Virtually every American family today has been touched by addiction. While alcohol remains the biggest culprit, the current opioid epidemic has reached a sufficient size that virtually everyone in Dallas knows someone who died from an overdose.
Addiction (more properly called SUD or substance use disorder) is an especially serious disease, not just because of the fatal implications for the individual, but for the effects it has on their family and close friends. This is such a big issue that many drug treatment programs in Dallas often consider household members to be secondary patients.
Even in cases where a family member is estranged, it’s never easy to see them go through the agony of addiction. Family members of individuals with SUD will often go through traumatic experiences with their loved ones which often require psychiatric treatment and counseling.
Having a family member in rehab also usually raises a few questions, including one’s role in their treatment and how much participation should be expected. If you have a family member or close friend in rehab, here are few things you should consider doing.
1.) Leave time for yourself
Rehab allows both the affected individuals to break from harmful day-to-day patterns. This creates a healthy distance from a dysfunctional situation and allows problems to be reframed more constructively. The same is true to an extent for the people the individual is close to.If your family member is in an inpatient rehab program, you may want to reconsider visiting them right away, especially if you lived in the same household. Living with someone with an SUD is usually a traumatic experience and you may want to take some time to rest and consider your mental health.In any case, you may not even be allowed to contact your loved ones immediately after they enter rehab. This is usually done so that they can better focus on their recovery. If this is the case, you shouldn’t feel bad about using this time for yourself.
2.) Try to relax
This may be easier said than done, especially when it’s a child or a spouse undergoing rehab. However, you should know that your loved one is being attended to by trained professionals who are only interested in seeing them get better.
Clinicians at rehab centers often undergo years of training and difficult certification exams just to be allowed to work in their field. They are probably in a much better position to help your loved one recover than you are, by yourself. Also, your loved one needs you to be in a good frame of mind for when you do see each other again, so it’s usually best to try to allow yourself to relax and decompress.
3.) Seek psychiatric help
As mentioned earlier, living with someone who has an SUD can be a traumatizing experience. This trauma can often be serious enough to impair your relationship with your loved one, even after they have recovered. It can also lead to dysfunctional relationships with other people and lead to an overall reduction in your quality of life.
As soon as you have some time away from your loved one, you should consider consulting a psychiatrist or mental health counselor. Not only will it help lay the foundations for an improved relationship after they return from rehab, but it may also allow you to better understand their healing process. This can be helpful if and when you meet your loved one for family therapy sessions later on.
4.) Regularly attend scheduled family therapy/workshops
Today, a wide variety of family-centric therapy or workshop approaches are used for treating recovering individuals. These sessions are often necessary for rebuilding healthier relationships and can help family members address any kinds of negative behaviors that may contribute to substance misuse.
These sessions also let recovering individuals know that they have not been abandoned. Feelings of abandonment can destroy their motivation to continue with treatment, which may already be difficult enough for them during the early recovery. Regularly attending scheduled family therapy sessions is one of the most constructive ways you can help your loved one with their desire to continue rehab.
While it’s ultimately your choice whether or not to attend these sessions, you should understand that individuals with SUD typically have better long-term outcomes when their loved ones regularly attend family therapy. It may be a waste of time to have them go to rehab if family members are unwilling to provide this bare minimum support.
5.) Learn to take things in stride
Recovery is a difficult process. Along the way, you will hear things that you don’t want to hear from your loved one, their clinicians, and even other family members. This should be expected, given that SUD is a very complex condition that often resists initial attempts at treatment. Try to keep an open mind and understand where different people are coming from throughout the process.
As with many other life situations, you have to take care of yourself if you want to take care of others. Nowhere else will this be more true than when you have a loved one with an SUD. Neglecting your own well-being will often result in you being unable to do right by them. If you value your relationship with your loved one, your role in their recovery should also include your responsibility to yourself. Good luck, and be well!