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Addiction Specialist Discusses How to Handle a Relapse

Talk show host Wendy Williams recently discussed living in a sober house and her struggle with addiction on her show. Days later, she was hospitalized after a reported relapse.

What causes someone to relapse? Koorosh Rassekh, founder of Evo Health and Wellness, who does not treat Wendy, recently talked to TVGrapevine about the topic, as well as removing the stigma around relapsing.


What do you think causes people to relapse? 

Rather than framing relapse as a ‘failure,’ it is more useful to define relapse as the expression of pain or struggle. With this context, we can then see what causes relapse is the simple fact that the person is still suffering or struggling in some way. A person who relapses is in pain and needing to resort to this particular substance in order to get through the day. Hence, what causes relapse is simply the fact that a person is in emotional and/or physical pain and is not receiving the particular resources and support they need to endure that pain without substances.  

What are some signs to look for to see if someone is on the verge of relapse?

Look for signs that a person is shifting out of ‘pink cloud’ mode and into a state of hopelessness. When a person newly becomes sober, they can be almost euphoric, known as ‘pink clouding’ in addiction treatment lingo.  However, as sobriety becomes this person’s new normal, they might struggle to deal with the feelings and thoughts that arise. They start to feel as though their journey is hopeless, or as though they will never succeed or be free of their addiction. This can be a sign that a relapse is on the way.  

How can someone help?

Stay in contact. Be present. Don’t try and coax the person out of their darkness or force positive thinking upon them. Rather, meet them where they are. Sit with them in that dark space. Let them know they are not alone and that you see their pain and allow them the right to feel those emotions. 

What advice do you have for those who relapse?

If you relapse, consider it a sign that the way you have been taking care of yourself isn’t working. You relapsed because you need to still figure out how to take care of yourself without returning to destructive patterns. Move out of the shaming belief that you have done something wrong and rather embrace this relapse as a sign that you need to be more tender, more present and more open to support from the people around you.

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