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Helping a Family Member after Substance Abuse Treatment

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

This is part two of our two-part series on helping loved ones with addiction issues. In the first part, we talked about the different ways in which people can influence their afflicted loved ones to seek and accept the help they need. Now we have to talk about supporting your loved one after they have begun treatment.

It is a misconception that once someone has completed addiction treatment they are “cured”. Those ending up in treatment programs generally can never return to being a “casual” user or drinker. There is a saying in 12 step programs “Once a pickle, you’ll never be a cucumber again.” Most successful models of recovery encourage abstinence from alcohol or drugs. Leaving a treatment facility is often where the real recovery begins. Recovery can be a vulnerable, confusing, and awkward time for people maintaining sobriety after treatment. This period requires continued work, care, vulnerability and support.

It’s worth mentioning again— like we did in part one— that the entire family, not just the addict, would benefit from some counseling or attending some support groups. Family members should educate themselves about addiction, including the specific substance use disorder their loved one suffers from. Resources are available in your community that can help teach you about addiction and related behaviors. A couple of well-known community support groups include Al-Anon, Nar-Anon or local agencies like THRIVE here on Long island. Long Island also has amazing support groups including one offered through the Caron Center that meets in Smithtown and Mineola. Certified recovery coaches and companions may also be utilized when in collaboration with a licensed clinician. When attending counseling as a family, many times it is beneficial that the family’s therapist is different from the addicted loved one’s private therapist. This will help make sure the addict retains their independence and continues to get their individual support while addressing difficult family issues.

Families may try to also remain mindful of their own behavior. We encourage the family to be willing to make changes to their lifestyle in order to help keep the addict on track. Families of recovering addicts may choose to refrain from drinking alcohol or engaging in drug use— even if they believe they can do so responsibly. It is not the family’s responsibility to keep the addict sober, yet supporting them on their journey can be very helpful.

Being aware of codependent behaviors that may prevent the recovering addict from experiencing their own growth opportunities is of vital importance. Feeling compelled or even forced to help the addict with something that doesn’t feel right to you, or taking responsibility for the addict’s behaviors, are dangerous forms of codependency that a family member could experience. All of this may only enable an addict to avoid the consequences of their recovery choices.

One important thing to remember – especially in the early days of recovery – is that relapse is often a regular aspect of addiction. Not every recovering individual will relapse, but many will. Relapse does not necessarily mean that the treatment program was unsuccessful. The question will be what will we learn from the relapse and what will they do differently next time. There is an old saying in 12 step programs - Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Working closely with a licensed clinician can help you decide what is best for your family in these cases. When a family faced with an addiction embraces recovery as a unit, the chances for individual recovery improves immensely.

Always remember the three C’s: You can’t Cure it; You didn’t Cause it; You can’t Control it. You can only help steer them in the right direction to getting in control of their own thoughts and behavior. If you have a loved one with addiction issues, talk to a professional at Gooding Wellness Group today.

Submitted by Gordon Gooding, LCSW


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