It is often a great relief when someone in your family who is living with an active addiction makes the choice to go to detox and get professional help.
The lack of chaos caused by all the turmoil surrounding drug dependence gives you the space to begin to heal after living with someone else’s addiction and to make plans for your life going forward.
Here are 10 things you can do to get the most benefit of the time that your loved one is gone and prepare for his return home:
10 Things You Can Do to Get the Most Benefit
- Take a deep breath. You’ve been through a lot. No one knows better than you the amount of time you have spent worrying, the financial cost of the person’s continued addiction, and the energy that you have expended to help your loved one – time, money, and effort that was not available for yourself or anyone else in your family. Professional detox programs only last a short time, but the best way to get the most out of this period is to start by just taking a breath.
- See a therapist. Because you’ve been through a great deal of mental and psychological anguish, if not physical abuse and hardship, you will need to begin the recovery process with professional treatment just like your addicted loved one is. Talking to a personal therapist who has experience in substance abuse and treatment as well as its impact on the family is essential. It provides you with a forum to vent your frustration and fears, make positive plans for the future, and learn from your mistakes while getting support as you go through the process of supporting your addicted loved one in recovery.
- Connect with family support groups. There are a number of support groups, 12-step-based and others, that are just for family members of addicted people. They can help you to objectively define “normal” in the context of addiction and recovery, help you learn the lessons that they learned with their addicted loved ones without making the same mistakes, and give you a place to share your concerns and get guidance for your specific situation. The community you build can be a huge support when your loved one returns home.
- Go to therapy with your addicted loved one. Depending upon the type of detox program your addicted family member chooses, you may have the opportunity to take part in therapy sessions with her. If this is the case, take that opportunity. This will allow you to learn more about where your loved one is in terms of her views and perspective of the future with you, her own recovery, and the communication and coping skills she’s learning.
- Reconnect with others in the family. While you were attending to your loved one’s addiction issues, you were paying less attention to the other people in your family. If it was a child’s addiction, then your other children and your spouse likely suffered. If it was your spouse’s addiction, then your children will need extra attention and help in understanding what is happening as well as assistance in preparing for your spouse’s return. Additionally, they will need your undivided attention on their schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and other interests so they know that they are important to you.
- Learn more about his recovery plan. If detox is too short for you to take part in therapy or that is not an option at the detox program, speak to your addicted loved one’s case manager or whoever is in charge of his treatment plan. Learn everything you can about what your loved one is dealing with in detox and what his plans are for when he leaves detox so you can prepare yourself and plan accordingly.
- Create boundaries for your addicted loved one. It’s likely that during your loved one’s active addiction, you slowly found yourself letting go of certain things that were important to you. In recovery, it’s time to go back to getting your needs met without harmful compromise. To do that, you will need to reset the boundaries you have with your addicted family member and prepare yourself to hold firm should she attempt to cross those boundaries.
- Create boundaries for yourself. Similarly, you may have crossed some boundaries in terms of respecting your addicted loved one’s privacy, how you talked about him in public, or the tone you took when you spoke to him that you never would have if you were not at your limit due to stress. You may have also engaged in some enabling behaviors that essentially mitigated the consequences of his addiction by covering for him or fixing his mistakes. Without addiction in the picture, it’s time to create a positive shift in this area and no longer attempt to control your loved one’s choices or create certain outcomes for him. Your life is your own, your addicted loved one’s life is his own, and while you can be supportive, you have no control over whether or not he stays clean and sober for the long-term.
- Protect yourself financially. Addicts living in addiction steal to buy drugs and alcohol. They spend money on things that no one needs – and if they have access to it, they’ll spend your money on things that they feel entitled to and then get mad at you when you confront them about it. Even though your loved one will be drug-free when she returns home, and both of you are hoping that she stays that way forever, protect yourself and your finances by making sure that she doesn’t have access to your credit cards, ATM cards, cash, investments, or any high-dollar items until she is well established in recovery.
- Invest in yourself. It’s great that your addicted loved one is getting the medical and psychotherapeutic care he needs to stop using drugs and remain sober. You, too, need to invest in your health and wellness by getting checkups as needed, taking time for yourself, and getting good nutrition and regular exercise as well as any treatment for ongoing disorders that is needed.