Supporting a family member during substance-abuse treatment is a heartbreaking, hopeful, frustrating, worrisome, and encouraging process all at once. The road to recovery, like any big life change, comes with a lot of highs and lows, and it’s hard to know what to do as a bystander. Here are our top three best practices for helping a family member during their substance-abuse treatment:
1. Remember that they are an adult—they will be OK
Being concerned about a family member as they’re going through treatment is a normal response. It’s fine to care about them, offer support, and hope for the best. But you should also remember that your family member taking control of the situation and going to treatment is a huge step forward in a better, healthier direction—and that they will be in the hands of professionals who deal with substance-abuse treatment everyday. They will be OK.
It’s not just about your mental well-being—your confidence in them is key to their recovery, and your worry could be a distraction from treatment. Aside from keeping you less anxious and worried, remember that if you express worry about your family member, it’ll likely go both ways, and they’ll worry about you as well. Your anxiety could very well become their anxiety. Treatment is their time to focus on themselves, and worrying about your anxiety could distract and ultimately derail their path to recovery.
Plus, the opposite is also true: Your confidence in them will help them to have confidence in themselves and their ability to thrive in treatment. If you’re outwardly worried or anxious about them, they might lose confidence in themselves, which can have a big impact on their performance in treatment.
2. Start practicing healthy boundaries
Boundaries are a key consideration both in life during treatment and afterward. They set the precedent for how your family member re-learns to interact with people and the world; so it’s important that you treat them they way you would anyone who’s not going through recovery. For example, don’t give them money or feel like you need to reward them for going to treatment.
Of course, it’s important to give love and support, but don’t give preferential treatment or treat them any differently than you would if they weren’t recovering from substance abuse. Healthy boundaries will help your loved one to settle into everyday life sober, without any special treatment. They’re already adjusting to a lot. And having healthy boundaries will help shape their new post-treatment worldview, habits, and skills, and help set expectations for how sober living will be now and in the future.
3. Encourage sober-living after-treatment rather than coming straight home
It’s common to think that the best thing for a loved one is familiarity, family, and home, but that’s actually rarely the case. Remember that your family member is adjusting to a lot of changes already, and going back to an old, familiar environment can be a trigger to re-start old habits.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, in most cases, the longer they’re away, the better. Going to a sober-living after-treatment means more time with experts who know exactly how to help them, and more time to adjust to sober living—developing new habits, learning new skills, forming new relationships, and more—without the distractions of returning to a familiar environment.
If you have any questions or want to get started on the path to sobriety, please call us at Center For Healing 888-500-9279.
Erica Franco Mortimer, MA, LPC, LCADC
Founder and CEO
Center for Healing
Erica is a licensed therapist with over twenty-years experience in mental health. Erica offers practical and straight forward advice to those struggling with addiction and their families. Having deep insight and understanding of addiction, Erica is able to offer guidance to those looking to regain control of their lives.