How to Handle Child Relapse

Once your son or daughter completes an inpatient treatment program and returns home, it will take time and patience to get the rhythm of the family together again.  The impact of watching your child lose themselves amid a drug and alcohol addiction is extremely painful. 

As parents, we do our best to guide our children and give them roots of love.  When our children choose a path that involves drugs and alcohol abuse they also must be willing to reach out for professional help.

Child Relapse Prevention in Home Environment

Before discharge, a family meeting is held to go over a family contract.  The youth and family will sign the contract.  The contract is not just for the youth, but in sync with goals to assist the parents.  So, the contract is written to establish a plan that will give the family some support during the transition.  Essentially it offers a roadmap for integrating youth back into the home environment. 

The family contract is individualized and contains rules of the house tailored to helping the family focus on supporting the youth’s “new learned behavior.”  It is also a restorative tool offering the family some visual guidelines with the contract agreement posted for everyone to see and reminders helping to prevent relapse.

Because relapse happens in a large percentage of recovering addicts, the daily living activities (DLA’s) must be upheld to stay in recovery.  The family therapist will meet to establish some ideas for behavior diversion activities, validation strategies, reminders of coping skills and emotional support.

Having access to “therapeutic tools” are added to the parent toolbox to assist children during times of struggle as they continue to abstain from alcohol and drugs.  These tools establish “healthful,” therapeutic responses and a safety plan in case a relapse were to occur.  The fact is that the cravings will arise, and it can feel scary to both the parents and the youth.  Going back to the contract can be a reminder to everyone of how far everyone has come to this point. 

Additional conversations as a family can help to develop new activities to improve ways of thinking and acting can redirect the threat of relapse.  Ongoing self-help groups and individual psychotherapy will assist youth and reduce the chance of relapse.  Ongoing psychotherapy will also treat youth in recovery and if a relapse occurs the aftereffect will be less guilt and more effort to change.  As parent’s paying attention to our thoughts and feelings is critical especially when reacting to a fear of our child relapsing again.  

Also, validating your child’s cravings as a normal challenge while checking in with your reactions as a parent for both your sake and your child’s sake.  Part of the validation strategy requires forgiveness of self and your child during difficult times.

Understanding Compassion Fatigue

There is something called compassion fatigue which can occur when parents have the additional responsibility of helping their children navigate the path of recovery.  The fact is that as human beings we are affected by the suffering of others, and therefore, compassion fatigue is very real and universal. 

Parents who have the responsibility of caring for a child with mental illness and substance abuse disorder can be vulnerable to compassion fatigue.  Compassion fatigue can also place individuals at risk of suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, a compromised immune system, and other symptoms linked to prolonged exposure to elevated levels of stress hormones.

Mindfulness and Self-Care the “Whole Person Approach”

Mindfulness is an intervention of paying attention on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.  Being in a mindful state can help take away the intense “emotional charge” especially when reacting to a child’s behavior that triggers memories of ongoing exposure to seeing someone you controlled by drugs.

The entire family should be practicing self-care from a “whole person approach” which involves taking care of the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self.

Daily balance in diet and exercise also help improve mood and provide added strength and coping skills to address stressful circumstances. 

Steven Covey said,

“We must give our children roots and then give them wings” this only happens when we hold on to the spirit of “Faith.”

#1. Physical

The physical body improves when we make healthy lifestyle choices such as nutrition and avoidance of processed foods and a heart-healthy diet. 

Having social support is also important so that we have relationships with like-minded parents and youth who can share their life experiences with an understanding of the challenges which come with children who struggle with addiction.  A balance of exercise, i.e., walking, stretching, swimming, and weight training also supports recovery.

#2. Emotional

As caregivers, our emotional balance is something that many of us fail to evaluate until we have internalized so much anger or anxiety that we explode. 

Emotional balance happens when we can connect to the present moment, which prevents our minds from wandering to what “should have been” to “what is going to happen when…?”  Anger, worry, fear, hate, and sadness are all alive and well in the presence of compassion fatigue. 

As we seek to calm ourselves through a focus on compassion for self and others, the other emotions/feelings will melt.  Just as we focus our child’s healing, we saw the importance of our resilience which is gained through overcoming the challenges of life and shared as a victory in life.

#3. Mental

Finding mental balance can come out of our storyline as we focus on heart memory and recurring thoughts that arise from our subconscious.  Once again, just as we work with our children to help them in their recovery, we also understand that some of the thoughts we have are healing in nature and other thoughts are destructive and many times not reality. 

Strengthening our minds through mind gym, reading inspiring books or ones of interest, a daily practice of meditation and contemplation and doing word puzzles, learning a new language, and other mind games on the computer all strengthen our minds. 

We can create our distractions from painful thoughts by watching a funny movie or going for a walk-in nature.  Mindfulness also has a place here by stopping the negative thoughts and re-centering in our heart.

“Faith is the function of the heart.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

#4. Spiritual

The spiritual balance is also very personal to each person.  Utilizing what we believe in, which is something outside of oneself.  Compassion fatigue symptomatology challenges faith and belief, so finding ways to feed the spirit and build faith is healing. 

Utilizing daily prayer, meditation, contemplation, and reading spiritual books with inspiration and meaning for you personally can all help feed your spirit.

Take a deep breath of gratitude and renewed confidence to care for your child who is in recovery and dealing with addiction.  As a parent, it is too easy to get into a “reactive” pattern based on real situations involving relapse or the “fear” of your child relapsing. 

Being a parent is a formidable challenge, and when you introduce the complexities of mental illness and substance abuse issues, it can feel almost impossible. To find out more information on how to help your child with relapse, checkout this article on Child Relapse or contact us today for more information, (888) 358-8998.

What Should I do if My Child Relapses?
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