Addiction recovery is a lifestyle, not a transformation that happens in rehab. As a loved one of someone recovering from addiction, this is the single most important thing to know. This is especially important when someone you love completes a recovery program. The help of family and friends can make an overwhelming difference in the success and endurance of the recovery process.
The actions that family takes and the environment they create can help or hinder a person from successfully recovering and staying away from their addiction. But no one is born knowing how to support a loved one recovering from addiction. Families have learned from experience, often through heartbreak, on what to do and what not to do when a loved one finishes treatment and needs support. Today, we’re here to share some of the most important things everyone with a recovering loved one should know.
1. Release from Rehab is the Beginning
When your loved one completes treatment, this is not the end of their recovery; it’s the beginning. They are currently clean and past physical withdrawals, but the cravings will never fully go away. They will need to build an entire lifestyle around remaining sober, healthy and happy. For your loved one, this task can be incredibly difficult.
Your loved one will need lots of support when they come home. Understand that they will not be “better” after rehab; they will be ready to get better with help and encouragement from those around them.
2. Recovery is a Lifetime Mission
Addiction is a disease that never completely goes away. Someone who is sober for 20 years can still experience a relapse. This is why, for example, people addicted to alcohol may refuse to drink for the rest of their lives, and often should. Your loved one is on the path to recovery, but that path never ends. There will never be a time when it will be safe to expose them to intoxication without the risk of relapse.
Your loved one will be on a journey of self-control and resisting temptation for the rest of their life. Be compassionate and considerate about their lifetime challenge to remain sober.
3. Provide Unconditional Love and Support
The one thing a person in addiction recovery needs most is love and support. As someone close to them, let your recovering loved one know that you love them as a person and believe in their recovery. It’s most important that you express confidence in their ability to recover. When times are worst, say “I know you can do this. You have it in you to succeed and be happy.”
Your loved one needs others to bolster their personal strength with love and encouragement. This helps build the good life and good feelings that will truly motivate them to stay clean.
4. Maintain Firm Boundaries and Rules
At the same time, provide love but do not compromise your boundaries. Those at home after addiction treatment is completed can start slipping into old behaviors, even if they are not using again. Don’t let your loved one allow you to make compromises on the rules. They often need boundaries to help them maintain their own new lifestyle code of sobriety and fully-integrated loving behaviors. If you start letting things slide, they’ll start letting things slide, which can lead to relapse.
5. Avoid Environmental Temptations
Think very carefully about relapse temptation when interacting with your recovering loved one or creating their home environment. You wouldn’t lay out a chocolate buffet for a person with diabetes, so use the same consideration in building a recovery-friendly home environment. Don’t keep alcohol or powerful painkillers in the house. Don’t take a recovering person to dance at the club. If there were behaviors or activities that used to trigger drug use, avoid them. If you don’t know what the triggers are, don’t be afraid to ask. Your loved one will appreciate your consideration and compassion.
6. Changing Family Traditions Can Profoundly Help Recovery
There are many potential relapse triggers in family traditions. Drinking during the holidays, fighting during family reunions or partying in a particular way may have initially contributed to your loved one’s disease or served as a trigger to use. It can really help your loved one to completely reinvent family traditions that have been trouble in the past or might serve as undue temptation.
A loving family can, for example, cut alcohol out of holiday traditions or take efforts to avoid family strife. Instead, build new loving family traditions that don’t serve as reminders of addiction or temptation to relapse.
7. Relationships Will Change
Depending on how long your loved one was using, their relationships and behaviors may have been shaped by the addiction they are trying to leave behind. You may not realize it, but the nature of your relationship with them in the past might have been shaped by the addiction. This is especially true in previously co-dependent relationships.
Don’t be surprised if your relationships change as your loved one recovers from their addiction. They may become less dependent, more distant, or even more energetic and engaged. Addiction changes people, but they become closer to their real selves when building a sober life. Be supportive of the changes and embrace the new, more real relationship with your now-sober loved one.
8. Distractions and Activity Are Essential
Those in addiction recovery need to stay busy and to be distracted. Cravings and habitual using both make it tempting to relapse when someone in recovery is bored, sad or idle. Your loved one will need activity, lively conversation and satisfying work to do while they recover. Do what you can to help your loved one stay engaged, interested and — most importantly — distracted from what they’re feeling.
People with addictive behaviors often don’t enjoy “being inside their own head,” so take them out of themselves to get away from the addiction that lives within.
9. Don’t Ignore Signs of Stress or Relapse
If you start noticing signs of stress, moodiness, depression or secretive activity, don’t ignore it. These can be indications of relapse or pre-relapse behaviors. People in recovery don’t automatically know how to recover in a healthy way, and they often need help building a new lifestyle away from addiction. Any signs that your loved one is returning to an addict lifestyle or behaviors should be approached with firm compassion and encouragement to seek ongoing treatment. Which takes us to our next tip.
10. Find Quality Ongoing Treatment
Seek ongoing treatment. Recovery is a long road and very few people can do it alone. Become familiar with addiction recovery resources, from addiction-specialist doctors and psychologists to groups and outpatient programs. Encourage your loved one to become a part of at least one ongoing treatment method, whether this is seeing a therapist or attending recovery group meetings. It doesn’t have to be 12-steps; that program is great but doesn’t work for everyone. Just some ongoing recovery service that will provide the resources and support your loved one needs to build their sober lifestyle.
11. Encourage Independence and Personal Achievement
Achievement is very important for those in recovery from drugs or alcohol. Your loved one needs to feel successful to boost their dedication and satisfaction with their sober life. Encourage your loved one to get a job, go back to school, start a project and follow it through. Congratulate them and celebrate any small achievements, like getting a raise or making a good grade. Build those feelings of satisfaction, self-worth and personal achievement.
Achieving in work, school and projects can build the confidence and willpower a recovering person needs to stay committed to their recovery and their new successful life.
12. Family Members Should Also Get Support
If you are feeling stressed, confused or emotional about your loved one’s addiction or recovery, seek your own support services. If you were negatively impacted by the addiction or are feeling burdened by supporting your loved one’s recovery, that’s OK. It’s normal. Addiction is very hard on family and friends of the one who is addicted, and it’s OK to have feelings of your own about the situation.
Seek a group, a therapist, or just dive into online resources for family members of people with an addiction. Take care of yourself. You’ll need your personal strength to remain healthy and provide extra love for your friend in recovery.
Help Your Loved One Build a New Life with New Life
Here at New Life addiction counseling, we are dedicated to helping those who are addicted build a new life and succeed in recovery at home. If your loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol and needs to start their recovery or could benefit from help continuing their recovery process, please contact us today. We are ready to provide the support, advice and services you need to help your loved one recover and to prepare yourself to provide support at home.