There’s not much you can do to prepare yourself for the fear, anger and pain that accompanies learning your child has a drug or alcohol addiction. Substance abuse affects the whole family, and the best way to help your child get the help needed to recover is to thoroughly educate yourself about aftercare and relapse prevention.
The more you know about addiction, the better you can help your child come to terms with their addiction, find helpful resources, choose the right treatment program and become involved in your child’s treatment and aftercare in the most effective ways possible.
This 14-part series is designed to help provide you with the information you need to face this struggle and help your child and your family find the path to recovery.
Aftercare & Relapse Prevention
The primary concern after treatment is preventing a lapse, which can lead to a relapse of the addiction. A high-quality treatment center will develop an aftercare plan based on your child’s needs. The aftercare plan typically includes ongoing individual, group and family therapy and participation in a support group, both of which are major players in relapse prevention.
The plan may also include components like time in a sober living facility to ease the transition from treatment back into the community and vocational rehab to help your child brush up on job skills and find employment. In the months after treatment, your child will continue to develop skills and strategies for reducing stress, dealing with cravings and coping with high-risk situations and other triggers.
The more engaged your child is in the aftercare programming, the better the chances of successful long-term recovery.
Addiction relapse doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, it occurs in three distinct stages, and learning the signs and symptoms of each stage can help you recognize and correct issues in your child’s recovery before they lead to a lapse or relapse.
Emotional relapse is the first stage, during which your child isn’t consciously thinking about using, but her emotions and behaviors may be setting her up for an eventual lapse. Mental relapse is the second stage, during which your child is beginning to think about using again. Physical relapse is the final stage at which the lapse actually occurs.
If your child lapses or relapses, it’s critical to understand that this doesn’t mean that treatment failed, and it will be crucial for you to help your child respond to it in a healthy way. A negative emotional response to a lapse increases the chances that the addiction will relapse, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
When a lapse or relapse occurs, the aftercare plan will be revised, and your child will likely attend more therapy sessions and recovery group meetings, during which he’ll work through the issues that led to the lapse or relapse and develop the skills necessary to prevent the same thing from happening again.
Recovery is a Lifelong Pursuit
It takes time to develop an addiction, and it takes time for brain function to normalize and for your child to sort through the issues surrounding the drug or alcohol abuse and addiction and develop new lifestyle habits that promote sobriety.
Your child may experience cravings and have to cope with triggers for the rest of her life, and to that end, the early months and years of recovery are an important learning process. Ongoing individual and family therapy and a lifelong commitment to participation in a 12-step support group will be essential for achieving long-term abstinence.
The more support your child has from family and friends through challenges, setbacks, victories and milestones, the more successful his recovery will likely be.
“When Your Child Has an Addiction” Continues
In the final entry in this series, learn about the early stages of recovery, syndromes that challenge sobriety and how to provide ongoing support for your child’s sobriety. Continued in “My Child Has an Addiction, Part 14: How to Support Recovery After Treatment”.