Road to Recovery: Voices of Hope – Helping a Loved One Find Recovery from Addiction

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Rachel K English, MA, LPC, CACIII

Although addiction is a family disease that deeply impacts even the strongest of families, recovery is equally powerful. Recovery transforms families, providing hope and healing that can repair and strengthen even the most broken of family ties.

Too often family members live in constant hurt, fear and desperation as they watch a loved one destroy themselves in their disease. Still, there is hope for family members to help their loved ones reclaim their life through addiction treatment and recovery.

Be proactive in helping your loved one while maintaining the necessary boundaries:

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1. Get Educated

Educating yourself on the complex disease of addiction and understanding your role in the treatment program can increase the odds for a successful recovery. When it comes to understanding addiction, many family members still have dangerously misinformed perceptions and fears about loved ones suffering with substance use disorder (SUD). This can intensify all of the toxic emotions and reactions that addiction causes. Family participation and support is essential during a loved one’s treatment and even more important to sustain long-term recovery. Stigma not only puts up barriers for loved ones to be successful in treatment and recovery, it prevents families from healing and from being successful partners in their own recovery. Seek out expert information and construct a list of reliable resources on addiction, treatment and recovery. Dive into public health studies, community awareness coalitions, policy, news coverage, medical research and personal testimonies.

2. Offer Support

Rather than harming your own mental health with unyielding stress and anxiety, speak up and seek help. Share your concerns with your loved one. Find a treatment center that would be a good fit for him/her and learn about the process and what to expect. Use the information to help make your case for treatment. Most importantly offer your support to help them during and after treatment. The family member may provide excuses and express denial or anger. Be prepared with specific examples of behavior that has resulted from their substance abuse. These conversations may take place several times until the loved one agrees to seek help. Be patient with your support.

3. Show Compassion

Treatment and family support are essential for successful recovery from addiction. Once the disease manifests, powerful negative feelings drive the addiction. These feelings typically include shame, guilt and worthlessness. It is important to understand that when your loved one is living in their addiction, they may have little self-worth. Expressing your love and care for them while also pressing your case for treatment is essential. You do not have to wait for your family member to hit rock bottom. You can intervene now. Either way, they most likely will not seek treatment without your help.

4. Be Engaged

Once your member completes treatment, the recovery process truly begins. Long-term recovery is a lifelong journey for your loved one and the family as a whole. Remain energetic in your support of their recovery plans, which should include continuing care, sober living, a 12 Step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous and related recovery activities.  Taking an active role in the treatment process and creating a nurturing environment for your loved one when they return home can help speed recovery and reduce the risk of relapse.

5. Practice Self Care

Actively engaging in supportive resources and practicing self-care can empower family members to rebuild and renew healthy, loving and supportive relationships with loved ones in recovery. The work loved ones’ put in to achieve and maintain recovery requires hope, support, ongoing engagement and renewal. Family members, for their own well-being, must also be willing to put in the work to help overcome the pain and broken trust that addiction causes. To help ensure the entire family unit receives the care needed to be successful; Valley Hope offers a variety of services for family members at our residential and outpatient treatment facilities.

Supporting Recovery

Even when a loved one finds hope and health, family members can trigger a loved one’s relapse by exhibiting past fears, losing patience with the ongoing treatment, recovery and 12-step process, and even applying an abundance of pressure and suspicion. Moreover, when a loved one is active in their addiction, family members can unknowingly hurt when trying to help. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) recommends avoiding the following common behaviors that can be counterproductive to a loved one’s successful treatment and recovery:

  • Don’t Preach:  Do not lecture, threaten, bribe, preach or moralize.
  • Don’t Be a Martyr:  Avoid emotional appeals that may only increase feelings of guilt and the compulsion to drink or use other drugs.
  • Don’t Cover: Covering up, lying or making excuses for your loved one enables their behavior.
  • Don’t Make It Easy:  Taking over their responsibilities protects them from the consequences of their behavior.
  • Don’t Argue When Using:  Arguing with the person when they are using alcohol or drugs is not helpful; at that point they can’t have a rational conversation.
  • Don’t Feel Guilty: You are not responsible for their behavior, it’s not your fault.
  • Don’t Join Them:  Don’t try to keep up with them by drinking or using yourself.

A life full of hope and health is possible for you, your family and your loved one. People can and do recover from drug and alcohol addiction with a strong support system, tailored treatment program and smart recovery plan. Checkout the Voices of Hope project at www.recovery-stories.org throughout National Recovery Month in September to explore recovery stories, addiction information and treatment resources.

For more information on addiction, treatment and recovery, please visit valleyhope.org or for help 24/7 call (800) 544-5101

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