When a person goes to a rehabilitation (rehab) center, the most important thing for him or her to remember is that recovery is possible. People do get well—and so do their families. After surviving a major crisis, you need a chance to repair family bonds. Family members have waited a long time for the day when the addict receives help and begins recovery. When this day finally comes, families feel a sense of great relief.
After the recovering addict attains sobriety, he or she experiences what is known as a “honeymoon phase.” This time is where all seems well, and the addict and family members have good feelings toward one another. Problems, conflicts, and difficulties are in the past, and everyone looks forward to a bright future. However, as weeks go by, complicated feelings and complex emotions surface. These reactions are common during the recovery process. Family members need to remain engaged during the addict’s recovery.
Problems faced by Family Members
If you are reading this, congratulations on choosing a drug and alcohol-free life. If you are the family member of someone in recovery, congratulations on sticking with your loved one through all the bad times. Each family member handles the adjustment differently. Some have trouble adjusting to the recovery process. Others wish to not speak about it. The first phase of recovery is full of many challenges, and both the family and the recovering addict struggle to re-establish healthy relationships. People in recovery have many struggles regaining a place in the family.
Typical problems faced by many family members include:
- Feeling guilting about not trusting the addict family member.
- Feeling tense and waiting for the person to relapse.
- Feeling self-conscious and awkward toward the recovering addict.
- Fear of saying or doing something wrong.
- Resentment for the addict for requiring attendance to many meetings and counseling appointments.
- Desire to follow the addict around to observe for relapse behaviors.
- Fear of talking about problems and putting feelings out in the open.
Support Groups and Family Counseling
One of the best ways for family members to help someone in recovery is to join a support group at a mental health agency or social service center. Attending these groups help family members learn ways to move in a positive direction. The recovering addict often needs to live away from the family during the early recovery period to establish a sense of independence and responsibility. Support groups help family members feel less isolated and alone in their pain. These groups are often led by recovering family members and include Al-Anon and other twelve step groups.
Family counseling is a wonderful way for family members to reconnect with the recovering addict. These counseling sessions are led by a mental health professional who is an expert in substance abuse and addiction. Many counselors run sessions including multiple families, whereas others provide individual family counseling sessions. In group sessions, family members feel that they get to tell their story and receive much advice and support regarding the experience. Family therapy focuses on sustaining sobriety, improving relationships, and helping family members work on direct communication. The therapist will suggest ways to improve the family unite, such as spending more time away from each other when things are tense and doing things together when everyone is getting along.
Risk for Relapse
During the first year of the recovery process, the recovering addict has the greatest chance of relapse. Family members often feel guilty about lack of trust for this person during this time. Since relapse is a common occurrence, trust takes time. Remaining engaged in the recovering person’s life is imperative for maintaining sobriety. To avoid relapse in the recovering addiction, the family should recognize accomplishments, give the person more responsibility, and offer respect and love.
For coping during the recovery process, family members should ask for help when needed. Family members need to understand that relapse does not mean returning to regular drug and/or alcohol use, but rather a minor mishap along the recovery road. Keeping the recovering addict in treatment is of utmost importance, as is keeping all family members engaged and aware during the recovery process.