If someone you love who is struggling with addiction has agreed to go to drug rehab – and actually begun treatment – congratulations! This is an exciting first step in the process of recovery.
How to Help an Addict
It is important to note that this is by no means a last step or even a guarantee of anything to come, and your support can be a huge help as they undergo treatment and transition back home. Here are just a few of the ways you can support your loved one in addiction treatment and recovery:
- Wait patiently. During the first few weeks of inpatient treatment and/or hospitalization, it may be necessary to undergo a “blackout” on communication. This gives your loved one the opportunity to disconnect from all the stressors, issues, and situations that may have contributed to cravings for drugs and alcohol, and to focus solely on recovery. Your patience with this will help them to be more patient with it as well.
- Follow the rules of the rehab program. There will be a number of restrictions on your interactions with your loved one in order to help them keep their focus on recovery rather than on things at home. This may or may not be easy for you, but it is essential to their ability to give everything to the work of treatment.
- Keep the negative talk to a minimum. When you are in contact with your loved one, it may be natural to want to talk about some of the issues you are facing as you manage the house, the family, your job, finances, relationships with friends, etc. However, these conversations can serve to pull focus from recovery and make the person feel like they need to get home as soon as possible to help rather than stay and commit to treatment.
- Take care of yourself. After living through your loved one’s addiction, it will be necessary for you, too, to seek help and support. It is recommended that you meet with a therapist regularly to talk about your fears and frustrations, work with a financial adviser to manage money problems, and/or talk to your spiritual advisor about matters of the heart. You need to heal as well, and it will be quite some time before your loved one will be able to take on the role of partner and confidante – if ever.
- Prepare your home. Someone who has been through addiction will need to work with you on rebuilding trust. Treatment is not a miracle cure, and it can take time to address old, harmful behaviors. Not only will you likely be repairing damage done to your home through the course of someone’s addiction but you may need to do things like change the locks, fix broken windows and doors, and do other things to “addiction-proof” the home in the event of relapse.
- Consider what you want to happen when your loved one returns home. How do you envision your life upon your loved one’s return? What would you like their and your responsibilities to be? What does your daily schedule look like? Family events? Take some time to think through all that has happened and what specifically you would like to see change in the future.
- Safeguard your physical and emotional safety. What you want for your life is important. Your ideas about how you want to live each day matter. Your loved one’s addiction may or may not make those hopes and dreams possible. It is important to seriously consider whether or not your futures together are compatible and to acknowledge and accept that if your loved one is violent with you, emotionally abusive, or relapses and returns to active addiction, it is time to make significant changes.
- Attend family therapy sessions to process the past and plan for the future. Once you are clear on what you want and on the road to your own personal healing, it is important to begin family therapy sessions with your loved one. This can take place at their rehab program and after they return home, but even when things seem “good,” it is important to continue.
- Understand that you cannot stay sober for them. No matter how much you want your loved one to stay sober, you cannot structure their lives, give them guidance, or force them to avoid drug and alcohol use. You can be supportive of their experience, notice the signs of relapse, and discuss it with them as well as encourage them to return to treatment if it seems they are not acclimating in recovery.
- Create and maintain boundaries. The emotional boundaries you create will not only help you to maintain objectivity but will also help your loved one to make positive choices as well. Similarly, setting boundaries around what is okay and what is not in terms of communication and getting needs met for both of you at home will help you both to create a positive, new dynamic going forward.
How are you preparing for your loved one’s homecoming from rehab?