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Chapter 1

How To Help A Loved One Through Drug Rehab and the Recovery Process

A person consoling another with their hand on their shoulder.

Updated on

24 Apr, 2024

Coming to terms with a loved one’s drug addiction can be challenging. It means dealing with the hard truth that your family member is struggling. Still, understanding what resources are available and taking action to get them into rehabilitation is an important step when helping them heal and recover from their addiction.

Entering rehab can be intimidating for anyone, but it doesn’t have to be. The process goes smoother with preparation. Families, being so close to people with addiction, can play a vital role in supporting their loved ones. That’s true before, during, and after they enter drug and alcohol rehab.

In this chapter, we’ll look at how to best support your loved one in drug rehab. That way, they get the most out of the recovery process — both physically and emotionally.

Offering Emotional Support in the Recovery Process

Why is it Important to Offer Emotional Support in the Recovery Process?

Choosing to enter an alcohol and drug rehab center is a major step forward for people with addiction issues. However, it’s also a life-changing decision that radically transforms their world in both the short and long terms.

In other words, seeking treatment for addiction isn’t easy for most people. From recognizing their issues with addiction to the new environment of inpatient treatment, there are a lot of major changes involved.

During the recovery process itself, and especially for detox and inpatient treatment, those changes continue. It means spending time in therapy and counseling and building healthier habits and coping mechanisms. A significant part of treatment involves looking inward, with support from compassionate professionals, to address the many potential issues that can contribute to addiction.

After exiting inpatient treatment, your loved one has to return to daily life with a new mindset and strategies for coping with triggers and avoiding substance use. An effective treatment center will offer services like intensive outpatient rehab and extended care to support them as they work to stay sober. Still, this is yet another major change that people with addiction experience in their journeys. It’s a period of adjustment, learning, and change.

All of these changes help us understand why emotional support from family members is so important in the recovery process. For people with addiction issues, supportive loved ones can be incredibly valuable across the board.

The New York State Office of Addiction Supports and Supports (OASAS) explains: “The support of peers and social networks can help keep individuals engaged in treatment, and committed to their recovery. Support comes in many forms.”

OASAS recommends asking loved ones in the recovery process how you can contribute to their recovery. By taking their input into account, you and your family can help them advance on the road to recovery.

Two family members hug during a group therapy session.

Empathy, Trust, and Boundaries in Addiction Recovery

Unfortunately, addiction can cause people to break boundaries. That can harm the level of trust you have in your loved one. It can even cause resentment and lead to a lack of empathy.

We’ll explore the importance of taking care of yourself as someone impacted by addiction later on in this article. For now, let’s focus on two key points: re-establishing trust and setting clear boundaries.

Trust can easily be broken or damaged by a loved one with addiction issues. They may lie, misdirect, steal, and engage in other behaviors that lead to interpersonal conflict. Letting them know you love them as a person but have limits regarding specific behaviors is important. So is giving your loved one the opportunity to rebuild trust.

Healthy boundaries can be a valuable tool for rebuilding trust. By setting reasonable limits on how and when you provide support, you can protect yourself while being a positive force for your loved one.

Saying you’re willing to be there emotionally for your family member as long as they remain committed to recovery is just one example. It sets a reasonable expectation for their actions while showing that you care about them and want them to succeed in treatment.

This is one of three strategies we recommend for sustaining relationships through intervention, treatment, and recovery. Along with setting boundaries, they are:

  • Having good communication skills. In a more practical sense, that means speaking honestly and openly with empathy and respect.
  • Being consistent in words and actions. This is a foundational need in terms of building or rebuilding trust, as well as establishing healthy relationships.

A family takes part in a group therapy session.

Offering Practical Support in the Addiction Recovery Process

It’s important to remember that family members can encourage a loved one to enter recovery, but often can’t force them to. That said, practical support in addiction recovery can be very valuable.

Knowing that friends and family are there to help (to a reasonable extent — setting boundaries is always important) can make the many changes that come with treatment more manageable.

Family members can set the expectation that they’ll help to maintain their loved one’s home while in inpatient treatment as long as their loved one continues to commit to treating their substance use disorder, as just one example. That could extend to helping with child care or dealing with many responsibilities of daily life.

Practical support extends to a few other key steps in addiction recovery as well. They are:

Expressing Genuine Concern for a Loved One’s Well-being

The Partnership to End Addiction explains that raising the issue of addiction can be an important step in encouraging treatment. Someone with a substance abuse issue may not even realize they need to consider rehab for drugs and alcohol.

It can be uncomfortable to raise this issue. That’s why the Partnership to End Addiction offers suggestions on how and when to bring up concerns in the link above. Establishing that the conversation comes from a place of genuine concern, identifying specific issues, and much more can all help you to effectively communicate during an uncomfortable conversation.

The end result involves showing emotional support while working toward a practical goal. Specifically, getting your loved one into treatment and helping them lead a healthier and more stable life.

Intervention and Post-rehab Support

Loved ones often stage interventions because they’re closest to those with addiction issues. That makes it easier to notice concerning changes and feel the negative influence of behaviors influenced by addiction.

Staging an intervention also has emotional and practical components. The emotional side relates to the harm that addiction can cause an individual, as well as yourself and other loved ones. The practical side relates to encouraging treatment to address a serious issue and support better long-term outcomes.

We offer an in-depth guide to intervention strategies and preparing for such an event. This is a valuable reference for the practical needs of staging an intervention. It covers everything from building an intervention team to finding the right alcohol or drug rehab center.

Post-rehab support can also be very valuable. The transition back to everyday life following intensive treatment is rarely simple or especially easy.

Being there in a practical sense, i.e. offering social support and a reasonable amount of assistance, can encourage your loved one to stay committed to recovery.

It’s also crucial to avoid potentially damaging behaviors. These include bringing up hurtful events from the past related to addiction and avoiding open and honest communication. Being open, honest, and focused on recovery is a key way to provide practical support in the recovery process.

A person recovering from drug addiction has a happy moment in a group session.

Educate Yourself on the Recovery Process

Learning about drug and alcohol rehab and the larger recovery process can empower you. Understanding them means less confusion and, ultimately, more comfort with the many changes that happen when someone seeks treatment.

The science of addiction is a great place to start. The American Psychiatric Association offers a helpful explanation:

“People with a substance use disorder may have distorted thinking and behaviors. Changes in the brain’s structure and function are what cause people to have intense cravings, changes in personality, abnormal movements, and other behaviors. Brain imaging studies show changes in the areas of the brain that relate to judgment, decision making, learning, memory, and behavioral control.”

Addiction changes the brain, altering priorities and encouraging continued use. That’s true even when the person with addiction issues can recognize the current and potential problems caused by their substance use. Additionally, other mental health issues can contribute to substance use disorder.

However, treatment programs can lead to positive and lasting change in this regard. This is why it’s so important to separate the person and their addiction in the recovery process.

Some of a person’s behaviors, those influenced by their addiction, can cause serious problems. However, that person can make changes to address the root causes of those problems. If your loved one commits to recovery, focus on having a positive attitude and protect yourself with reasonable boundaries and expectations.

In a broader sense, you can also learn about the individual steps of the recovery process. Understanding each of them alone, and as part of a comprehensive plan for supporting recovery, can make the process feel less complex and confusing.

Avoiding Enabling Behaviors

Enabling a loved one with substance use disorder can feel natural. It can be hard to even realize that a behavior is enabling them instead of supporting them. That means it’s important to define the boundary between support and enablement.

However, enabling behavior encourages people with addiction to avoid making changes. The Addiction Policy Forum provides a detailed list of potentially enabling behaviors.

In the big picture, it’s crucial to consider the actions you take in the context of whether they support the person you love or their drug or alcohol addiction.

Here’s one example: Offering financial or legal assistance unconditionally can support the addiction at the expense of the person. Setting reasonable conditions — i.e. offering assistance as long as your loved one commits to a treatment plan — is much more likely to support the person.

Taking Care of Yourself as a Loved One Moves Through the Recovery Process

The Journal of Food and Drug Analysis identifies several concerns that can negatively affect loved ones when an individual struggles with addiction. These range from family instability to emotional and economic burdens.

You can’t set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm. That’s why, as we’ll continue to mention, it’s so important to set healthy boundaries and reasonable expectations for a loved one with an addiction. It’s an important form of self-care.

In a different way, supporting a loved one who commits to addiction treatment can also impact your emotional health and well-being. There’s certainly a major positive to keep in mind, but dealing with the changes that come with treatment can also feel like yet another need or responsibility.

With that in mind, remember to take care of yourself. Your issues are also valid and deserve to be addressed. It’s the only way to truly move forward, as an individual and with your family.

At Infinite Recovery, we take a comprehensive and holistic approach to supporting the families of individuals with addiction issues as well as the individuals themselves. That includes:

  • Offering weekly online family therapy support groups.
  • Organizing monthly family workshops that focus on addiction education, including the impact of this disease on families.
  • Connecting families of our clients with additional resources, such as individual therapy, couples therapy, education, child care, and much more.

You deserve support for the mental health and practical challenges addiction can create for families. The best way to effectively support a loved one in addiction recovery is to approach the issue from an informed and compassionate perspective. Our staff can help you find the right resources and start to move forward.

Comprehensive Support for the Addiction Recovery Process

Infinite Recovery takes an extensive, evidence-based approach to treating addiction and helping our clients move forward. Along the way, we provide targeted and relevant support for their families whenever it’s appropriate.

Ready to transform your life? Reach out to us today.

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