When a person is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, everyone in the family is affected. If your loved one is trapped in a cycle of substance abuse and addiction, it’s likely that you’re experiencing a whirlwind of emotions— feeling helpless, angry, confused, guilty, frustrated, sad and so on.
There’s no shame in feeling a variety of strong emotions. These feelings are normal. Due to the toll of a family member challenged by addiction, it is often called a “family disease.” While the impact of an individual’s struggle is wide-reaching, the family can also play an important role in recovery.
Read on to learn the ways that families are able to have a positive impact on sobriety, including: attending family addiction support groups, supporting family therapy addiction for recovery, fostering social support and understanding relapse prevention.
Attending family therapy with your recovering family member can help in many ways. Although addiction can tear families apart and cause major conflicts in relationships, family therapy can rebuild those rifts. Family therapy for addiction recovery works by strengthening communication between family members and building healthy emotional regulation skills.
Not only does therapy help family members to relate to each other, it can provide essential education. In therapy, family members gain a better understanding of addiction as a chronic brain disorder. This insight can help inform family members as they work to figure out how to best support their recovering loved one.
Research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that treatment programs that get the family involved experience better success rates than other programs that don’t encourage family involvement.
A good social support system is essential during the early stages of recovery. A network of friends and loved ones helps to minimize the feelings of isolation and frustration that are not uncommon during this challenging period.
You can play a role in both being a part of and encouraging strong social support. Plan events and outings with family, schedule regular meals together and find other activities to get involved in together. Encourage healthy social activities and help your loved one to find outlets to meet new friends and positive influences.
Consider helping your loved one join a local sports league, find a book club or sign up to volunteer. There are plenty of options for spending time with friends that won’t jeopardize sobriety. Just remember to balance social outings with time for rest. Recovery can be stressful so it’s important to unwind and process treatment, too.
Remember to keep your expectations in check regarding your loved one’s recovery. Addiction is a chronic condition, and there’s a strong possibility that an individual will experience a relapse along the way. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that the rate of relapse for addiction ranges from 40 to 60 percent.
A relapse doesn’t mean that your loved one has failed in some way or will never be able to overcome addiction. It just means that he or she needs more time to reinforce new coping skills and to learn how to manage triggers.
You can help your family member head off a potential relapse by being aware of the warning signs:
- Not attending treatment, support groups or meetings;
- Spending time with people who he or she previously drank or used with;
- Struggling with stress or painful emotions that might lead to self-medication;
- Reacting in a defensive way when any changes in attitude or behavior are brought up.
The Journal of Biology and Medicine also gives some signs and stages of relapse to look out for, plus how to prevent them. If you notice your family member slipping into old habits, work to reinforce the following:
- Foster a life that supports recovery and make necessary lifestyle changes;
- Promote complete honesty;
- Encourage reaching out for help;
- Engage in self-care practices;
- Don’t adjust the rules and standards that have been set.
Being on guard against relapse is one of the best ways you can support your family in a difficult time.
Join a Support Group
Encouraging a family member through treatment for substance use can feel like a full-time job. It’s critical that you get the support you need so you can be there for your family, which you can easily access through addiction support groups.
Addiction support groups are designed to assist close relatives who are walking alongside someone who struggles with addiction. The emotional weight that families often bear can be healed in these group-based settings. Generally led by peers who have walked in your shoes, you’re sure to find connection and meaning when you partake in these family support circles.
Make Starting Treatment a Priority
If you have a loved one who is struggling with substance use, it’s time to get help. There’s no reason to bear the full burden on your shoulders when you can get the professional and compassionate help that your family deserves. Start today with Rehab After Work.