By LYLE R. FRIED, CAP, ICADC, CHC In Family Based Recovery
Posted April 28, 2018
When an individual suffers from addiction, it affects everyone around him: his spouse or partner, children, other family members, and close friends.
It’s painful to see your loved one transformed by substances, and it’s emotionally draining to continue supporting him through lies, broken promises, and repeated relapses.
You may feel that all hope is lost. It’s easy to believe that your loved one will never be restored to the person he was prior to addiction. And it may seem that this cycle of hope and disappointment, the resulting stress and grief, and the constant worrying about your loved one is only hurting you.
But there is hope, and recovery is possible. Here are a few reasons not to give up on someone suffering from addiction, plus tips on how to practice self-care throughout the process.
Relapse Is Often Part of Recovery
First, it’s important to understand that recovery from addiction is an ongoing process, one that often involves relapse.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse(NIDA), relapse rates are between 40 and 60 percent. Setbacks are common, and perhaps even expected. That’s because addiction is a chronic illness, similar to diabetes, asthma, and hypertension, all conditions with similar relapse rates.
Relapse does not signal failure. Instead, it indicates that treatment needs to be reinstated or adjusted, or that alternative treatment should be explored. Successful addiction treatment very often requires continuous evaluation and modification.
Perhaps your loved one needs to attend support group meetings more frequently, or maybe additional therapy or counseling is needed to address underlying issues. If your loved one has only tried outpatient therapy, maybe inpatient would be more successful. You can also consider what triggered your loved one’s relapse. Are there negative influences or stressful situations that must be avoided?
Even if your loved one has relapsed three, four, five, or more times, relapse is not the end of the journey. It’s part of the process.
Recovery Is Possible
Despite experiences you’ve had to the contrary, recovery truly is possible. No one is immune to recovery, and there’s no such thing as a “hopeless case.”
In recent years, numerous advancements in addiction treatment have been made, and experts understand addiction better than ever before. Treatment is more personalized now than in the past. It’s likely that treatment will improve even more in the years ahead.
The longer your loved one can sustain sobriety, the less likely he or she is to relapse. For instance, a survey of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) members found that the relapse rate for people in their first year of recovery was about 75 percent. For individuals who managed to stay sober for over five years, however, this number plummeted to just seven percent.
Once your loved one finds the program that works for him, builds an understanding of his relapse triggers, and buys into a recovery plan, sobriety will become more sustainable. And the longer your loved one stays sober, the less likely relapse becomes.
Family Support Is Essential
You must remember that you did not cause your loved one’s addiction, and you cannot cure or control it either.
However, you can be a vital source of support. Often, feelings like guilt, shame, and loneliness exacerbate substance abuse. Providing love, companionship, and words of encouragement to your loved one does make a difference, even if you don’t see it now. Family members can also provide positive pressure that helps a recovering addict stay clean.
Here are a few simple ways you can help your loved one:
- Invite him along for fun, healthy activities like walking, going to the beach, watching movies, stopping for lunch or coffee, etc.
- Suggest creative pursuits, like music, art, or even journaling. You can even join in on these activities as an added bonus.
- Check on your loved one without judgment. Try to be a source of understanding and support, rather than guilt or disgust.
- Try to attend therapy or support groups if possible. This is not only a show of support—it also helps you learn more about the recovery process.
- Encourage and motivate your loved one. While you should be honest about how the addiction has impacted your life, you can continue to demonstrate unconditional love.
Of course, the line between supportive and enabling behaviors is sometimes thin. While providing love and support, be sure that you aren’t making addiction too comfortable for your loved one. If he never experiences the consequences of addiction, he may not take recovery seriously. Don’t cover for your loved one, provide excessive amounts of money, or threaten consequences that you don’t act on.
Don’t Forget Self-Care
Supporting your loved one is important, but caring for yourself must be your priority. Here are a few ways you can protect your own health as well:
- Seek counseling or therapy of your own.
- Attend Al-Anon or Nar-Anon support group meetings for friends and family members of people suffering from addiction.
- Set and maintain appropriate boundaries. It’s okay to say no.
- Keep a journal, where you can vent your frustrations or worries as needed.
- Prioritize sleep, good nutrition, and exercise. Make time for other friendships and activities that you enjoy too.
- Find fulfilment in work, education, or hobbies.
- Always remember that you are not responsible for your loved one’s recovery. You can’t control it or cure it. All you can do is offer support, motivation, and unconditional love.
Call The Shores Treatment and Recovery to speak with one of our dedicated Family Therapy Counselors at 1-888-249-2590 or click here.