A recovering drug addict will face a number of challenges that can hurt his chances for a successful recovery and push him into a relapse. His family should not add to those challenges, but should instead be a resource for support and encouragement as well as a backstop when all other coping mechanisms fail. Families that want to provide the best support will need to understand the addict’s many roadblocks and the methods that they can use to help the addict get past those roadblocks.
Helping Family Members out of Addiction
Family members may be angry or resentful over the drain on their time and resources that is caused by the addict’s rehab and recovery. That anger and resentment can manifest itself in sarcastic or judgmental comments that are made either directly to the addict or to other family members. Those comments will only hurt the addict’s chances of recovery. A family’s first order of business should be to support and encourage an addict’s recovery attempts, regardless of personal feelings that might lead a family to criticism over encouragement.
An addict or alcoholic is most directly and personally affected by his substance abuse, but addiction is also a family disease. Healing a family will often require family members to attend support group meetings for both the addict and separately for the family. This commitment will be time well spent, as it allows family members to witness the addict’s attempts to regain his sobriety while providing an opportunity for family members to participate in and receive their own support.
Don’t Enable Addiction
One or more family members may have enabled the alcoholic’s or drug addict’s substance abuse by supplying him with the drugs or alcohol he needed to satisfy his cravings. When the addict or alcoholic is in recovery, it is critical for family members to remove all traces of these substances from the family’s home and to do everything in their power to keep the home free from all drugs and alcohol that might tempt the recovering family member. Families can also establish routines that give a recovering addict a sense of comfort and structure. At some point in every addict’s recovery, he or she will feel bored and will be tempted to relapse to bad habits in order to relieve that boredom. Regular routines and structure that provide some sense of stimulation for a recovering addict will alleviate this boredom and its attendant risk of relapse.
Families should not expect an addict to change his or her ways overnight. Addiction recovery is a long process that will have both forward and backward steps. Families need to be patient as a recovering addict draws himself out of his addiction shell and rejoins the family dynamic. This process may take weeks or months, and in some sense an addicted family member will always be in a state of recovery. The family’s challenge is to not be judgmental in any part of this recovery and to refrain from anger or ill will. Part of the addict’s recovery will be to seek forgiveness from his family for his transgressions and for the pain and trouble that he has caused. Families that are able to forgive and move on are providing the best support and encouragement that a recovering addict can hope for.
Drug addiction and alcoholism will try the patience of even the most understanding and accommodating family members. No single family member should be chastised for not providing support for a recovering addict, and to the extent possible, families need to erect a united front to help a recovering addict.
If one of your family members is struggling through addiction or recovery and you need advice on how your family can help that person, please call the counselors and therapists at the Last Resort Recovery Center (near Austin, Texas) at 512-360-3600. We work closely with addicts and their families to develop and implement recovery programs that work for the addict and all members of his or her family.