Become a member of Allies in Recovery and we’ll teach you how to intervene, communicate and guide your loved one toward treatment.Become a member of Allies in Recovery today.

I’m Falling Apart with Fear — I’m Not a Positive Influence Right Now

leaves forest backlit

After raising the "million-dollar-question," lucien has written in and raised the "10-million-dollar-question". They've relapsed. I know I'm supposed to be a source of encouragement and positivity for them… but I'm a total wreck… how could I possible be any help to them?

© Shyam via unsplash

"What do you do when your loved one relapses and the roller coaster ride starts again.
How do you keep positive and have hope things will get better when the behavior remains the same. How do you encourage your loved one when you are just falling apart with fears for their future. How do you let go when letting go may end in disaster? I’m really feeling overwhelmed. I need some advice. Thank you."

Ahhhhh Lucien, my heart goes out to you. If the previous question you raised was the million-dollar question, this is the 10-million-dollar question. “How do you encourage your Loved One when you are falling apart with fears for their future? How do you let go when letting go may end in disaster?”

“The most important spiritual growth doesn’t happen when you’re meditating or on a yoga mat. It happens in the midst of conflict – when you’re frustrated, angry or scared and you’re doing the same old thing, and then suddenly realize that you have a choice to do it differently…”   — Author unknown

When fear is overwhelming you, return to Module 7

One suggestion I would make would be to head back to Module 7 and watch all of the videos.

Module 7 is all about what to do when you find yourself in overwhelming despair and frustration.

Also, go back to my first response to you and reread what is written under the section I now see what people meant when they told me “take care of yourself” : Here’s how I see the process. This is a description of Module 7 in practice: let the initial feelings in, take a pause, add in alternative thoughts, respond instead of react. Pay special attention to number 5. Remember, none of this will make those intense feelings disappear. It can however, make them more manageable.

One simple technique in Module 7 to pay special attention to is "awfulizing." Awfulizing is something every human brain seems to resort to when we're in crisis and experiencing extremely difficult feelings. It makes sense: it's a mechanism that could help to protect us in extreme danger. I'm sure you have heard of the “Fight or Flight” response.

Take a moment and just notice if you are indeed "awfulizing." I usually ask myself questions like, “Am I going overboard in my thoughts or in my words? Could there be alternatives to what I'm thinking? Are there any positives in this situation that I can grab hold of?”

It's hard to see the positives right now, but I see several

I know you may not see it right now, but you do have some positives in your post:

  1.  The first to take notice of is your Loved One did find recovery. No matter how short it may have been, it is an accomplishment and it can be built on in a positive way. My Loved One had multiple relapses, and each time it happened, I initially felt like we were back at square one. I heard myself thinking, “Oh boy, he hasn’t learned a thing. He has to go back to rehab. We are just at the beginning again — he's never going to get there.” I felt like the situation was very hopeless. Then I started to realize that I was seriously missing a great opportunity to point out his accomplishments. I needed to interrupt my awfulizing!  

    He would often get very down on himself and would also express he felt he'd fallen back so far that he would have to start all the way back where he'd been at the beginning of his recovery. I started to change the message I was sending to my Loved One:

    Oh no, you're not back at square one, you've been working on recovery for 3 months now. That's a very difficult thing to do. Okay, so you had a lapse. No way you're throwing away everything you've done up until this point. You were attending your counseling sessions and IOP and did well for 3 months. How can we support you getting back on track? Would attending an IOP again be helpful? Maybe Refuge Recovery meetings that you like? A relapse doesn't mean you throw away what you've already accomplished.”

  1.  Another huge positive I see is that, despite the storm of difficult feelings right now, you're aware that your Loved One needs you to be a source of encouragement and positivity. This, in itself, is so great. Okay, so you're human too and you're not able to be a rock for him 24/7. But you are aware of the role you want to play in his life, you're on this site, and you're seeking solutions when it feels too difficult. I salute this determination. Your Loved One is so incredibly lucky, though he may not know it now.

Communication = the Key = Communication = the Key

Now is the perfect time to go back to Module 4 and practice, practice, practice the communication techniques you'll learn there.

Combine it with what you've learned in Modules 5 and 6, on how to best interact with your Loved One when they're either using or not using (in the moment). These are all the skills and strategies that help you to affect progress in the most positive way.

Digging in and working on the Allies program in the eLearning Center can give you something to focus on and give you action items that you can actually do now. It can help take your mind and thoughts away from the whirlwind of chaos and give you a little more direction and structure, while empowering you with a game plan.

Recovery is more than a destination – Read up!

Lastly, I would encourage you to learn as much as you can about recovery.

Recovery from any illness is never a straight-line process. Dominique describes it in Module 1 as a spiral. Patiently (while still keeping healthy boundaries), we need to give our Loved Ones the space to not be perfect. This is a journey they (we) are on and it's a process of learning for all parties involved. If you wish to read more, I recently wrote about recovery in a response to another member, Rhylie84, called It's Okay Not to Have Hope.

I know those deep feelings of worry and angst when your Loved One was on a positive path and then slips back into use. This is also when we're at our most desperate and can feel paralyzed by our inability to do anything. I hope some of my suggestions will help to give you direction and bring some sense of peace (maybe not immediate but over time).

Please keep us updated, we're hoping your Loved One has a quick turnaround.




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"...)