If you’ve helped an addicted loved one into treatment you’ve already done them a potentially life-saving service, but treatment isn’t a “cure”—the patient will always have to work on his/her drug or alcohol recovery. It’s not an easy process, and it’s difficult to know how to live with someone going through it.
Seeing a loved one become addicted is like seeing them become an entirely different person. All the things that made them who they are fall away and are replaced by drugs or alcohol. They lose control of their lives and hurt the people around them. Seeing them come back from treatment sober can be a gift beyond price—but what comes next? Should you treat them as if the addiction never happened? How much stress is OK to feel about living with them? The key to understanding the answers comes with education.
As a family member or loved one of an addict, it’s important to know that treatment isn’t finished when rehab ends. Aftercare meetings are an invaluable asset for preventing a devastating relapse. As the addict’s primary support system, it’s up to you to ensure that they are attending their meetings, even if they feel the meetings are no longer necessary.
Beyond that, it’s important to be positively involved in your family member or loved one’s life. The first few months sober outside of a treatment facility provides a minefield of temptations, and positive engagement can be extremely helpful. An alcoholic or addict left to themselves by a timid family can get wrapped up in their own head and stress themselves out to the point where they reach for their old crutch. Make plans for new, exciting sober activities to keep them entertained and aware that you are ready to be a major part of their life. This also keeps you in close contact with the recovering addict so you can see if they seem to be at high risk of relapse. It might be easier to walk on eggshells around them, be patronizing, or simply be too scared to interact with them, but it’s your responsibility as the recovering addict’s support system to be there for them.
Even if your interactions with your family member or loved one are as ideal as possible, you may have to deal with them slipping into relapse. A sober person’s natural reaction to this is frustration, anger, and disappointment—but these are poisonous feelings when you’re providing support for a recovering addict. Addiction is a vicious, tenacious disease that doesn’t just go away. Cravings will always be a reality and it only takes one moment of weakness for relapse to happen. It doesn’t mean the addict has given up, is betraying you, or that treatment was pointless. All it means is that they failed once and need treatment as soon as possible to make sure that failure is short lived. When living with a recovering addict, it’s essential to be prepared for this unpleasant possibility, and be ready to continue supporting their recovery 100%.
If it sounds like living with an addict takes a lot of effort, that’s because it does. Don’t worry if it takes a toll on you. That’s natural. It’s a good idea to make time for yourself to avoid burning out. If you’re too stressed to deal with supporting your addicted loved one, you’re not doing anyone any favors. Support groups like Alanon or Alateen specifically offer an outlet for people living with the particular stress that comes with caring for a recovering alcoholic/addict.
Living with a loved one that is going through drug or alcohol recovery isn’t easy, but it’s important to remember that it’s hard for them, too. Your loved one has to deal with a constant threat of relapse that could easily undo everything they’ve worked for and accomplished, or end their life. Sure, supporting them is hard, but it’s the right thing to do.
The Ridge is a highly-accredited and certified facility that treats addiction during every step of recovery, with intervention resources to aftercare services.