supporting a loved one in recovery

How to Support Your Loved One During Rehab and Recovery

Last Updated: May 26th 2020

Reviewed by Brian Ostertag

It’s never an easy experience to watch a loved one suffer from an addiction. As with any disease, we feel helpless. Especially when we are left to stand by and watch addiction tear our family and friends away from us. Though it may seem as though we are pushed too far, you must consider how important you are to their recovery. One of the most valuable tools used in recovery reinforces the power that family support can have when facing drug addiction

When a family member has a substance use disorder, it is common to notice that they are no longer acting like the person you have known for years. While the recklessness of substance abuse consumes the wellbeing of someone close to us, we need to be reminded that this is a disease. Addiction is a disease that works to alter the chemicals in the brain, specifically, by taking more control over that person.

Addiction Changes an Addicts World

Drugs and alcohol not only change how the addict sees the world but also has an impact on their actions toward others. This, in turn, changes the way the world they know reacts to them. Addicts often interpret they’re being treated differently, and misconceive this change, for lack of care or concern. Because alcohol or drugs drives many of their actions, an addict often acts out emotionally. They commonly say or do things that affect those closest to them, often in a hurtful or negative way. 

Needless to say, addiction can lead to a very lonely existence, even if those thoughts are generated within their mind. Drugs and alcohol make individuals see things differently. Suggesting the person get help can be easily brushed off as criticism. In order to achieve success in a rehabilitation program, family support is crucially important.  

Rehab for Addiction Reinforced by Family Support

Four major components of a person’s life contribute greatly to the success of rehabilitation. Three out of those four depend on having some kind of family support system. These factors consist of Health, Purpose, Home, and Community. While learning and maintaining their own mental and physical health is a top priority in rehab, there are other factors that must be incorporated. In order to appreciate life in recovery to its fullest, the remaining three needs must be constructed or redeveloped as well. 

Along with maintaining good overall health, figuring out where your loved one fits into the world is a driving force that encourages one’s sobriety. Establishing a purpose means discovering that being sober has allowed them to maintain responsibilities. Then they need to develop these abilities that add value to their lives. Being able to add to society is a great personal achievement that even those who don’t suffer from addiction strive for. By offering support to provide a safe, supportive home is crucial to being able to maintain health and responsibilities. 

Drug Addiction with Family Support: Home and Community

When working through coping skills necessary for a successful life in recovery, an addict must be able to maintain a safe living space. Doing so while surrounded by a positive family support system can make all of the difference. The stability of a person’s home life as they re-immerse themselves in society is crucial to maintaining sobriety. This is especially important if they are attending an outpatient program. 

Outpatient programs take part outside of the individual’s regular work hours and allow the patient to retreat back to home. This type of rehabilitation is especially helpful for a person to maintain and develop their sense of community. 

The community consists of networks, family members, and friends that encourage healthy and substance-free socialization. 

Once a person has met their needs in these four ways, the burden of their recovery process will undoubtedly be lighter. Now absent of temptation or negative influences, family support, as well as therapy  will only encourage a positive sober existence in the future. 

When Supporting a Family Member Addiction is Hard to Cope With

Understand that in order to help your loved one, being open and honest about this is the best way to deal with your own personal objections. 

No one will tell you this will be easy, for either of you. In fact, many families find that they are physically or emotionally unable to provide shelter or adequate family support for their loved one as they battle addiction. 

There is often a stigma associated with rehabilitation and addiction. Whether this stigma is associated with personal feelings or the feelings of someone, recognizing and breaking down that stigma is for the best. 

Many are unaware of how much this bias interferes with the hard work being done by your loved one. Fortunately, that is also why inpatient programs exist. Opting for this type of rehab treatment allows an addict to develop the coping skills and establish their sense of self without having negative words or stigmas threatening their sobriety. 

Additionally, it is often the case that the family support system neglects their own needs in order to focus solely on the addict. While understanding the importance of rehab for drug addiction is valuable, keep in mind that addiction affects everyone, not just the addict. Family therapy or counseling is available to help deal with the pressures of an addicted loved one. Relationships can be hard to mend once the damage of addiction has been done. Taking care of the person that you love also means taking care of yourself. 

How to Provide Family Support for Drug Addiction

Making sure that you are in the best possible place to help them, it is important to maintain your own overall sense of health and wellbeing. That said, just as you would make yourself available to aid a loved one suffering from any other chronic disease, being informed on how to help them is just as important as being compassionate.

Just as your loved one shouldn’t have to face addiction alone, neither should you. Addiction is a disease that doesn’t have a cure. Unfortunately, the road will be long, and there will be bumps and turns as your loved one moves through the motions. 

Drug Addiction and Family Support: The More You Know

In order to provide the family support during this vulnerable time, doing your best to learn about addiction will be of great use. To ensure the best possible outcome for the addict that you love, taking the time to explore what rehab treatment programs are available, will give you the tools you need to provide drug addiction family support. 

For someone who is not suffering from addiction, the disease can be very confusing. At some point, an addict did make a choice to use or abuse drugs or alcohol. However, in the case of addiction, there was likely no intention of continuing usage and developing a dangerous habit. 

Often, by the time they realized how dependent on a substance they had become, the brain had already rewired itself, making it almost impossible to “just quit.” Whether it be their prescription pain medication, casual drinks at happy hour, or recreational drugs during downtime, the usage of the substance managed to take hold of their life in the form of substance addiction. 

Drug Addiction Family Support without Stigma

Whether or not the individual has been open and honest about feeling shame or guilt for their addiction, they are definitely feeling it. By hiding or denying their addiction from your friends and other family members, you are only reinforcing negative associations that go with the stigma of the disease. This only contributes to more negative feelings of guilt and shame. 

Allowing yourself and other members of your family to communicate openly about drug addiction and treatment, provides family support without the added embarrassment and stress. Watching someone you love suffer from addiction is stressful enough on the family dynamic, and trying to conceal their reality will only damage the relationship further. Instead, speak openly and honestly with your loved ones. Allow them to know that they can be upfront with you. As they get help for their drug or alcohol addiction, family support without bias is crucial. 

Family Support Vs. Enabling an Addict

Be sure your engagement with your loved one is not helping them continue their substance abuse, but instead helps them stay on the path to sobriety. 

Some say that there is a fine line between being supportive and enabling an addict. Realistically, this comes down to committing to your boundaries. Many of us would do just about anything to lessen the pain and struggle of someone they love who is addicted. However, it’s important not to allow enabling behavior from any friends or family members. 

Instead of giving in to what will simply make an addict “feel better,” try instead to implement practices that will help them in the long run. Ask your local recovery center for tips on how to assist with coping mechanisms developed during treatment. 

You should also communicate with your loved one about their triggers, and evaluate what you can do to ease the stress within the environment. Do so, however, while keeping their rehabilitation needs close at heart. Continue to be mindful of the boundaries you’ve committed yourself to. Ultimately, this will be best for both parties involved. 

Help Someone You Love Face Addiction Safely

Though having family support during drug addiction or alcohol abuse will certainly influence rehabilitation in a positive way. However, this is not adequate treatment alone against addiction. Addiction rehab consists of carefully crafted therapy and treatment designed to address patterns of addiction. Rehabs work effectively to implement new behaviors and teach the addict that you love to associate new emotions with their addiction and sobriety. 

Additionally, it is important to consider the feelings that come along with detox. Detoxing can be scary, painful, and even embarrassing. It is important not to form an association between those feelings and the safety and security provided in the home. Drug addiction certainly does recommend a high level of family support; however, detox requires taking measures with professional medical care that is provided within a rehab facility. Safety, security, and wellbeing are of the utmost importance when facing addiction head-on. 

Family Support for Drug Addiction: Suggestion and Conversation

Deciding on the best rehabilitation center and the best type of treatment for the person you love may be the most difficult part for some. For others, it is ensuring that your loved one is willing and ready to get the help that they need. Fortunately, there are resources available for you to discuss treatment options to lessen the stress of finding a facility. The latter, however, may require a bit more compassion and patience. 

There are a few methods that you can use when bringing up the idea of rehab to your loved one. Although it may be scary to have these conversations or take the actions necessary to get them help, doing so gracefully will ensure not to damage the ability to provide family support moving forward. 

Consider one of these options as you make plans for their treatment:

  • Have a conversation about addiction. Start slow and work up to suggesting getting treatment.
  • Discuss calmly how their addiction has become apparent and how it has altered their lives thus far.
  • Be open and upfront about how you feel about their addiction. It will change the course of their lives if this behavior continues. 
  • Make them aware of any financial problems that either you or they may be facing as a direct result of their substance abuse. 
  • Discuss the impact of children, siblings, or parents, and the toll it is taking on the family dynamic.
  • Host a non-threatening and comforting intervention.
  • Be persistent, but not overwhelming. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. 

Drug Addiction Family Support: Staging an Intervention

Intervention is often perceived as a scary experience. However, realistically when done properly, this gathering of loved ones should only consist of compassionate words and healthy conversation. The idea is not to intimidate or force an addict into a situation that can trigger an adverse reaction. Instead, interventions are held to reinforce how important and cared for a person is to those around them. 

Be sure to take measures and think ahead when planning an intervention. The goal is to get your loved one to participate in drug or alcohol rehabilitation treatment. Be sure to: 

  • Formulate a plan of action
  • Put together relevant information found on appropriate treatment options available to the addict
  • Invite only those that genuinely care and can express their feelings about addiction in a supportive and healthy way
  • Determine what actions will be taken next if your loved one refuses to get the help that the need
  • Ensure that all that are involved will be able to continue their family support during drug addiction treatment and recovery
  • Hold a meeting in a safe and non threatening environment where everyone involved can feel safe and accepted
  • Insist upon further communication post-rehab treatment in order to avoid relapse down the road

Unfortunately, relapse may be a part of the process for those that struggle with substance abuse. So whether or not this is a first, second, or even third intervention style meeting, it is important to remember that getting the one you love help for their addiction is the goal. It is time to do what is best for yourself and the addict during this vulnerable time. 

Getting Your Loved One on the Right Track

If you feel that you have exhausted all of your options know that not all hope is not lost. You can reach out to treatment specialists who are familiar with dealing with these types of difficult conversations. 

Family support systems often resort to their primary family doctors or health insurance providers to discuss options on these matters. There are also a number of family support groups available to help you gain insight on the matter. Taking part in groups such as ALANON, NARANON, or ALTEEN can be very helpful during these uncertain but crucial times. 

No one said this was going to be easy. Treatment centers are available to make this process easier. Especially on you, the addict, and the entire family support system when facing drug addiction. If you or someone you love has gone down a dangerous and dark road of addiction, enlisting the help available will give everyone a positive outlook on the future. Contact us to gather more information on how to provide family support for addiction. As lonely as this time may seem for everyone, rest assured you do not have to face this alone. Getting help can start right now. 

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brian Ostertag

brian-ostertag-150x150Brian Ostertag, BA, MA, LCADC, CCS, is the Clinical Director for North Jersey Recovery Center. Brian is a compassionate leader with a desire to see others exceed, and who believes that people want to work hard at something they find meaningful and believe in. He is a strong addiction services professional with degrees in Psychology Addiction Studies, and Pastoral Counseling.

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