Having a loved one go through a rehabilitation program for substance abuse can be tough – yet it also offers a unique opportunity for a fresh start.
The rehab process is a challenging and confusing one for everyone involved, especially so for the patient going through treatment. As the family on the sidelines, it is important to serve as a solid support system. Lisa Kaplan, program coordinator of community education at Henry Ford Health’s Maplegrove Center, gives five pieces of advice about how loved ones can ease the post-rehab process and facilitate healing and continued growth:
- Understand the recovery process takes time.
When patients leave a treatment program, Kaplan explains they are usually equipped with an after-care plan created by both the patient and therapist. One of the family’s principle duties is to support this care plan to help ensure continued success. “The addict still has a continuous fight to maintain sobriety, and the family has to understand that,” says Kaplan. “Recovery is a lifelong process.”
- Create a substance-free environment.
This one might seem obvious, but even little triggers can send addicts back down a negative path. Think of a diet: If there are sweet treats all over the house, how long will your diet last? The same concept applies to addicts. Keep alcohol, medicines and other addictive substances out of the house. Be mindful of activities and behaviors – even going out for dinner or spending time in social situations – that might put your loved one in a position where they are tempted to use again.
- Don’t do the work for them.
While it can be tough to see someone you care about struggle with adjusting to new life circumstances once out of rehab, the patient has to take full responsibility of getting better themselves – or they won’t make any lasting progress. “When a patient leaves us, the family has to understand that they cannot do the work for that person,” explains Kaplan. “The patient has to be motivated themselves to stick with the progress they have made while in rehab.”
- Take care of yourself.
It is just as important for the family to be healthy – both mentally and physically – as it is for the patient in recovery. Family members should take care of themselves through a balanced diet, exercise and sleep so that they are in a stable position to support their loved one in recovery, as well as each other. “There is a lot of stress involved with the family and the addict, during this process, so it is important to develop and use healthy coping skills,” emphasizes Kaplan. Support groups provide education and help the family build a network with others who can offer advice and who are going through a similar situation.
- Get educated.
The more knowledgeable you can become on addiction and recovery issues before your loved one comes out of rehab – as well as after – the better, says Kaplan. As a family, managing expectations is part of the post-rehabilitation process. Seek out support groups, classes and information. For example, Maplegrove Center offers free skill building classes and family support groups for family members to learn how to positively adjust to the challenges of living with an adult who has substance abuse issues.
The road to recovery is long and often stressful. A solid support network for the recovering patient and the family is crucial to lasting sobriety.
“Family members need to remember they can be a very important part of their loved one’s success if they handle things the right way,” says Kaplan. “Or they could be a significant part of their failure.”
Lisa Kaplan, LMSW, is the Program Coordinator of Maplegrove Community Education for Henry Ford Health. Maplegrove Center is located in West Bloomfield, Michigan.