If someone you love has chosen to enter drug rehab, you have real reason to hope for a brighter future – for them and for you. Family members and friends often experience a roller coaster of emotions when their loved one enters rehab to recover from drug addiction, and this is entirely normal. In fact, addicts themselves go through quite a range of emotions upon making their decision.

Some family members and friends blame themselves, or wonder what they could have done to prevent someone from developing a full-blown addiction, but there is no point in self-blame. The factors that contribute to drug addiction are too complex to pin on one person, and blaming yourself will not help your loved one get better. The third part of this four-part series on handling a loved one’s addiction will explore  what you can do to help and support someone in rehab.

Educate Yourself on Your Family Member’s Addiction

It is easy to think you know what addiction is like, but unless you have had an addiction yourself, it is hard to imagine. Furthermore, different types of addictions present in different ways and have different risks and prognoses. In other words, every individual’s addiction is unique, and the first step to helping is to understand characteristics of the addiction your loved one is working to overcome. Learning about common symptoms of their particular addiction, the physical and mental health risks, myths about addiction, and how you can identify relapse should it come to that is an important first step to being there in the way needed.

Understand Why Contact with You Is Limited at First

Strict medical privacy rules prevent drug rehab facilities from sharing information about people going through rehab. Many facilities minimize contact with the “outside world” for a period of time at first so that patients can focus solely on detoxing and taking the first often-scary steps toward sobriety. Once your loved one is allowed to contact you, do not take it personally if it takes a while for him or her to do so. The addict may still experience fear and shame, and you can take your cues from your loved one about the best things to talk about to be supportive, whether that is news from home, baseball scores, or some topic or hobby that is important to him or her.

Participate in Family Day if Possible

Drug rehab facilities usually invite family members for a “family day” during the first month of rehabilitation. If at all possible, you should try to attend family day. Not only is your presence alone a supportive action, but you will also learn more about what treatment involves, and specific ways you can help and be supportive.

Although family day is often an emotional experience, bear in mind that ultimately it is about the addict, not you. It is not therapy, but will allow you to express your concerns, ask questions, and learn more about addiction, addiction treatment, and what factors help with success.

Understand the Importance of Family Involvement to Recovery

While the active hard work of recovery must be initiated and carried out by the addict, the importance of family and friends to successful recovery cannot be overstated. By educating yourself and attending family day at the rehab facility, you will come to better understand not only the addiction, but how to avoid enabling behaviors, and how you can heal from the hurt and pain the addiction has caused you. Learning the warning signs of relapse can help you, if not prevent relapse, recognize it as quickly as possible so professional help can be accessed right away.

Evidence from clinical research on substance abuse treatment programs that includes the family shows that it works better than treatment that excludes the family. Family involvement encourages treatment completion, improves family and social functioning, and reduces the chances of relapse.

The effects of drug addiction extend far beyond the addict alone. As a person who loves someone with an addiction, naturally you want to do what you can to help with recovery. One of the first steps to helping is offering your support of his or her decision to get help. Learn more about our admissions, and you can educate yourself on what you and your loved one can expect when making the decision to get help.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.