If your family member or other loved one is going into recovery for a substance addiction, you might wonder exactly what your role should be. Although this journey is something that your relative has to go through on his or her own, family support is an integral part of the process.
You might not be sure how to act or react to various ways that your recovering loved one, but one thing that is for certain is that you can play a role in supporting your family member as he or she tries to recover from the addiction.
Keep Your Expectations Realistic
It’s likely that your relative has gotten pretty close to “hitting bottom” in various aspects of his or her life.
Often, this is the reason why those struggling with an addiction choose to seek help. Whether it’s a brush with the law, the loss of a job or a relationship, or some other major upheaval, a traumatic experience or loss is often the catalyst for change when it comes to addiction.
While going through the recovery process is going to be a huge and positive step for your family member, it’s not going to fix everything. Recovering from an addiction does not make the prior troubles go away. If your loved one is on probation or has lost his or her driver’s license, job, or spouse, going through recovery is not going to make that go away.
Also, the parts of your relative’s personality that might have made an addiction more likely are still going to be there. Don’t put unrealistic expectations on your family member; he or she will still be the same person they were before, and they will need to deal with the same problems they were before.
The main difference will be that they’ll be doing so without the help of the substance or substances that they were addicted to.
Your Loved One’s New Lifestyle Requires Family Support
There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to recovery. When your family member is in the intensive part of treatment, you might not be able to have any contact with him or her.
Accept and support this. In many cases, it’s not your relative’s choice, and even if it is, limited or no contact is something that he or she thinks will help.
Once your loved one is out of that phase of recovery, there will be a lot of things that they won’t want to do or won’t be able to do. For example, it could be an act of caring to not serve alcohol at your Christmas party this year so your family member won’t have to worry about avoiding it.
This won’t go on forever, but it will be important family support for their new lifestyle for some time after he or she returns home.
Show Support for the Process of Recovery (Even If They Don’t)
There will be a lot of things about the recovery process that your relative might not like.
For example, he or she might get angry at the counselors at the rehabilitation center. They might get upset with their parole officer, or they might get sick of attending group therapy or support group meetings. They might even get tired of being sober and might be tempted to relapse (or they might actually relapse).
All of these feelings and thoughts are normal. There will be times when your relative does not agree with one stage or another of the recovery process. And that’s okay!
As his or her loved one, however, the best thing you can do is encourage your family member to stick with it. You know how far he or she has come, even if they can’t see it right now.
It might mean offering to drive your relative to appointments. It also might mean answering a phone call in the middle of the night if your relative is feeling tempted to relapse. And it might mean driving them back to rehab if there is a relapse.
Encourage your family member to stick to the course, if you can. It can really make a big difference, both now and in the future.
Get Support for Yourself
If you are feeling overwhelmed by your family member’s addiction and recovery process, that is a normal way to feel. It is stressful to be close to somebody who is going through a difficult time.
You might also be struggling with anger, guilt, sadness, and a host of other emotions. Don’t hesitate to get help for yourself during this time. You could join a support group for the family members of addicts, or you might prefer to seek individualized counseling.
Keep in mind that you cannot provide family support for a relative if you’re not taking care of your own basic needs. You have undoubtedly heard the oxygen-mask-on-an-airplane analogy. Make sure that you are eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, and dealing with your own stress.
Remember that your family member’s problems, while they might affect you, are not your problems to deal with. Take a break when you need to, and ask another friend or relative to step in.
Remember Who Your Loved One Is
During the most difficult days of the recovery process, it can be hard to remember who your loved one was before the addiction took over. Look back on the times you spent together and the great things that your relative has accomplished.
Also, look ahead to the future and what type of man or woman your family member is likely to be, once he or she has been sober for six months, a year, five years, or five decades. When you are struggling, remind yourself and your loved one about these images and thoughts.
If you are supporting a family member through the recovery process, good for you! You are doing something vital and kind for your loved one. Talk to the other members of your family about the importance of family support, and encourage them to also help out. The more support a person struggling with addiction has, the less likely he or she may be to relapse.
Also, you can all support one another. Don’t be afraid to seek help where you need it as you help your family member through this journey.