Recovery is a family affair: Tips and strategies to cope with a recovering addict.
If you talk about addiction, you will notice that the spotlight shines mostly on the treatment plan for the recovering addict. And rightfully so. An addict needs to understand and acknowledge every aspect of addiction however families of addicts are often subject to less attention when it comes to recovery.
The crisis of addiction affects loved ones, particularly the family unit, tremendously, and most of the time they don’t get the attention needed to build up the strength to wage war on the battle against addiction and the recovering addict to emerge victorious.
Yes, we agree, it is sounding awfully combative right now – but that is because the fight against addiction is just that, a fight. What is the best way to win a fight? With weapons of course. Therefore we have created a handy list of “weapons” or tips to help families cope with a recovering addict in the family.
Wait just a minute.
Before we rush into giving you all the tips and advice you need to deal with an addict in the family, let’s take a step back and explain to you why addiction is more than just a solo act, it is, in fact, a family matter.
You could have an incredibly close bond with your addict sister, or son or even your incredible mother, it does not matter – addiction has a lasting and devastating effect on the family unit. It is a horrible disease that contaminates and infects everyone, not just the “infected” patient and inevitably everyone including the recovering addict in the blast zone of addiction suffers one way or another.
It is because of that very reason that you should be there when recovery begins. You see, it is not just about taking on and fighting the addiction, but also about closing and healing wounds as a family too. When you are there, supporting them and holding them up, you are adding quite a vital aspect to them in the form of their future commitments to sobriety.
It doesn’t come to a screeching halt the moment your family member opens the doors to rehabilitation by the way. The journey to recovery is just that, a journey, filled with many hills and roads, some which go forward, some go sideways and some which land up in mud. You may find yourself throwing your hands up in despair, wanting to throw it all in and quit, however, when you do feel like that, think of the person you are doing this all for, remember the love and how important they are in your world, and vice versa.
TO paraphrase terribly, Blood is thicker than any addiction!
Okay, now you know WHY family matters during recovery; it is time to know WHAT the family can do to cope with a recovering addict situation.
Tips and strategies to cope with a recovering addict
Knowledge is power
“It’s not happening to us,” and “it’s not really a problem, he can deal with it,” are two common things said which are feeding grounds for addiction. Denying an addiction and refusing to learn about it will let the bacteria of an addiction breed like anything. The first thing you should arm yourself with is education. Learn about the addiction, learn about the rehabilitant, and learn about yourself and how you factor into the equation with all of this.
How does a drug affect the mind and the body? How can I keep my family member healthy after rehab? What are red flags and triggers? All of these and many more questions like these are vital as a family member dealing with addiction. There is no better time than now to remind you of the adage “Knowledge is power.”
You may also find out that while you are educating yourself and your family you will also find a sense of peace and restoration of things that have been broken because of the addiction.
Talk to a pro.
No seriously. This isn’t a case of thinking you can find that address without using a map or GPS guide. The destination is not always clear and you may find it super useful and powerful to seek help from a professional, be it a doctor, counsellor, rehabilitation staff member or recovering addict who has been through the process.
Talking to a professional does not only mean the topic should be about the addiction and the addict. You also need to remember that you are dealing with it too, so perhaps a therapy session to chat, discover and deal with any issues you have is okay too!
Stop attacking the person.
If you are feeling a bit ‘judgy’ about an addict, maybe throwing a snide comment here or there and generally causing the recovering addict to feel guilty or see themselves as one big disappointment, stop it. You think that by throwing all these judgements at someone that it will be good for them, but it won’t. In fact it could do more harm than anything else. When they look in a mirror, your words will be painted onto them, and it is those words they will see when they look at themselves and that could lead them back down a dark road. You need to be there to push them up towards sobriety and clean living, not pull them down.
It’s a long road, not a short sprint.
Sure you may have been the school sprint star in your younger years, and you can whizz through most tests in record time, but this journey for a recovering addict takes time and it will not end quickly, regardless of effort. The idea of never touching a substance again for the rest of your life is not an easy one to imagine, let alone actually commit to – and to train for that takes time.
As a family member of the recovering addict – someone trying to achieve this – it is up to you to remember and remind yourself and other loved ones that it is a long process, one that is hard and at times almost impossible to get through. But you will. And they will. And when it’s all said and done and your family is mended and the disease of addiction is under control you will look back and smile with pride. Set goals and remember to achieve them correctly.
It’s not you so stop thinking it is.
Did you hold the person down every single day and force them to take the substance? Did you tell their brain to choose a drug over a hobby? Or a substance over a sustainable living? No? Then stop thinking you did! It is so easy to manifest this set of ideas in your head that you were somehow responsible for the recovering addict’s addiction. Don’t let that happen. Just as we said in the previous point that judgement is not to be made on the addict, so to must you remember that you are not to judge yourself or point any accusation wielding fingers at yourself. In addiction circles (rehab and recovery) you will hear the following three things over and over again. Best you begin to recite them now and remind yourself and your family of them, often. They are the three C’s, namely. Cause. Control. Cure.
You certainly didn’t cause it.
You sure as hell can’t control it.
You aren’t a doctor so you cannot cure it
In wrapping up this empowering piece, remember the following: You and your family are embedded deeply into the life of the recovering addict if they are family members. Therefore, with addiction recovery, family matters. In many ways. It matters how you look at the situation, how you act in the situation and what you make of the situation. You can see that there are many ways to combat addiction, and your incredible rehabilitation centre will guide the addict through those ways, whatever the substance may be, but while that is happening, you need to make sure that your family is also fighting the disease through education, love, passion and a good, healthy mindset.
In order to find out more about how your family can get involved in the road to recovery, simply contact or call us. Help for you and your family is just around the next bend!
Every Sat at 12.30 – 2 we offer a family support group to family and loved ones of clients who have been through Houghton House.
￼For more information on dealing with drug abuse and getting yourself into rehab to start a new life, call Houghton House now:
office hours: 011 787 9142
24/7 emergency helpline: 079 770 7532
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