As a family member, spouse, or close friend, you know that substance addiction doesn’t just affect the individual who is drinking or using – it also affects the friends and family. This idea translates to recovery, as well: recovery affects friends and families just as much as the addiction affects them. Recovery from drug or alcohol addiction is not something that should be done alone.
The support of family and friends often plays a large role in addiction recovery. Because addiction recovery is a lifelong journey and it requires a lifelong commitment, your loved one isn’t just going to come home from an addiction rehab facility “cured” from addiction. He or she will take sobriety day-by-day and will need to turn his or her focus towards long-term recovery. As a family member, spouse or friend, your supporting role can be crucial to helping your loved one focus on his or her health and recovery.
Living with a person in recovery – especially early recovery – will also require a commitment on your end. Below are four ways that the family, spouses, and friends can help a loved one in their recovery:
Understand Going to Treatment Isn’t a “Fix All”
As a chronic, progressive disease – there is no ‘quick-fix’ for addiction. Expecting that your loved one will come home from rehab “cured” from addiction is unrealistic, and potentially a set-up for relapse. It’s crucial for you to understand that while your loved one may have successfully completed 30, 60, 90 days or more in inpatient and outpatient treatment – the consequences of addiction may continue to unravel well after he or she comes home.
It’s important that you and your family understand that as a result of addiction, you and your loved one may face ongoing hardships, including:
- recovering from debt or other financial difficulties
- gaining or regaining steady employment
- ongoing health issues
- rebuilding relationships and trust
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Stay Involved & Supportive
When a loved one comes home from rehab, it’s crucial to keep in mind that it may be necessary for your entire family to create and implement a lifestyle change. This often means family members maintaining a drug-free and alcohol-free environment within the household – especially during a loved one’s early recovery. By creating this healthy, sober home environment, it reduces the temptation or using or drinking.
The early days of recovery can be especially lonely, but having the support and understanding of close friends and family can lay the foundation for continued success in sobriety. In order for recovery to truly work, the entire family system has to be committed to it.
Find Support For Yourself
If you’ve been living with or close to a person in active addiction, you know it’s exhausting. Your loved one isn’t the only one who needs to recover from the addiction – you do, too. Take the time to take care of yourself. It won’t be easy, but do your best to avoid self-blame; you are not in control of anyone’s decision but your own – and you can’t force him or her to change.
It’s OK to ask for help – in fact, we absolutely recommend it. Find your own support system and healthy activities. Go to support group meeting such as Al-Anon or Nar-anon where you’ll hear from other family members who have walked in similar shoes; talk to a professional therapist; join a local gym; journal; make time for yourself. These types of activities can provide encouragement that you need to help you cope with the physical, mental and emotional stress you’ve endured through the addiction – and even early recovery.
Understand & Reduce Stress
According to the National Institute of Health, stress is considered a significant factor in both the beginning of drug and alcohol abuse, as well in regard to relapse. Because of this, it’s important to understand that your recovering loved one may be more susceptible to stress in his or her recovery. In understanding this connection, it’s important to understand certain stress factors that increase the risk of relapse for your loved one:
- Health Issues
- Work and/or School
- Financial Problems
- Relationships with Family & Friends
- Exposure to Situations or Environments that Involve Drug or Alcohol Use
By acknowledging these factors, knowing how to help your loved one cope can be extremely important. Guide your loved one towards healthy coping mechanisms such as exercising, journaling, meditating, or even speaking with a therapist.
Understanding what is involved in living with a person in recovery – especially early recovery – is essential to helping yourself and your loved one. Addiction may be a family disease, but recovery is a family process.