Can you relate and offer any advice on dealing with relapse 18 months in?

relapse
boyfriend
heroin

#1

Hi everybody, I originally joined the Village community to offer some advice as my boyfriend is a recovering heroin addict and we have been through quite the journey together for almost 3 years. I have learned A LOT about addiction and learned how I can be the best support for him and love him without enabling. He went to rehab, got the help he needed, and moved in with me last summer. He was doing really well and all his friends were even telling me that this is the best they have ever seen him as he has struggled with addiction for more than 10 years. Something that concerned me for a while was that he slowly stopped going to meetings but I was glad that he was still keeping in touch with his rehab friends for accountability.

I was pretty hesitant about joining the Village but I was pushed to join sooner as I caught my boyfriend using a few days ago. He had been doing so well… he had been clean for 18 months which is the longest he has ever been clean. He told me he had only used 2-3 other times because he had been stressed about finances and the holidays. He also has a really bad back that causes him a lot of pain. I tried my best to react out of love and not anger. It was extremely disappointing and I am hurt once again because he broke my trust. We talked for a long time and came to the agreement that he will go to a meeting every day for the next 30 days, find an extracurricular activity/hobby, and talk to a doctor about his back.

I’ve gone through relapses with him before but this one felt a little different because he admitted right away and talked to me about coming up with a plan to keep him from using again. It’s hard to believe anything he says when he’s using but I was glad that he didn’t get defensive and run off like he has done in the past. He admitted right away so I’m hoping this is just a little slip-up along his road to long term recovery. I am really stressing about this whole situation. I know recovery isn’t perfect but it is still hard because I’m not sure if his mind is really in the right place. I’m afraid that he’ll just go back to using full-time again.

Anyways, that was a much longer post than I planned on but I hope somebody else can relate and offer any advice.


#2

My husband is 3 years into recovery for cocaine addiction and a few months ago he had a slip up. It took me a few days to notice it and it was during a stressful time for me so I wasn’t as in tune with his behavior.

I feel like your description of what happened when you talked about it with him was similar to me. It felt open, honest. I was calm and positive and expressed gratefulness for his honesty and empathy that I could understand why he was feeling particularly unbalanced at the time. And that made it feel so different to any other time and it didn’t feel like it was a spiral.

I think it’s so positive you were able to communicate openly with him about it and that he was motivated to take action. I would suggest keeping those conversations / communication channels open with him. Perhaps you might ask if there’s anything more you can do to support him and if there were any things leading up to the use that might be worth exploring. Is there anything lately that hasn’t been working that you might be able to help him with and yes(!!) going back to what has worked in the past (eg. meetings or whatever those routines / habits might be for him) is a great idea!

It’s natural to feel anxious - focus on your self care and the people in your life who support you so you maintain your strength.

And do make sure he knows not to use alone and to have narcan on hand - in case any slip ups happen in the future we want to be as safe and prepared as possible.

Sending <3 and thank you for sharing your journey, experiences and knowledge with us.


#3

That’s great that you were able to communicate with your husband! I think communication is so important because I think it helps them know that we are still here to support them. I am just really grateful that he did not run or get defensive because that is what he has done before. The fact that he was open to a conversation made me feel like he genuinely does want to get better so I truly hope that is what he wants too.

Do you have a plan when you face slip-ups? What did you do to overcome it with your husband?


#4

So in this particular instance it took him slipping up for me to realize that things had gotten very stressful for him and I hadn’t been paying attention or able to take in the warning signs. I’m not taking blame for it :slight_smile: just I had been busy and I might have otherwise taken some other actions I know that works for us - for us it really helps when things get stressful to:

  • Plan a weekend away outside of the city or a weekend off from work fully where we can connect

  • Plan quality time together where we can focus on the now

  • Encourage connection with his friends

So for me I think it’s all about how can I get ahead of it. When this slip up occurred, I let him recover by sleeping and not requiring much from him and we planned a trip away together :slight_smile:


#6

Oh okay, that’s really nice and relaxing! I like that idea a lot. I like to plan getaway trips like that with my boyfriend as well but I think he gets really stressed out with how much it can all cost. He doesn’t like when I pay for everything - I think it brings in the whole shame factor which could get him using again too. I hope down the line as we gain more financial stability we can do that as a way to de-stress together! Still hoping this is just a slip-up and we can move past this and I can start recognizing signs of stress from him in the future. It’s really hard to read his emotions because he’s very good at hiding them. Thank you for the tips though! I appreciate you sharing your experience :slight_smile:


#5

I’d love to offer this little tool (which can be completed in 15mins!) we created which can be quite helpful to breakdown what led up to a slip up - it’s called ‘How to Make a Change’ but at its core it’s about using all our knowledge of their usage and habits and finding clues or areas we can support or intervene. I’d love to know what you think of it as we’re always looking for feedback to make it more useful.


#7

@Selfcare31 agree that money stress can be a big one and often comes along with addiction!

Even planning a weekend of activities - perhaps self care activities - which doesn’t require travel or a lot of money. EG. silly one but I like to do an at home face mask on weekends some time and I’ll involve my husband in it too. Stringing together some of these goofy, feel good activities (also making dinner together) can be a great break and change in scene too.


#8

Beautiful and relevant response from @Jane.

And to chime in my own two cents - when my dad relapsed about 18 months into recovery, I freaked out and was super not cool about anything! I think I probably made him feel really bad because I focused entirely on the using behavior and how it affected me, and didn’t slow down to get curious about what was ‘underneath’ the using behavior. Kinda like you say, I didn’t spend any time figuring out if ‘his mind was really in the right place.’ I would do that differently next time.

And I think in terms of meetings or otherwise, what’s important is that my dad is doing something “healthy” a couple times a week. Maybe that’s a meeting, but maybe it’s a hike or walking his dog or seeing his therapist or going to church. Just something that has him remembering that life is good and there is support available - even if that’s in a non-traditional sense!


#9

Thank you for sharing your experience @katie! That makes me feel so much less alone in all of this. I don’t think I reacted as well as I could have and fortunately, I was able to sit down and have a good conversation about it with my boyfriend last night. We both were able to clearly communicate our feelings and how we can both respond a little differently next time as there was a lot of anger, shame, and frustration. I was grateful that he did not shut down and opened up to me about what tools he uses to help overcome this relapse as well as how my actions can push him away. I shared my feelings of anxiety but tried my best to remind him I love him and want to support him the best I can. We ended up going to the gym together last night and it was really nice.

I decided that I will just have to trust that he is making the right choices because ultimately I cannot control what he does. I can only control my own actions. I reached out to my counselor again for more consistent sessions. I plan on focusing on myself and taking care of myself so that I can be the best support I can be for him. For anyone struggling with this, it does get better! It can be a slow road and requires a lot of patience, but there is hope!


#10

Amen to this. :pray:t4:

And I’m so glad your boyfriend is open to communicating openly about what’s going on! I think that’s a huge deal!