Getting sober can be the hardest thing your loved one will ever do. It’s common for family members to just want their loved one “fixed”, but it’s not that simple. Even if you’re not the one dependent on a substance, addiction is a family problem.
Without knowing it, you have adjusted your life based on your loved one’s addiction, and it’s important for you to be a support system during their recovery.
It can be tough to navigate through complicated emotions, feelings of resentment and even fear of being an enabler. In this post, we’ll explain the unique benefits of family support during treatment, how to be supportive from a distance and where to find support for yourself.
Why Family Members Should Participate In Treatment
Most family members see the individual as the one with “the problem”, but can’t see how the addiction has affected them as well. The complexities of addiction are hard for the majority of people to understand, especially since there’s still a societal judgement about the disease.
However, family members could benefit from education about addiction and improving life skills such as:
- Setting healthy boundaries
- Effective communication
- Rebuilding relationships
- Goal setting
Family members are encouraged to participate in treatment alongside their loved one, but many are resistant. Often, there are negative feelings, resentment or anger toward the addicted loved one that’s hard for the family member to resolve on their own.
If you have a loved one who’s an addict, it’s likely that you’ve been hurt, lied to, or stolen from. It’s important to work on resolving issues related to the addiction if you really want your relationship with your loved one to improve.
Participating in treatment is a great way to become educated on both addiction and recovery. It’s a way to show support for your loved one, and that you have an interest in their recovery and well-being as a whole.
Benefits of Family Support During Medication Assisted Treatment
There are two types of support: primary and social support. Both are equally important. Primary support systems are made up of people who are closest to us. These are the people we can be open and honest with and who knows us better than anyone. We depend on these people to be with us through the good and the bad.
When talking about primary support, we are usually referring to family. Even if the relationship is strained, family is important. Especially during recovery, if an addict doesn’t get that support, it can cause even more emotional pain.
After years of dealing with an addicted person, the way you react to that person has changed. Maybe you start to make excuses for that person, or your expectations are unrealistic.
This is why we encourage counseling for family members. Addiction in the family causes a lot of emotional hurt, pain, and anger. These feelings don’t go away because someone became sober.
It’s difficult to repair the damage done in the relationship if you continue to carry these negative feelings with you. You need to find a resolution, so that you can be at peace with the past and move forward.
Offering Support from a Distance
Just because you live far away does not mean that you can’t be part of your loved one’s primary support system. Technology allows us to communicate easily and effectively with our loved ones, regardless of distance. Use it!
Ask your loved one how their treatment is going, about their treatment program and offer words of encouragement.
One thing that is often forgotten, but means so much to the recovery person, is their sobriety date. Do you know your loved one’s sobriety date? That is the day their life changed! It’s very important to them and should be important to you as well.
Congratulate your loved one when they hit a milestone or anniversary date. Recognize when they celebrate 30 days without using. Trust us, it was probably the longest 30 days of their life!
You also show support by educating yourself in medication assisted treatment, the recovery process, and addiction itself. While you can only understand so much, your effort communicates with your loved one that they’re not alone.
Where Do Family Members Find Support?
We encourage family members to attend support groups themselves. Families Anonymous and Al-Anon are two well-known support groups for families. The structure of the groups is similar to that of AA, NA and MARA, in that, there is no membership fee, registration, and you can share as little or as much as you would like.
These groups are safe spaces where you can meet people that understand what you, as a family member, are experiencing. They can share with you how they got through it and healed.
If an anonymous support group doesn’t feel right for you, individual counseling is also a great place to work on the wounds that addiction has caused. Working one on one with a counselor can be a freeing and restorative process without the fear of judgement.
No matter what you decide, don’t give up on your loved one or yourself. You all deserve to be healthy and happy, and with the right support system in place, that can be a reality.