Addiction doesn’t only affect the drug user or alcoholic; instead, it affects every person in the person’s life. It is a disease that can ruin relationships and tear apart families. So, when a loved one who is struggling with addiction decides to seek help, it’s often a huge relief to friends and family members. Unfortunately, while family members are happy that their loved one is getting help with their addiction, they don’t always take an active part in the treatment and recovery process. This is a shame because family involvement can make a huge difference for both the former addict and the family members.
Benefits of Family Involvement in the Recovery Process
It is widely known in drug and alcohol addiction recovery circles that an individual’s risk of relapse is significantly lowered when the family is involved and supportive in the recovery process. That means that as a family member you may be asked to participate in counseling. Often, family therapy is offered by rehab facilities, both outpatient and inpatient. Why should you consider family therapy?
In addition to relapse prevention, the following are some of the benefits of family involvement that help a loved one’s long-term recovery:
- It provides motivation for the loved one in rehab and improves their self-esteem.
- It helps facilitate more open and effective communication between family members.
- It allows all participating family members to become educated about addiction and its effects on the family dynamic.
- It helps family members to recognize and avoid codependent or enabling behaviors.
- It helps resolve anger and resentment caused by addiction in a healthy, constructive way.
- It helps equip all participants with the emotional tools for dealing with early sobriety.
You can see that family involvement benefits all members of the family, with the primary goal always being the continued recovery of the former addict. While that is the primary goal, it is also very important that family members take care of themselves.
Tips for Family Members Involved in the Recovery of a Loved One
Taking care of yourself sometimes takes the back burner when you have a loved one in early recovery. Here are some ways family members can also take care of themselves:
Get Help for Yourself
That can be a huge help to family members who are beginning to understand addiction and how to best help their loved ones. If the rehab that your loved one attends doesn’t offer that, or you don’t feel like what they offered was enough, you may want to seek out a therapist of your own. Often times, when family members are dealing with a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they take on destructive roles of their own. A therapist will help you work on accepting the new role you will be playing in your loved one’s life and help you heal from the trauma you may have experienced as a result of the addiction.
Don’t Use Blaming Statements
When your loved one was in the throes of active addiction, it’s likely that you blamed him or her for the negative impact that addiction had on your life. You might have said things similar to, “I wouldn’t have to be so untrusting if he wasn’t an addict” or “I lost all my savings because she is a heroin addict.” You have to stop saying those things now. Your loved one is no longer addicted to a substance, and he or she had to work hard to get there. When you continue to blame your loved one after treatment, it can be detrimental to their recovery.
Find Support from Others in Your Shoes
Recovery from addiction isn’t only challenging for the former addict, but it is also difficult for the family members at times. Just as there are support groups for people in recovery, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery, there are support groups for family members of addicts and alcoholics. It will be extremely beneficial to you not to feel like you are alone in all of this. Not only are support groups great ways to learn new strategies to help your loved one, but they are also great for finding new friendships for yourself.
Make a New Life for Yourself
This advice is likely to be the hardest suggestion for you to take. Your life up until this point has probably been nearly consumed by your loved one and the disease of addiction. You may have spent a significant amount of time trying to get your loved one to go to treatment, spending a lot of money, bailing your loved one out of the negative consequences that they got themselves into, and worrying about their welfare. Your life has not been your own.
As difficult as this may sound, you need to get a life. Healing after addiction isn’t just for the individual who used drugs or alcohol but for you too. Remember the things that used to make you happy, engaged your mind, enlivened your spirit – and get back to doing them. It may be hard to trust your loved one to be on their own, but it’s something that you have to do as you make a new life for yourself.
Trust, But Be Aware
This bit of advice may seem a bit contradictory. The tip above says that you have to trust your loved one, and that’s true. However, you also need to be mindful. And that’s the way it will be for a while. What you can trust is communication. Your loved one likely learned in rehab that they will have to reestablish trust with the family and friends that they hurt. That means that they should communicate more than usual – be completely transparent with their life, at least until they rebuild your trust. As long as they are doing that, you have to be satisfied.
What you cannot trust is old behaviors, and you have to be aware that relapse is often a part of recovery. But you now know what it’s like when your loved one is using or drinking – the telltale signs. If you start to see your loved one’s old behaviors pop up and you suspect that they are using again, get them back to treatment as quickly as you can.
Beginning the Healing of the Whole Family
Ideally, the family will begin participating in treatment at the same time their loved one begins addiction treatment to get clean. Family members need to be educated about addiction, including the fact that the family needs help too, as the first step of the healing process. Attending a treatment facility that offers in-depth treatment for family members is crucial to changing the family dynamic for the better. It teaches all family members how to address their own individual issues, how to heal the family as a unit, and new coping skills.
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