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He Relapsed, Now What?

Woman looking at Lantern

Well- so much for being relieved… son left the rehab in about 9 days (on Monday)— that night he he went to his friends got high on crack and alcohol right through Wednesday. Earlier he said I could section him if he could get a bed in a place they would provide him his methadone. – I sectioned late Wednesday and held off until he could be sure to get a bed. Thursday morning the court called and they had a bed for him thru the sectioning. Picked him up and brought him to the methadone clinic to get his dose and then straight to the court. He was completely messed up…. When I got to the court, he jumped out the car and took off. When I finally found him, he said he would go back to the rehab which he left earlier. Brought him there and they could not take him on Wednesday because of the time limit since he left. He was able to go on Thursday and so back we went. He is to be there for only 2 weeks……….He was such a mess – he said he didn't sleep for 3 days and his mind was all messed up. I feel two weeks is not enough, but if he starts to fall apart again – when he leaves the rehab – I will not hesitate to section him again and if he doesn't go with me I will have them arrest him. I just don't know what else to do – I am so scared for him – there isn't a time when he is straight to talk with him. At one point he was making animal sounds very loudly and then just started laughing. Very scary. Is there any suggestions what else I can do. He called from the rehab, but I didn't know what to say, except that I was proud of him for going. I am still in panic – not knowing if he will leave the rehab.

You are proud of him for going! And that is the perfect thing to say. He scared you. You can also tell him that. Tell him you are scared, petrified really, and that you hope that something well within him can see a better life and so give abstinence a chance.

Your son is reaching for recovery. It is terribly messy, but he is back in treatment after a short relapse. Remember the graphic from Learning Module 1: the relapses get shorter and the abstinence period get longer in the cycle. The cycle feels like chaos until you realize there is a pattern and your son is in treatment, trying. You can pinpoint where on the cycle your son is today.

inspired by stephanie covington

If your son leaves rehab, he could will himself to stay off drugs, find the therapy and support he needs, or he can go back, use, and realize he is back at the top end of tolerance in a matter of days, and with that all the related craziness.

You, as his family, are there to shine the light on more treatment. You are there to remind him he is loved and that you are standing by to help him.

I’d ask you to please call the rehab. Explain that your son needs solid aftercare planning. Ask them what that typically looks like for people leaving their program. Find out what you can do to help make this happen. Push on the program to link him to more stepped down treatment. Call the methadone clinic and ask: what can they do in terms of enhancing their services once he is released. Talking to them is allowed – they may not be able to respond unless your son has signed a release. But that doesn’t have to stop you from being an ally and voicing your concerns to them. Speak generically or hypothetically … if you must. Without a release, at least you can still talk to them. Make yourself heard.

It’s hard to imagine any other disease state where the medical provider could say, oh too bad, you’re sick again… dangerously so, but it’s too soon… not enough time has lapsed since your last treatment. Come back later. This is maddening to hear, but it can be the reality that we face within this system.

Hang on to yourself. You’ve got the right triad in place: rehab, methadone, and a civil commitment. These are your tools. For your head and heart, there are the practices we talk about to find a calming breath, letting go a little if you can knowing you are doing all you can. Your son is learning the overwhelming power of drugs and alcohol in his life. This is a necessary lesson for wanting recovery.

It sounds like you have both reached a breaking point with this last episode. Though you won’t be able to predict what happens tomorrow, or next week, or anytime after that, you can fortify yourself with practices to keep yourself feeling as strong and centered as possible. From this place, you can have a clear view of what your options are (and what they aren’t, for that matter). And you can proceed with the options that make sense for the bigger picture, knowing that you are helping your son to close the gap to abstinence and sobriety. You can keep shining this light for him – and this light is considerably stronger when you reach out for the help you need when you need it. Whether that help be this community, the courts, the clinic, the police, or some combination of all of these, and more, you have reached a place where you can see these options with some more clarity.

There is also some relief in knowing that you can surrender to this help in whatever other form it takes. You have held so much. It’s hard to imagine how much you have endured just with this past episode alone. Allow yourself room to work through the thoughts and feelings that have come up, and find a release for them. But above all, be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to feel some relief about where things ended up this time around. Over time, the dots you are helping him to connect will give way to a bigger picture. Remember that these individual points along the way are not the final picture. He is on a journey, and like all journeys, the pathway is not a straight line.

Thank you for helping your son in all the ways you have, for practicing CRAFT, and for being in touch with the news. We are sending all of our support and love, and wishing you a peaceful, quiet evening.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. How do I know when sectioning is needed? We have had to section our daughter before but she was a minor and it was about behavior issues. She is very very anti-sectioning and would never volunteer for it.

    1. Sectioning a Loved One is a difficult decision. I think by definition the person doesn’t volunteer for it. We’ve written several times about sectioning. If you look at the topics list on the right hand side of this page, you can follow links to posts that are grouped by topic. Here are our posts on civil commitment. And here are several others on Section 35 (which is specific to Massachusetts).

      It is usually a last resort when one arrives at the decision to section. It is also not a panacea. Having your Loved One voluntarily agree to enter treatment may seem impossible to you or the family right now… You’ve asked your Loved One repeatedly and been told no. Learning Module 8 looks at when to talk about treatment. It is a delicate subject and one that needs to be done in the right moment. Before then, you work on your list of treatment options, have it printed out for your Loved One, and you wait for the right moment. If that moment doesn’t appear after practicing CRAFT for a certain number of weeks, you prepare for a quiet informal talk around the kitchen table. Read Dominique Simon-Levine’s full response to jdaggett here:

  2. Dear 123Peace

    I am so sorry your LO is struggling and I know too well what an impact a relapse can make on the whole family. Looks like you are doing everything you can to help support your son and I know that must be pretty tiring at times. Please take care of yourself in the process.

    I wondered if your son has ever tried suboxone? instead of methadone…My daughter had a lot of success with Subs…She also tried the new shot of suboxone that lasts a month at a time. This what Hazelden Betty Ford clinic recommended to my daughter because she was a chronic relapser and sounds like she very much had the same pattern as your son of going in and out of treatment. I do think relapse is a part of the recovery process so don’t get too disappointed when it happens.

    I think the key to getting my daughter back into recovery mode was trying to support her through those first few months when their brain is healing. With each month I could see her getting better. Her mood improved and she acted less like an addict. Meth is a terrible drug and I really think it is the hardest to recover from.

    Sending a hug your way….stay hopeful