The possibility of addiction relapse is usually something that gets addressed in rehab. Relapse prevention programs can help clients to identify their triggers, come up with plans to cope with cravings, and avoid relapse on alcohol or drugs once they graduate from treatment and make their way into “the real world.” But our actions are the only actions we can control. We may be able to avoid relapse, but we can’t prevent those around us from picking up a drink or a drug and making their own choices. It’s one thing to work a program and be available as support for friends who are struggling, but what happens when someone close to us relapses, such as a roommate? How do you deal with an addiction relapse in your home when you’re sober?

When Addiction Relapse is Too Close for Comfort

Addiction relapse is preventable on an individual level through therapy, recovery support, and a change in lifestyle, among other factors. But what happens when someone close to you relapses? For example, if you’re living in a sober residence or independently with a roommate, you may have to deal with their negative choices if they decide to pick up a drink or a drug. In my personal experience, I have learned that when I think someone is using, my gut instinct is usually correct. There are signs to look out for if you think your roommate or someone close to you is drinking or using. If you are living with someone in recovery who has started using again, it’s important to identify it quickly so that you can get yourself to a safer place and avoid being influenced by the bad choices of someone close to you. Some of the common signs of addiction relapse to watch out for are:

  • They become withdrawn
  • Their schedule changes drastically- they may start sleeping later, staying up late, or leaving in the middle of the night with no explanation
  • They lose their job or have trouble keeping a job with no explanation
  • They start neglecting household chores, personal hygiene, or basic responsibilities like paying rent on time
  • You find paraphernalia, such as used needles or empty bottles, around the house
  • They are having financial difficulties without any reasonable explanation
  • They are suffering extreme mood swings, or lash out for seemingly no reason

If you have noticed extreme emotional changes in someone you live with, or you otherwise suspect that they are using, it’s ok and even necessary to speak up- but it must be done in a safe and healthy way that protects your own recovery.

Confronting Addiction Relapse

Confronting someone who may be suffering from an addiction relapse can be uncomfortable, and even dangerous. Someone who may be drinking or using drugs can be volatile and unreasonable. Also, being in close proximity to drugs or alcohol in early recovery can be a threat to your own sobriety. That’s why it’s important to confront the possibility of an addiction relapse in a healthy way. In my own personal experience, I have dealt with roommates who have relapsed both in my sober living home and in my own apartment. If your sober living roommate has relapsed, or you suspect they have, here is how to deal with it safely:

  • Contact your housing manager or another authority figure who can help- don’t try to handle it alone.
  • Ask to move rooms or even houses if possible- your sobriety and safety are the most important, and it’s ok to advocate for your own well-being.
  • Don’t keep secrets! If you think someone has relapsed, you are not helping them or yourself by keeping toxic secrets.

If you are living independently, it can get a little tricky. The first thing to do is to call your sponsor or another sober support who can be present for you. That way, if the person you are living with is in the midst of an addiction relapse, you have a safe person available to help you deal with the fall-out. In addition to getting support, here are some other things you can do:

  • Contact your leasing office or the authorities- someone who is doing something illegal can and should be removed from your living space.
  • Ask them to take a drug test. If they refuse, you can contact their supports, their sponsor, or their family.
  • Stay with a sober friend until they either leave or agree to go to detox or treatment- it may be inconvenient, but it’s also safer.

Ultimately, being around someone who is in the middle of an addiction relapse is not healthy for you and your recovery. In my personal experience of dealing with roommates who relapsed, I have been fortunate enough to get out of the situation quickly by leaning on the healthy and sober people in my life.

If you think someone close to you has suffered an addiction relapse, it is always best to offer them help if they are willing to take it. The Discovery Institute can help people who have relapsed to rebuild their sobriety in a safe place. If you need information about referring a friend or loved one to treatment, call today at 888-616-7177.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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