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Individuals and families working to heal from the lasting impacts of substance abuse and addiction are often presented with a plethora of trials and challenges that may stand in the way of lasting sobriety and recovery. The ongoing potential for relapse is one challenge that nearly all families face in this journey, yet many families may feel alone as they endure this themselves. Understanding the implications of relapse, particularly continued relapse, on family dynamics can help individuals and families recognize that they are not alone in this journey, as well as help restore hope that lasting recovery is possible with the help of intensive relapse prevention and crisis case management services. 

At CCM, we are no stranger to the implications of continued relapse on family dynamics. This is why we approach sobriety and recovery as family endeavors. We work to ensure that the entire family is on the same page throughout their loved one’s treatment journey while providing necessary education, encouragement, and skill-building to family members. By understanding the implications of continued relapse on family dynamics, families can be empowered to engage in treatment and truly grasp the fact that lasting sobriety and recovery are possible. 

The Realities of Continued Relapse in Addiction Recovery

To understand the realities of relapse in addiction recovery, families must first understand what addiction is and how it affects the brain. As the Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains:

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a treatable mental disorder that affects a person’s brain and behavior, leading to their inability to control their use of substances like legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications. Symptoms can be moderate to severe, with addiction being the most severe form of SUD.

Further, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) highlights that addiction is a chronic brain disorder. This means that while there is no cure, there are effective ways of treating and managing the condition. As NIDA states, “Treatment enables people to counteract addiction’s disruptive effects on their brain and behavior and regain control of their lives.”

Furthermore, due to the chronic nature of addiction, the reality is that some people may relapse as a part of their recovery process. NIDA defines relapse as “a return to drug use after an attempt to stop.” Compared to the relapse rates for other chronic diseases like hypertension or asthma, relapse rates for addiction are similar, at nearly 40-60%. 

In this way, relapse does not mean that an individual has failed recovery; rather, relapse indicates that a current treatment plan needs to be resumed or modified or that additional interventions may be needed. Additionally, approaching continued relapse through family collaboration can ensure that family members in recovery have the support they need to best avoid relapse and thrive in sobriety. 

What Are Some Implications of Continued Relapse on Family Dynamics?

Despite the ongoing potential for continued relapse in recovery, relapse can certainly have a wide range of consequences for both the individual and their family. Understanding the implications of continued relapse alongside approaching continued relapse through family collaboration can help families understand what to expect, how to respond, and what actions can be taken to best prevent it in the future. 

Broken Trust

One of the most common implications of continued relapse on family dynamics is broken/loss of trust between family members and the individual in recovery. Loss of trust is common in early recovery, but this loss can become increasingly significant and severe for family members if the individual in recovery has already attempted to rebuild trust in sobriety.  

Once this trust is broken, family members may endure worsening anxiety and resentment for their loved one in recovery, which can create further distance and separation between family members. To heal from continued relapse and associated broken trust, the family member in recovery must be committed to their sobriety and healing in collaboration with their family members. 

The Development of Enabling Behaviors

Another implication of continued relapse on family dynamics is the development of enabling behaviors. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, enabling behaviors are ones that attempt to help, rescue, support, or protect a loved one from enduring the implications of their substance use or continued relapse. Examples of enabling behaviors include paying a loved one’s bills or lying for them. 

Enabling behaviors can have lasting consequences not only for an individual’s sobriety but also for family members’ identities. For instance, over time, family members may relate their sense of self-worth to their ability to protect their loved one in recovery. Similarly, enabling can create a mutually destructive relationship that perpetuates a loved one’s continued relapse. To heal from continued relapse and associated enabling behaviors, engagement in professional support is necessary.

Loss of Hope

Lastly, continued relapse can also certainly inform a loss of hope for sobriety in families during the recovery process. Yet, similarly, it is also necessary to recognize that familial hopelessness can also perpetuate a loved one’s continued relapse. 

Hope is essential in recovery, as it is often the driving force for motivating individuals to commit to lasting behavior change in their lives. Fortunately, there are resources available to help individuals and families rebuild hope for sobriety, even after continued relapse. For example, engaging in family support groups can help families feel less alone in their experiences, as well as foster hope for families when it dwindles. Additionally, family therapy can also instill hope for sobriety and recovery, as lasting abstinence is always possible. 

Navigating Continued Relapse at CCM

At CCM, we address continued relapse like we do addiction treatment and recovery – as family affairs. As Substance Use & Misuse explains, “[F]unctional familial support predicts decreases in risk for recurrence of substance use as compared to general functional support.” By prioritizing family involvement in treatment and recovery, the implications of continued relapse can be addressed quickly and effectively while also establishing healthy expectations for family dynamics throughout long-term recovery. 

Continued relapse can have a plethora of implications on family dynamics. Understanding these implications can help families not only feel less alone in what they are enduring but also ensure that they have the knowledge and tools to respond effectively to continued relapse if or when it occurs. From broken trust and a loss of hope to the development of enabling behaviors and more, addressing these implications requires professional guidance and support. At CCM, we provide a wide range of holistic behavioral health solutions to individuals and families working to recover from addiction, mental health disorders, and various types of crises. Allow us to help your family establish lasting sobriety and recovery. Call (855) 467-3226 today.