How To Help Someone Recovering in Times of Crisis

Published on June 24, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

Those in recovery know how difficult managing relapse can be. The triggers can lie dormant for long stretches of time before suddenly kicking into full force. The pressure to use alcohol and/or substances is enough to send recovering addicts into a full-blown crisis. If there is someone in your life struggling with relapse, there are many ways you can help.Understanding the brain’s response to events triggering relapse differ significantly from one person in recovery to another.

The risks, however, are the same for everyone. After periods of sobriety, an individual’s tolerance for the substance they once used will be significantly lower than it was before quitting. Helping people in crisis resulting from pressures to relapse can be challenging. Try to keep in mind that staying aware of methods to alleviate this pressure can be life-changing for anyone on the path towards recovery.

Overwhelming Triggers

Alcohol and/or substance use disorders function in the same way that any other medical disorder might. When we think about mental health, there is a tendency to perceive the conditions as somehow less severe than an outwardly obvious physical disorder. This misconception is the result of many social forces at play, but primarily, alcohol and/or substance use disorder exists without many visible symptoms.

For this reason, watching out for symptoms can be particularly difficult. For first responders in recovery, the stigma surrounding willpower and mental fortitude or being “tough” tends to imply shame for those feeling the weight of their addictive triggers. External stress, people or places from the past, or looming anxiety can flood the recovering mind with tempting thoughts to use again.

For many, the mindset resembles a sort of neurosis, or fixation, centered around relapse. These thoughts effectively interrupt routine cognitive thought processes, making seemingly ordinary tasks strain focus. If you or someone you know in recovery seems overly distracted, be proactive and initiate communication. Seeking help for you or another person begins with seeking vulnerable support through empathy.

Listening Is the Best Medicine

It is normal to confuse attempts to help with trying to solve or heal. Unless you are the one in crisis, it isn’t your job to fix the afflictions that come up along the path of recovery. Overextending support can push those in crisis away, since, more often than not, those in crisis need someone who will listen and identify with their feelings.

It is more important to listen with empathy rather than forcing our opinions, which may feel patronizing to someone who is vulnerable. Usually, the best support for someone coping with relapse crisis comes in the form of someone who has been through recovery. Being familiar with the feelings brought about in this challenging time helps to act as a resource for those who just want to feel understood.

Even though understanding isn’t any kind of quick fix from the symptoms of alcohol and/or substance use disorder, it goes a long way towards validating the stress and confusion that spotlight one’s mindset. The act of merely acknowledging another person’s suffering dignifies their existence while alleviating feelings of guilt that may be pent up.

Be Prepared, and Set Boundaries

If you find yourself in the position of assisting someone in recovery, it is important to understand the weight of the undertaking, and set boundaries accordingly. While we may want to always be there for our loved ones in times of need, setting a realistic boundary regarding their expectations for your capacity to help will be the best thing for both parties in the long run.

Just as it may be damaging to someone in recovery to reach out for help and not receive it, the inability to provide counsel can leave us feeling guilty. Down the road, the healthiest way to offer help coincides with communicating to reach a balance of care and respect within the relationship. Some moments of crisis require qualified help, which should be sought and encouraged. During crises, sometimes people need only to be reminded of qualified assistance available to them.

For anyone who is dealing with opioid addiction, it is useful to maintain and become acquainted with naloxone kits. They are FDA-approved treatment kits for anyone experiencing opioid overdose, and can effectively reverse potentially fatal instances of overdose.

Remember that people in recovery are deserving of care and understanding, despite the social stigmas that may surround alcohol and/or substance use disorders. Counseling those in crisis can be challenging and rewarding, as with any relationship. Staying aware of their symptoms, and being open to doing something as simple as providing a listening ear assists those working to understand their disorder.

Relapse is a part of the path towards recovery. It is important to recognize the limits of our own control in the face of addiction. Helping others resist the urge to relapse is no simple task. The symptoms of relapse vary from person to person, but they are identifiable. Our experienced treatment team will help each client develop a plan to counteract relapse warning signs and empower each individual to take the necessary steps to utilize their recovery tools. Recovery requires support, accountability, and a plan specifically aimed at relapse prevention. Not only will each client have the support of the treatment team, but they will have their peers and alumni to help guide them toward a meaningful and productive life. If you or your loved ones are dealing with alcohol and/or substance relapse, please call our admissions staff at (866) 399-6528.