Having a family member in recovery from addiction is one of the biggest challenges for a non-addicted loved one. A combination of relief, hope, emotional conflict and a tremendous amount of fear for the unknown surround your daily activities.
You are hopeful your addicted loved one will see what you have seen for some time – their addiction was not only ruining their life but yours as well – losing sight of your own needs while being focused on their needs. It is important that you evaluate your own wants and wishes irrespective of the addict’s progress in their journey to recovery.
With an understanding of what is involved with living with a recovering addict, you are more prepared to assist in the recovery process and provide the support necessary to decrease the chance of relapse. You already know that the addiction does not just affect the addict – family and friends are affected as well. This applies to recovery also. As recovery is a lifelong process, your loved one will not be “cured” upon returning from treatment.
As you play an important role in supporting the changes in life style required for long term recovery, here are a few guidelines for living with a recovering addict.
Recognize that problems may be prolonged.
Addiction effects are often felt within the family for a long time, even after the successful completion of treatment. Typical challenges include financial difficulties, health problems and relationship matters.
The stress of these hardships can be assuaged with a few steps.
- Consult with a financial advisor, who can help you plan short and long-term budgetary needs. You may want to consider a loan, if necessary.
- Support regular doctor visits for your loved one, as health problems associated with the addiction may linger.
- Attend family-based therapy. Honest and open communication is critical to all involved.
Stay involved and be familiar with the processes of addiction recovery.
As in most cases, alcohol and drug abuse significantly changes the lives of those close to the addict, particularly in the immediate family; therefore, the family often needs help too.
Many treatment facilities offer education for family members on topics that are vital to restoring the health of the family unit. The entire family should participate in the treatment and well as the recovery process. Deciding to participate in family education is an excellent way to support the addict’s recovery.
Many outpatient family therapy programs are available. A certified therapist teaches intervention skills that can be used to handle stressful and trigger situations. You also learn productive communication skills to express feelings without assigning blame.
One of the most important things that a family must do is maintain an alcohol or drug-free and sober lifestyle. Keeping someone in recovery away from the temptation of using is essential, especially in the first year of recovery. Ideally, a home should be completely emptied of any addictive substances. It may be necessary for the family to make a lifestyle change to support a loved one during recovery, even if your family has always kept alcohol or other substances on hand for social events or special occasions.
The family can participate in activities and hobbies consistent with a substance-free lifestyle, such as bike riding, gardening, planning a vacation, hiking, camping or going to the movies.
Find help for yourself
Just as the individual in recovery will require support from family and friends, it will also be important for family members to have support. Family support groups can help with the emotional and physical stress the may surface while supporting the individual in recovery. By seeking support for yourself, it may also encourage the addict to seek additional recovery and aftercare support services.
Here are a few support groups devised for family members and friends of recovering addicts:
- Nar-Anon. 12-step program for family and friends of drug addicts.
- Al-Anon. 12-step program for family and friends of alcoholics.
- Adult Children of Alcoholics. A group for adults who grew up in an alcoholic household and display characteristics associated with trauma and abuse.
- Families Anonymous. All-encompassing 12-step program for family and friends of those afflicted by substance abuse or behavioral addictions.
- SMART Recovery Family and Friends. A science-based support program for family and friends of alcoholics, drug addicts and other related addictions.
Recovering addicts may be more susceptible to stress and may relapse. Stress factors include:
- Family conflicts
- Health concerns
Understanding what to expect and how to help a recovering alcoholic or drug addict proceed with recovery can prove to be beneficial. You can offer resources that can help with stress, such as relationship counseling, adult education, therapy and support groups.
Keep in mind – it is also important to focus on yourself and manage your own stress.
Proven sources of stress relief for you and your loved one include:
- Keeping a journal
- Steady breathing
It is important to remember that you should not expect recovering drug addicts or alcoholics to behave perfectly when they first enter recovery. They will often need time to adjust to life outside of treatment. Your job is to promote a supportive and comfortable environment for the recovery process.
Finally, it is imperative that you take action if you believe that your loved one may be at risk of a relapse. If you believe your family member is in danger of relapse, immediately take steps to provide a safe environment. Look for these warning signs.
- Romanticizing past drug or alcohol use.
- Starting to reconnect with old friends from drug-using days.
- Sudden changes in attitude or behavior.
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities.
- Appearance of withdrawal symptoms.
If you are concerned your loved one may relapse, you can:
- Approach your family member in a kind and caring manner. Express your concern without judgment or blame.
- Ask your loved one to contact their sponsor.
- Suggest they attend a 12-step meeting. Encourage your loved one to attend a 12-step meeting or recovery support group.
- Encourage your family member to talk with a therapist. Or recommend that they enter an intensive outpatient program to get back on track.
By understanding what is involved in living with a recovering alcoholic or drug addict, you can be better prepared to assist with recovery and offer support to decrease the chance of relapse.