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The Effects a Friend, Peer, or Family Member’s Relapse Can Have on a Recovering Addict


Control is not always in our hands, and we must face the reality that the people around us are not in our control.  We cannot make choices for them, or be held responsible for their actions, whether they are positive or negative.  Accepting this is something that a recovering addict must address during his or her own personal journey towards sobriety.  This can be particularly challenging when a peer or friend, who is also recovering from addiction, relapses.  It is a painful discovery, and a recovering addict might find himself wondering how to deal with a friend’s relapse.  The effect that a fellow recovering addict’s relapse can have on an individual who is committed to a program of recovery can be impactful in a variety of ways.

You are not Responsible for the Actions of Others:

Firstly, familial or community support systems are highly stressed in addiction recovery programs, and losing a peer or friend to relapse can be hurtful both emotionally and to one’s own recovery process.  A person must understand that he or she is not responsible for another persons’s decisions, choices, or actions.  A peer, family member, or friend who relapses is dealing with their own personal difficulties, and their choice to use again does not mean that they eventually won’t recommit to a 12 step program.  Although it is painful to lose a once supportive friend to relapse, it is important to remind yourself that your personal sobriety goals and recovery process are important, and to stay firmly on the path towards your own addiction recovery.

Possible Effects Following the Relapse of a Friend, Family Member, or Peer

Once you have accepted that your friend or fellow 12 step participant has relapsed, there are potential concerns regarding your own recovery, as well as common issues that may arise:

  • Witnessing the relapse of a fellow recovering addict can cause someone to question their own commitment to sobriety.
  • A friend’s relapse can cause a recovering addict to want to use again, or experience feelings of personal weakness in the face of addiction.
  • It can make a person committed to a 12 step program feel lonely because they are losing a comrade who once supplied support, encouragement, or commiseration.
  • It can make you feel anger towards a friend who is using again, and you might feel that they chose drugs or alcohol over your friendship.
  • You might want to skip meetings while you come to terms with their relapse.

Or, watching a friend, peer, or family member falter and succumb to addition again might reaffirm your own commitment to recovery and remind you that you want to be free of addiction and stay focused in the face of your own personal sobriety challenges.

Stay Committed to Your Recovery Program:

Relying on peers and other participants of a 12 step addition recovery program is part of the process, and their support is valuable and important for a newly sober person or a long time recovering addict.  Sometimes relapse occurs, and the relapse of a once supportive friend or peer can have lingering and important effects upon someone committed to recovery.  Understand that you cannot control another person’s addiction recovery process, but you can control your own recovery.  Your goal of lifelong sobriety is still within your grasp.

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