To support an addict in recovery means that friends, loved ones and family members must come together and develop a plan. Most important to the success is the attitude and support of an addict’s spouse or significant other. The recovery can be a long process and it takes a toll on those who are patiently waiting to see their loved one. Unfortunately, there is no overnight cure. Addiction treatment usually starts with rehab or detox which usually last a few weeks to a few months. It is during this time that the addict is usually separated from friends and loved ones while the toxins are purged from the body. Back at home, friends and family take pause to evaluate the trauma and challenges that finally helped pushed their loved one to agree to addiction treatment. For spouses in particular, this process can be especially painful as feelings of betrayal, remorse and concern emerge. Eventually, the spouse comes to grips with the realization that the recovery process will take longer than a couple of months in rehab. In fact, rehab is usually just the beginning. After, long-term sobriety has a much better chance of success if the addict transitions to regular life by first living in a sober living home. Stays in sober living homes help the addict seek further therapy and counseling to help cope with the underlying causes of addiction. It’s wise for spouses and loved ones to remember that rehab only cleanses the toxins, it does not cleanse the soul. And the soul absolutely needs to be healed in order for sobriety to take hold. Meanwhile, back at home, spouses start to ask themselves tough questions like, “What will my spouse’s demeanor be like after treatment is complete? Will he be able to finally beat the addiction? Will we still be together after treatment?” These are all natural questions and truth be told is that there is no way to predict outcomes when a human of free will is involved. These questions are a bit premature at the outset of addiction treatment. There’s a long way to go before these questions will be answered, largely because rehab is just the first step in recovery.
How to Support an Addict After Rehab
The next step in addiction treatment is sober living housing. Sober living homes can be either in-patient or out-patient. In either case, the recovering addict will often be separated not just by distance (many in recovery choose sober living homes far from home to provide a change of scenery and distraction-free treatment), but by lifestyles. Sober living provides a structured living environment that resembles, in some ways, military boot camp. Residents keep to a schedule, are accountable for chores and shared responsibilities in the household and must attend daily/weekly treatment and therapy. This represents a whole new way of life for residents in recovery, but this part of addiction treatment is vital to the recovery process. A stay in a sober living home typically lasts 4-9 months. As you can imagine, being separated from spouses or other loved ones can be especially hard for those in recovery. It’s only natural for spouses and loved ones to feel detached or powerless during this period, but there are things you can do. For starters, it’s important to remember that the addict in treatment is choosing the sober lifestyle not only for himself, but also to prevent the loss of those closest to him. It’s important then, to show your support at every step of the process. From those desperate calls from rehab, to those “I miss you so much” calls from his sober living home, your loved one is trying very hard to keep alive what’s most important to him – the relationships that mean more to him than addiction.
Fostering the Recovery Process
To support an addict in recovery, it helps to remember that sobriety is much easier when you have buy-in and the love and support from spouses, friends and loved ones. Knowing exactly how to support an addict after they’re completed addiction treatment might be confusing, but here are six things spouses (and loved ones) can do to help encourage recovery:
- Don’t pass judgment – Recovering addicts often feel judged by their families and friends, so you should avoid at all costs doling out any criticism, negativity or ‘I told you so’ attitudes as humanly possible. Don’t do it. Ever. Alternatively, you should be praising his decision and remind him of how proud you are of him and how much you love him.
- Provide a substance-free environment – Studies show that one of the best predictors of long-term recovery is whether or not users live in drug-free environments. If you want to help support an addict in recovery, you need to play a leading role in helping to provide a substance-free environment. What does that mean? If you have a roommate or family member living at your home that is not clean and sober, that individual must go. Period. There’s no other way. There will be no evidence of paraphernalia or substances in the home when your recovering addict comes home.
- Be a good listener – Sometimes, people just need to vent. Listen with both ears. Mothers of recovering addicts are often insensitive to this concept and might be tempted to lecture or interrupt. Refrain from that urge. Let the addict speak. In many cases, the addict has decades of pent up topics to discuss. The best way to support an addict during this time is to listen without judgment and without interruption.
- Try new healthy habits – There’s no better opportunity to try new things than after recovery. Day-trips, new hobbies, taking up cooking, camping or road trips can be great new adventures. Such activities are far better options than going back to that fishing spot where he used to get drunk or back to that night club where he abused substances. These activities also serve to strengthen the bonds between those family members
- Suggest joining a support group – In support groups, recovering addicts can interact with other recovering addicts while receiving encouragement.
- Be patient – Recovery is a long and complicated process. People often make mistakes in recovery, so it’s important for them to know that their family and friends still support them when they mess up.
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