Family Support in Rehab
Addiction to drugs or alcohol doesn’t merely impact the user, the entire family system is negatively impacted by a loved one’s decision to abuse harmful substances. When a family member is suffering from addiction, the entire family suffers together. Not only have studies found that children of addicted parents are more likely to become addicts themselves, further studies show that families that are impacted by addiction often exhibit ongoing negative behaviors that can be directly associated with the addiction.
Just as the family is negatively affected by addiction, so too does the family need to be involved when a loved one seeks treatment. In fact, the destructive influences substance abuse can cause individuals members of the family to feel hopeless and downright helpless. Support, especially education and guidance, is vital to protecting the family system during this difficult time and to influencing the healing process that will be vital to the overall recovery of the family as a whole.
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The first major step a family must take in understanding the treatment and recovery process that a loved one will ultimately go through in order to get well, is to become educated about addiction. Often times, family members are quick to think that the addiction is their fault, or that the addiction is something that the user chooses to do rather than spend time or be supportive of the family needs. Education can help to eradicate some of these misbeliefs regarding addiction so that the following steps in treatment can become easier to understand and appreciate.
Families can learn about a loved one’s addiction in groups such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. Speaking with a treatment advisor or counselor can also help in the education and learning process. The more a family member can learn about the disease that a loved one is suffering from, the greater the chances will be that that particular family member can help the loved one in treatment.
Family support groups are also ideal as they can provide addition insight into the world of addiction. All of these programs focus on helping family members to understand how addiction affects the user, how the addiction affects YOU (the family member) and how the addiction is best treated. Certainly, the information that you learn in these programs will not excuse your loved one from the decisions, nor does the fact that addiction is a disease excuse the individual from his or her actions, but this understanding can help you to come to terms with some of the repercussions that have resulted from the substance abuse.
Education can help you find a way to understand and feel more compassionate and supportive of your loved one’s decision to seek help rather than feel combative as you think about all of the negative actions that have occurred as a result of the addiction itself. You can learn how enabling will ruin recovery, and how you can recognize whether you are enabling a loved one more than you are helping him or her. All of this education will empower you to help your loved one in treatment.
Family Roles in Rehab
During treatment, the loved one will either spend time in a residential treatment facility in which around-the-clock care will be provided, or they will receive outpatient treatment in which regularly scheduled counseling and therapy will take place during normal business hours. Regardless of the type of treatment that the love one receives, the family must be involved in order for the social system to heal and recover.
If the loved one receives the help of an outpatient treatment program, the family roles will become much more involved in some cases than if inpatient treatment is the chosen method of care. This is because the loved one will require a safe, clean place to live while they receive treatment in an outpatient facility and this safe, clean place to live will likely fall on the shoulders of the family to provide. A beneficial element of providing your loved one with a safe home during treatment is that you, the family member, will have direct access to them and will be able closely monitor their recovery progress.
Likewise, if the loved one receives treatment in a residential rehab center, the family roles will be more along the lines of providing support. Family members should also plan to make their own lifestyle changes while a loved one receives treatment. This includes making the decision to reduce the use of alcohol and completely refrain when the newly recovering loved one comes out of treatment.
Often times, family members also suffer from addiction to drugs or alcohol and should consider seeking help in order to heal and be strong for their loved one who is also in treatment. If you abuse drugs or alcohol with your loved one, it’s important to do your part and seek treatment for yourself so that when your loved one comes out of the residential treatment facility you can be supportive and not hypocritical.
What if Family Isn’t Allowed in the Residential Treatment Center?
At times, usually during the early days of treatment, family may not be allowed to visit the recovering individual in the treatment unit. This doesn’t mean that your role as a family member is put on hold. Your loved one still very much needs to know that you support his or her decision to get sober and that you are there to help. Some of the things you can do to remind your loved one of your support may include:
- Sending a letter of encouragement to the recovering individual.
- Speaking with the treatment facility about family counseling and making yourself available for family counseling sessions.
- Avoiding the use of judgmental comments or words when speaking with a loved one in treatment.
- When visitation IS allowed, making the effort to visit even if the treatment facility is located out of town.
The Role of Ongoing Family Support
The support you provide to your loved ones long after they have completed treatment can make a world of difference in their recovery. Once your family member has finished a drug or alcohol treatment program, consider the ongoing support that he or she may need from you in order to remain sober and in control. This does not mean that you have to provide everything for the individual, but that you should be available to assist with their continued efforts to recover.
Avoid taking part in negative influences that could hinder or reverse the recovery of your loved one. This means, not drinking or using drugs around them, avoiding situations that may trigger their substance abuse and continuing to support their efforts to get sober. If medications are necessary, keep them out of the view of those who may be tempted to use them. If you like to drink alcohol, do so in your own privacy when your recovering loved one is not around to be influenced by your actions. For more advice on family support during and after rehab, call us at 800-481-6320.