At first thought, it seems like an easy question to answer: If your drug or alcohol addicted loved one came to you today and said they were ready to get help for their addiction – would you be ready?
Those words would likely be music to your ears. Yes, of course, you’d be ready – you’d be thrilled! You’ve waited years for this; spent countless nights dreaming of the moment; wished, cried, begged and prayed for this moment. So why wouldn’t you be ready?
The disease of addiction doesn’t just involve the person that is using pills, shooting heroin, or drinking heavily. The disease of addiction affects the entire family. Even if you’ve never touched a drug in your life – if you love someone who is addicted, you’re affected. So when your loved one comes to you for help with getting off of drugs, getting sober and changing his or her life – you need to be prepared for what’s next – for both of you.
Maybe this isn’t the first time your loved one has told you he or she needs to change. Maybe you’ve been swayed by false promises or heard that he will “cut back” on his own. Maybe you’re frustrated with the broken trust, and don’t believe that she’ll actually get sober this time. Maybe he’s relapsed one too many times to take him seriously.
Don’t let emotions take control. Focusing on the bad memories only clouds the situation, and will make healing that much harder. If you’re waiting for the day that your loved one finally accepts help, you need to be willing to commit physically, emotionally and mentally to getting him or her well.
Have a Plan.
Just because you’re not the person using drugs or drinking doesn’t mean you can’t contact a treatment specialist before your loved one concedes to getting help. Ensure that you have all the pieces in place to get your loved one the help he or she needs by talking to a professional and narrowing down the options for inpatient drug rehab.
Being proactive, researching and forming a plan reduces the time spent between the moment your loved one reaches out and the moment he or she starts getting care. It also reduces the chance that he backs out or has a change of heart about going.
Stay the Course.
Once your loved one gets into an inpatient rehab program, it’s only the beginning of a lifelong commitment to healing and care. Treatment for drug addiction and alcoholism is an ongoing process. Prepare yourself to stay the course with your loved one as he or she focuses on getting well.
Your loved one’s sobriety and recovery will be fragile in the beginning. It’s important that he or she has support. Just because your loved one is sober now doesn’t mean all the difficulties will come to a screeching halt: Patience will still be necessary as your loved one heals.
Get Help for Yourself.
Addiction is a disease that affects the entire family unit. For as long as your loved one has been using drugs or drinking, you’ve been getting sick, as well. While it’s crucial for an addicted person to get treatment, it’s just as important that the family seeks help, too. Dealing with the emotional strain of an addicted parent, child, sibling or spouse has left you with unhealthy behaviors, habits and thinking. It’s time that you speak with a therapist or counselor. You can also attend groups and programs that are designated for the friends and family members that have a family member with an addiction – such as Al-Anon.
Don’t Become Codependent.
No one ever intends to enable their addicted loved one, causing the addiction to worsen. But when someone you love is suffering or hurting, it’s natural to want to help. Becoming overly wrapped up in the addiction or the person struggling with the addiction leads to co-dependency.
While you want to be supportive of your loved one as he or she takes steps towards getting healthy, you are not their addiction counselor or recovery coach. Addiction treatment centers have professionals who are trained to be objective and not emotionally entangled in the web addiction has weaved in your family. Take a step back and allow your loved one to get the very best care possible, in the hands of those who know what it takes to get sober and stay sober. If you don’t take control of codependent behaviors, it can lead you to your own destructive behaviors – furthering the negative impacts of the addiction. It’s worth it to speak to a therapist or counselor about your own actions and behaviors.
Addiction is a disease. If your loved one was diagnosed with diabetes, Crohn’s disease, or cancer – you’d want to learn as much as you possibly could about the disease, and how to deal with it. Addiction is no different. Understanding everything you can about addiction and alcoholism will help you understand your loved one and his or her journey in recovery. It will also help you to take the right actions to help him – rather than enable. We recommend using online resources, connecting with a support group, or even talking to an addiction specialist.
Getting a loved one into rehab treatment for drugs or alcohol may not be easy – but his or her life is worth the effort. Will you be ready to guide your family member when he or she is ready?