved ones feeling upset about the relapse might feel tempted to bring up getting back to treatment. However, the primary concern at first must be ensuring the person is safe.
  • Reach out for help. No one expects the alcoholic to recover alone, and this extends to loved ones. The person’s treatment team could have strategies to help loved ones intervene during a relapse.

Of course, one of the most important things for family and loved ones can do is learn how to recognize when a relapse occurs. It is also vital to know what stage of relapse a person is in.

What Are the 3 Stages of Relapse?

Relapses occur in stages that progress in severity over time. Thus, the earlier a person recognizes a relapse, the better. That way, the alcoholic can get help before fully relapsing and drinking dangerous amounts of alcohol.

According to the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, relapse occurs in the following three stages:

1. Emotional Relapse

During the emotional stage, an alcoholic isn’t even thinking about drinking. However, they are beginning to exhibit poor coping skills that could lead to drinking. For instance, they might bottle up emotions, isolate from loved ones, or no longer attend peer support groups.

Remember that drinking alcohol is a maladaptive way of coping with underlying emotional distress. Thus, when an alcoholic stops using healthy coping strategies, then things could get worse until they resort to alcohol to self-medicate.

2. Mental Relapse

When an alcoholic is in the mental relapse stage, they start thinking about drinking again. This could include reminiscing about past alcohol abuse, minimizing their addiction, or planning how to drink again without others knowing. In addition, an alcoholic in recovery for years could falsely believe that they can handle alcohol now without sliding back to a full-blown addiction.

3. Physical Relapse

The final stage, a physical relapse, is when the alcoholic starts drinking again. Sometimes, a person has one drink—during a celebration or special occasion—and this starts a mental relapse. In other words, they have one drink, put it down, and then start thinking, “I can drink again–that one drink didn’t lead to more.” Gradually, they begin drinking again until they are right back to the same level of severity as they were before treatment.

Often, the physical stage is what most people think of when they hear the word “relapse.” However, a relapse can begin long before a person starts drinking again. It is important to recognize the warning signs in the earlier stages to prevent a physical relapse.

Warning Signs of a Relapse

Family members and loved ones often notice changes during or before a relapse. Since drinking is only one symptom of relapse, other unhealthy behavioral patterns resurface when an alcoholic relapses.

Warning signs of a relapse include the following:

  • Change in mood or attitude
  • Disheveled appearance
  • Glorifying past instances of alcohol abuse
  • Spending more time alone
  • Canceling plans and other obligations
  • Problems at work, like tardiness, not showing up, or arguments with co-workers
  • Secretive behaviors
  • No longer attending peer support or outpatient treatment programs

Overall, any changes that are similar to a person’s behavior before treatment could be a sign of relapse. In addition, it is important to be on alert when an alcoholic experiences significant life changes. For example, moving, having a child, or a death in the family could elevate a person’s stress levels and lead to a relapse.

How to Move Past a Relapse

Moving past a relapse depends upon which stage a person is in when they recognize the relapse. During an emotional or mental relapse, this could involve getting back into therapy or talking to a sponsor or recovery coach about specific issues. This could prevent a physical relapse and get the person back on track before things get worse.

However, moving past a physical relapse could be more challenging. Most importantly, the person must remember that a relapse is not a sign of failure—it’s just a sign that they need additional help. After that, creating a plan with their support team can help them move past a relapse.

Each person will have different treatment needs to get back on track after a relapse. Fortunately, there are several treatment options available.

Treatment Options After Relapse

Some people will need a higher level of care than others after a relapse. Depending upon the severity of the relapse, they could need inpatient detox services again to get sober. After that, they could get either inpatient or outpatient treatment in the following ways:

  • Residential rehab programs. Residential, or inpatient, treatment programs typically last 30-90 days after detoxification. The person will live in the facility throughout their treatment program to keep them safe from relapsing.
  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHP). Also called “day treatment, a PHP requires attendance 4-5 days per week for the majority of the day. Unlike residential programs, however, the client can return home or to a supportive living program each day.
  • Intensive outpatient programs (IOP). IOP programs are a form of outpatient treatment with a flexible schedule to allow clients to work, take care of family, or attend school during treatment. Most IOP programs occur in the evenings to fit around a person’s schedule.
  • Sober living programs. Oftentimes, an alcoholic could relapse if they aren’t in a structured environment. For instance, a recovering alcoholic might struggle to stay sober if their roommate drinks or uses drugs. Sober living homes help clients stay safe and sober as they get their lives together after a relapse.
  • Peer support programs. Attendance at a peer support program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or SMART Recovery can help a person maintain sobriety after a relapse. Recovering alcoholics can share their experiences with peers, build a support system, and learn healthy coping skills from their peers.

Regardless of what treatment path a person chooses, it is vital to get professional help when an alcoholic relapses to prevent life-threatening consequences and get them back on track in recovery.

Get Help for a Relapse Today

Relapses occur during recovery from every chronic disease—including alcohol use disorder (AUD). A relapse is not a sign that a person has failed or cannot recover. Rather, a relapse simply means that a person needs additional support as they continue on their journey in recovery.

Creekside Recovery Residences offers structured sober living homes, as well as outpatient treatment, recovery coaching, and case management for those in recovery from AUD. Contact us today to get back on track after a relapse.