Addiction and the path to recovery are long, bumpy, and difficult. You want to support and protect your struggling loved one, but you may not be sure how. You are also feeling anxious about what is to come, and excited to have them feeling better. Whether your loved one is coming home from luxury drug rehab or has been attending treatment at a local center, you may be wondering what comes next.
When your loved one is nearing the end of their treatment you may feel like everything is going to go back to the way it was before the addiction. You are excited to have your loved one back and you may be overly optimistic. On the other hand, you may be feeling fear of the unknown and be unsure of where the path leads next. Regardless of your concerns or excitements, it is important to put your feelings to the side and learn how to support and help your loved one in the ways they need at this difficult time.
Encourage Therapy Attendance
Your family member may be in recovery from their addiction, but that doesn’t mean they no longer need the support of a group or therapist. It is important that they feel acceptance and encouragement from their close friends and family to continue this as long as they feel the need. Relapse is less likely with ongoing mental health support.
Support Other Health Concerns
Most people struggling with addiction also have other mental health concerns, such as anxiety and depression. Supporting your loved one in these struggles can help prevent relapse, as well as help them with their health in general.
It is important for family and friends to become educated about addiction. You cannot support your friend in their struggle if you do not understand it or if you have a faulty view of it. Addiction is a disease, not a choice, and understanding the factors that go into the disease can help you be less judgemental and more supportive.
Addiction is a lifelong struggle. Friends and family must understand that and view addiction as a manageable but chronic disease. Relapse is common, as in any chronic disease, and accepting this fact from the outset can help you manage your disappointment and frustration if it happens to your loved one. Roughly half of the people who go through rehab will relapse at some point, and this is similar to the rate of recurrence with other chronic illnesses.
Check in Frequently
Don’t leave your friend to feel lonely and abandoned. Check in with them often- not to oversee them or make them feel smothered, but to let them know that they aren’t alone and that you care about them. Invite them to join in with your hobbies and activities, and join them in theirs. Treat them as you do any of your other friends, not as a pariah.
Encourage Healthy Habits
When your friend or family member mentions an interest in a healthy hobby or habit, such as getting a gym membership or taking up knitting, encourage them. Show interest in their activities and, if it’s something you also might enjoy, consider joining them in their new hobby. Also encourage them in other habits, such as therapy sessions, attending classes at a local college, joining friends for yoga in the park, or getting a new pet.
Set Healthy Boundaries
While you want to be there when you are needed, you must also learn how to set healthy boundaries. Many family members accidentally contribute to their loved ones’ health concerns by enabling them instead of supporting them. This may mean you need to learn more about the process of addiction or attend a family therapy class to learn how to set boundaries and which boundaries you should be setting.
Try to be supportive and encouraging as much as possible. Many factors in a struggling person’s life may concern us, but being overly critical of minor issues can contribute to the low self-esteem most addicted people already struggle with. Shame and guilt are two of the motivating factors that contribute to keeping people in the cycle of addiction, so avoid adding to that stress if possible.
Support Yourself, Too
It is vitally important that you support yourself, as well. If you have been living with a person struggling with addiction and going through treatment, you may be dealing with mental health struggles of your own. The addiction cycle often negatively affects family members in many ways, from financial and legal problems to low self-esteem, stress, and anxiety.
Most family members of recovering people benefit from family therapy, private therapy sessions, and self-care. Self-care can include taking time for yourself to do something important to you such as volunteer or attend religious services. It could mean starting a new healthy habit, such as taking a meditation class or learning a new hobby. It could meet setting aside time each week to be alone and refresh, whether it’s a walk in the park or a visit to the library to read.