How to Walk With Your Loved One Through Relapse
Have you ever longed for something that was in your power to get but failed to get it?
Perhaps you had the ability to land your dream job. But at the last minute, you did something to blow the opportunity.
Or maybe you played a sport. You had a chance to take the game-winning shot. And missed.
How did you feel?
Would you have wanted your spouse to leave you over the missed job opportunity?
Did you hope your coach would yell at you for blowing the game for the entire team?
Of course you didn’t.
What you wanted was understanding.
What you needed was for someone to be present with you through your missed opportunity.
And walking with your loved one through a relapse is the same.
We must show understanding.
The person wanted sobriety. It was in his or her capability to get it – and keep it. But (s)he blew it. The same way you may have blown the interview, the game-winning shot, or anything else in life that created a missed opportunity.
(S)he needs support at this time more than ever. Otherwise, a relapse will turn into a lifestyle. And things become what they used to be. Sometimes, they’re even worse.
So, understanding and support are vital.
But the true question is not what the person needs. It is how to give it to them.
How can we, as hurting family and friends, give support and understanding to the person who promised us to quit but went out and used again?
And that is what we are here to explore today.
There are 2 key factors in being able to show understanding and walk a loved one through a relapse.
Let’s take a look at those 2 things.
Help Beyond Your Pain
The true story of Elisabeth Elliot illustrates this point well.
She and her husband traveled to Ecuador as missionaries. The people they were trying to help killed her husband. She went back to the same people to share/show the love of Christ and eventually led them to Him.
What’s remarkable about this story is Mrs. Elliot’s ability to help beyond her pain – to help even the people who caused her pain.
The hardest thing about helping our loved ones walk through a relapse is that they didn’t just hurt themselves with the relapse.
They hurt us too.
This puts us between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, after a relapse, our loved one needs us most. But because of the pain their relapse causes us, we feel like helping them the least.
This is when we must do as Elisabeth Elliot. We must help beyond our pain… the same way Christ looked past the pain of His cross to help us when we were the ones who hurt Him with our sin.
Insist on Getting Help
It’s important that we not confuse helping and understanding with excusing or endorsing. Sometimes, helping feels like hurting to the person getting the help.
Think of paramedics picking someone up in an ambulance. They are going to help the person. How? By hurting them. They will lift them onto a stretcher when the person would rather stay still. They will stick needles in their hands and arms. They will do whatever it takes to keep the person alive. Even if what they do hurts.
You may have to help (hurt) your loved one.
This may require you empty the house of drugs, alcohol, and paraphernalia. It may mean you gather the family for a collective intervention and encourage they enter a residential program like Shenandoah Valley Adult and Teen Challenge. You will have to do what it takes to get the person the help that’s needed
The hard part is balancing the two.
On one hand, we have to show understanding and love the person when we least feel like doing so. Yet, at the same time, we must be strong and insist the person get help.
Understanding does not imply endorsing.
Helping may mean hurting.
And the outcome of a relapse may depend to some extent on our willingness to balance them both at the same time.