If you have a loved one struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction, or a process addiction, you probably feel overwhelmed and at a loss as to the best ways you can support them through their stay in a drug or alcohol rehab and beyond as they enter addiction recovery. It is normal to be anxious about the treatment outcome, but it is important to remember that by entering addiction treatment your loved one is in good hands. And, even if they have tried and relapsed in the past, each attempt at getting sober has a positive impact on their ability to overcome addiction.
Offering Support while a Loved One is in Treatment
While addiction recovery is ultimately in the hands of the person receiving treatment and their determination to conquer their disease, there are ways that family members can offer support to make long-term sobriety a reality for their loved one.
Rehab is only the first step to addiction recovery, but it is often a crucial aspect of the journey. This will be an incredibly challenging time for your loved one as they face their addiction head on and begin to live life without using drugs or alcohol. Here are things you can do while your loved one is in treatment to support their recovery:
1. Learn about the disease of addiction.
One of the first and best things you can do to help yourself and your loved one as they enter addiction recovery is to learn as much as you can about the disease of addiction. When you understand how addiction affects the brain it will be easier for you to offer compassionate support through the challenging transition from active addiction to recovery.
2. Enter your own treatment or therapy.
Addiction is often referred to as a family disease, and if your loved one has been struggling with alcoholism or drug abuse you may have found yourself in a codependent role, participating in enabling behaviours. Al-anon is one group for families of addicts to enter their own recovery process, but seeking your own individual therapy could benefit you personally as you work through the many emotions that loving an addict has brought on.
3. Write letters of love, support, and forgiveness.
Many times while your loved one is in treatment, their communication is limited so that they can completely focus on their sobriety. Writing them letters or emails is a great way to express your love, help build confidence by pointing out their strengths, and let them know you understand the challenges they are facing and that you too are learning about and dealing with the disease.
4. Attend any family programmes that are offered.
Today, more and more addiction treatment centres are offering family support, albeit with different levels of family involvement. If there is a family programme like the one offered at The Cabin’s drug and alcohol rehab in Thailand, or even one with lesser direct involvement, participation is highly recommended. All studies show that involving the family in treatment produces better outcomes for lasting sobriety.
5. Stop all enabling behaviours.
Learn about how you have been enabling the addiction and stop all enabling behaviours. Know that when your loved one says how much they want to leave treatment (even pleads with you about how terrible it is) this is the disease manipulating them and you. Your loved one is where they need to be in order to get better, and you need to remain strong and ask them to stay put.
Continuing to Support their Addiction Recovery after Treatment
Addiction recovery is a life-long process, but the transition out of rehab is one of the most difficult times. Especially in the first three months to a year, your loved one will need all the support they can get to begin their sober lifestyle.
Saying “I’m here to help” may mean a lot, but it is best if you can offer concrete ways to support your loved one. This list will guide you in finding ways to offer your support of their addiction recovery while still empowering them to take control of their own life. Ask your loved one what specific things you can do to support them, but also know that most of us struggle asking for help when we need it — so being proactive about offering your support in the following ways is important:
1. Support abstinence by expressing your belief that abstinence is the key to addiction recovery.
Abstaining from using drugs and alcohol yourself — especially in the presence of your newly recovering family member — will be extremely helpful to them. Help them find sober recreational activities and participate together in them. Support the development of a new social network by talking openly about ways to meet sober friends.
2. Help them find the right addiction recovery meeting and even attend meetings together.
Learn about the philosophy of your loved one’s recovery group so you can support this philosophy in your interactions with him or her. The best way to do this is to attend meetings together with your family member. You may go “meeting shopping” with them to help them find a recovery meeting in the area that is a good fit. It can also be helpful to adjust the family schedule to support regular participation in meetings — whether you share dinner together an hour later than usual, or simply try to make plans that take into account their recovery meetings.
3. Remind them of positive coping strategies they can use when managing stress.
One thing your family member will be doing in early recovery is learning new ways to cope with stress. It is difficult to change our patterns of thinking — and likely drinking or using drugs will still be the first thought in response to stress. If you see stress building, gently remind your loved one of the healthy coping skills they have learned through recovery.
4. Know the signs of relapse so you can help prevent or minimise the severity of a relapse.
Know the early warning signs that an addict is headed for relapse and get to know your loved one’s specific relapse prevention plan. In addition, develop a family plan in advance that details how you will respond to early relapse signs or an actual relapse.
Remember that relapse is a part of addiction that no one wants to experience, but it does happen. If your loved one relapses, help them get back on track with their addiction recovery as soon as possible and let them know they are not a failure and you still believe in them.