Top 10 Tips on How to Help a Loved One Who is in Treatment?
Tip # 1 : Understanding the Effects of Drug and Alcohol Addictions Have on the Entire Family
Recover Today believes in the addiction disease model and encourages all addicts and their families to learn about addiction as a family disease. Addiction’s disease puts enormous stress on the spouses, parents, children, and other family members of the person abusing drugs and alcohol. Amid active addiction, the home environment becomes painful to endure, reminiscent of psychological warfare or emotional torture rather than home sweet home.
Depending on the extent or length of addiction, the family members of the person in active addiction may experience various behaviors that are commonly associated with substance abuse. These behaviors can range from dishonesty, theft, criminal activity, and multiple days of drug binges.
Having a family member that is in active addiction creates a state of crisis for the whole family. Unfortunately, there is no relief until the person gets and stays sober for an extended period. The relief itself is something that has to be worked for by all members of the family. An individual returning to a healthy lifestyle in some ways can mimic a soldier coming back from combat or captivity. It requires adjustment on every level of consciousness.
Though severe and challenging, the situation is also a common challenge as many people throughout the world share this experience. The network of treatment centers understands the devastation substance abuse addiction has on the entire family and addresses the need for healing for the whole family. While your loved one begins recovering from addiction in a treatment center, you, too, can take steps to help yourself and other family members recover as well.
Tip # 2 : Educating the the Whole Family: Addiction as a Family Disease
Before recovering from the effects of living with someone in active addiction, it is crucial to understand addiction basics. Becoming educated about addiction will help you understand your loved one and how you can help.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, NCADD, explains it this way:
Our ability to cope with anything is a function of how much we know about what we are up against. Although you have been living with alcohol and/or drug problems for some time, getting more information about alcohol and drug addiction is a critical first step.
You cannot rely on common sense or popular myths. Getting the facts about how alcohol and drugs affect the individual, and the family is essential.
Addiction is a disease of the mind, not a moral failing. Your loved one is sick and needs help to overcome the debilitating and vicious symptoms.
The one in treatment is learning how to live a healthier life, and so should you. You can’t combat what you do not understand. There are negative ideas and talking points to avoid and others to encourage. You must understand your role in the relationship and how to proceed best.
Part of your training may include recognizing signs and symptoms of relapse, treatments that work, and relapse triggers. You can help your loved ones by not adding to their stress, not enabling, and not setting expectations too high. The recovery process requires patience, work, and time.
Choose a Drug & Alcohol Treatment Center That Welcomes Families in the Healing Process
Tip # 3 : A Foundation of Knowledge Encourages Constructive Family Therapy Sessions
Quality drug and alcohol treatment centers are well-versed in the family aspect of the disease of addiction. They know that family getting involved is important. Briefly explained, the disease model of addiction implies that the brain changes due to drug and alcohol abuse. The changes affect the structure and hormone regulation. Defined as a chronic, relapsing disease characterized by compulsive triggers for abuse, despite harmful consequences due to the corruption of pleasure pathways in the brain.
Treatment centers that understand the disease model of addiction will offer family therapy to help the group as a whole heal. The family therapy program provides support to the family of the person in an addiction treatment center.
Family therapy works to address and heal from the issues that occurred during and before addiction. Family members will discuss issues directly with their loved ones in treatment and communicate their perspective and set new, healthier boundaries and the penalties for breaking said boundaries.
The NCADD recommends therapy for the family to help relieve raw emotions and promote constructive communication. “Individual therapy for each family member, not just the addict, is important for the mental health of both the addict’s spouse or partner and children, and meeting with a therapist as a family can help improve communication among family members, As well, it will help rebalance the family dynamic and give family members a safe environment to express their anger, fear, and other concerns. Family therapy may also help prevent the children of addicts from succumbing to the disease themselves.”
Tip # 4: Key Dos & Don’ts During the Treatment Process That Promotes Healthy Boundaries
Understanding your role and limits is crucial for everyone in the family. Just as there are positive behaviors you should do, some aspects of treatment are out of your control and need to be understood by all family members.
You can’t make someone quit, do the recovery work for or accept behavior that violates your personal boundaries. You can’t make a person quit who is not ready to stop using themselves. A loved one must want to quit and agree to get help, or there is little chance that he or she will successfully stay sober long.
The person who has become addicted must get sober for him or herself, not for others. Otherwise, the moment the relationship he or she got sober for becomes turbulent, the sobriety tends to end. The person in recovery must do their own recovery work and be self-motivated. A person pushed to do the work is being done a disservice.
Addiction is a deadly disease that is often described as cunning, baffling, and powerful. As it hijacks the brain, people in active addiction may lie and manipulate those around them.
Only the individual who is addicted can do the work to save his or her own life. You cannot babysit someone’s recovery process. The closest distance from which you can participate is arm’s length. Behavior crossing boundaries that threaten your sense of safety or security is unacceptable. Set firm boundaries in active addiction situations but also in early recovery.
The manipulation of people by those in active addiction is a behavioral trait indicative of use. If the person is not using but continues to behave as he or she did while using, this is referred to as a “dry drunk.”
To avoid enabling, you must set firm and unwavering boundaries. If you do not follow through with the set consequences, your word becomes less respected, and you will be viewed as someone who is easily manipulated.
In good conscience, you cannot allow yourself to become manipulated by a person who has become accustomed to using you in one way or another. Stand your ground and do not bend. The person in treatment will understand that you mean what you say and your boundaries are not to be crossed.
This will make your relationship one that is based on mutual respect and far healthier for all involved.
You & Your Family are Not Alone
Tip # 5 : Family Support Groups That Foster Acceptance and Healing- Al-Anon and Nar-Anon
Perhaps the hallmark of all support groups for the family members of someone in addiction is Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. These are 12-step support groups where family members come together to support one another and guide each other through the process of recovery. The family members must recover, essentially, as well as the person suffering from addiction.
Learning how to support a loved one without enabling is not an easy task. If it were simple, there would not be support groups to help facilitate the process. Just about everyone who has lived with someone in active addiction needs as strong a support system and good guidance to heal and better the situation as the person in recovery and work his or her own 12-step program.
These support groups are not lead by a professional but are peer conducted. Members share their experience living with a person in active addiction and recovery and learn through others how to handle difficult situations. It is common for family members to become co-dependent to the point of creating a toxic home environment that is anything but healthy.
By working the 12-steps and peer support, family members can learn new healthier ways of living, which will benefit all in the long run.
Tip # 6 : Focusing on Your Needs to Better Help Your Loved One
Just as it is advised to passengers on a plane first to fit themselves with an oxygen mask then help others, you cannot help someone else if you are not taking care of yourself. This also applies to mental health and interpersonal relationships. If you are not leading by example, your message of healthy living may come across as confusing or preaching.
Considering a Personal Therapist
Another valuable resource to consider using is a personal therapist. Healing from the difficulty of living with someone in addiction is a process and requires a good deal of work and guidance. Your loved one in treatment receives individual therapy, so why not you as well?
Working with a therapist can greatly help the healing process and allow you to make sense of all that has happened; it was traumatic for you too, after all. It wouldn’t be best to neglect your own need for processing and recover from past situations. Your loved one needs a good deal of support, but do not forget that you do as well.
Having a strong support system is key to long lasting recovery.
Your love does not have to feed their addiction. Stick to your boundaries and avoid enabling behavior.
Tip # 7 : The Biggest Down Fall : Enabling Their Behavior Does Not Show That You Love Them
One of the core principles for helping a person recover from addiction is that you must avoid enabling behaviors. Enabling allows or encourages a person to use drugs or alcohol, whether you realize that is what you are doing or not.
Giving your loved one money, allowing him or her to break boundaries, lying, or just manipulating, in general, all helps the person to continue to use and shows him or her that using is okay.
By enabling a person to use, you are enslaving yourself to drugs and alcohol as well. Often, people become accustomed to the dysfunction to such an extent that it truly seems normal. In these situations, you and your loved one must do a lot of work to rediscover what constitutes a healthy lifestyle and family dynamic.
These distorted relationships are called co-dependent. In essence, family members become accustomed to the dysfunction and their role in it. Changing the overall household dynamic is a process and requires participation from all members. It’s hard work, but it will bring your family healing.
This is not an easy task and does not change overnight. One fundamental aspect required is for all members to take care of themselves and take a step back from over-involvement in others’ lives.
Tip # 8 : Developing Healthy Coping Skills Promotes Long Lasting Recovery
Healthy coping skills must be re-learned; others will learn the skills for the first time. While the family was in crisis mode, daily activities such as meals and self-care became less important than dealing with the day’s crisis. Meal planning and healthy eating are often sacrificed, as are exercise, meditation or prayer, and calm, healthy communication experiences.
The chronic panic and quick meals, take-out or fast food, are all signs of people who do not have enough time to appreciate the quality time of others and who do not have the option of prioritizing healthy eating. A great way to show yourself and other family members that the tide of crisis management is being tamed are to initiate regular healthy meals as a family affair. Children and adults can prepare the food and sit down to a calm, positive mealtime experience.
Exercise is important for everyone, especially people who deal with an unusual amount of stress. Regular exercise can help decrease stress, anxiety, depression and boost good, happy, and healthy body processes. Taking time to exercise is also an important part of taking care of yourself, which you should always do to keep yourself healthy despite the circumstances of your loved one. Good communication techniques are vital for a healthy home environment. The ability to express feelings, concerns, and opinions without the fear of a backlash or upset is vital to the growth of everyone in the family.
If you fear speaking up for the possibility of a screaming match, then communication ceases to exist as it should. Tension rises, and everyone retreats to an internal place of fear, hatred, and anxiety. Combating this and learning how to listen and speak up for oneself is a critical tool that everyone in the family must learn if each individual is going to live a happy and healthy life in the future.
The impact of addiction on family members’ lives is far-reaching and debilitating. In just about every aspect, each person must learn how to continue living in such a way to keep themselves healthy, regardless of whether the others are using or not.
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Tip # 9 : Consider the Children: the Transgenerational Theory of Addiction
Addiction is considered a family disease due to its effect on the next generation. The children of active addiction children suffer profoundly and are prone to low self-esteem, feelings of loneliness, guilt, feelings of helplessness, fears of abandonment, and chronic depression.
In many ways, children affected by addiction display many of the same symptoms that the parent or parents in active addiction have. Often enough, the child feels different and less than others.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, teenagers who live with a mother or father with an Alcohol Use Disorder are more likely to have consumed and/or binge drink alcohol within the last month.
Tip # 10 : Breaking the Cycle: Common Behaviors of Children with Addicted Parents
Young children show signs of excessive stress through a wide range of symptoms, including bed-wetting, nightmares, and uncontrolled crying. As children advance in age, he or she may find forming friendships to be difficult and may display signs of anxiety about attending school.
With progressive development in age, such depressive symptoms of hoarding, perfectionism, isolation, shyness, and other aspects of debilitating self-consciousness. Due to the emotional and psychological instability stemming from an unstable and dysfunctional home environment, children in active addiction often have problems in school.
Children may often mimic their parents in terms of having trouble managing time, inability to express themselves, and difficulty establishing relationships with friends and teachers. Due to the added difficulty in school, these children may have an increased probability of having poor academic success.
The inability to focus and study at home, combined with all other concerns, causes an increased risk of failing classes, having to repeat a grade, and eventually dropping out of school altogether. Other behavioral problems may surface, such as lying, fighting, and stealing. These self-defeating behaviors stem from the stress of an unstable home environment and the lack of the steady love, care, and guidance that children need for healthy development. It becomes difficult and sometimes impossible to predict the mood and behavior of their parents, which is the opposite of the order and routine required by children.
Some children react differently to growing up in such a dysfunctional household. Attempts to control their world by overachieving and to overcompensate for the chaos are all too normal. These children may throw themselves into schoolwork. However, they are denied the satisfaction that one would expect with success. The children may be prone to people-pleasing as a remedy for self-hatred, despite constant successes in school and activities.
At some fundamental level, some children feel responsible for a parent’s usage of addictive substances and, therefore, attempt to act a certain way to make them using stop. Children often blame themselves for the state of their families and experience guilt and shame that will be carried into adulthood in one form or another if not properly treated.
Many children of people in active addiction will eventually turn to mood and mind-altering substances themselves to escape the devastating chaos and lack of proper love and support. Many children will start using alcohol and drugs to numb the pain to escape their reality, excess stress, and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
How Do Drug & Alcohol Addictions Affect Children?
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