If you have a friend or loved one who is attending rehab for the first time, you're probably wondering what will happen when they return from treatment.
How will life be different? How can you help them through the recovery process? We'll explain things you should be expecting from the recovering addict in your life, what to look out for in terms of relapse, and how to understand the process of addiction recovery.
Understanding Addiction Recovery
During the early stages of treatment, an addicted patient is going through detox and coming back to the real world. As the drugs are flushed from the body, it’s only now that the patient is getting a glimpse of how badly his or her life was affected by addiction. This part of recovery will be incredibly difficult as the feelings they've pushed down during their drug abuse will resurface and they'll be forced to deal with this emotional distress straight on, without the comforting safety net of the drugs. A psychological confrontation with the self and the world will be a difficult emotional phase of early recovery, but it's very therapeutic and beneficial to healing. One has to come to terms with the underlying causes of the addiction by facing the deeper parts of the heart and mind.
What Does an Addiction Recovery Program Look Like?
Someone recovering from alcoholism or drug addiction should commit to treatment for a minimum of one year and should participate in active recovery every single day. After the initial treatment phase, which deals primarily with detox and medical recovery, active recovery is about emotional therapy and psychological strength conditioning. The addict should attend support group meetings, take part in either individual or group counseling, and have a relapse prevention plan to follow. Recovering from addiction is a long process of personal therapy that requires a supportive and patient network of friends and loved ones.
How to Help a Loved One in Recovery
A number of difficulties will surely spring up while your loved one works through his or her addiction recovery process. There can be a lot of hurt feelings in the family after a painful encounter with addiction. Family bonds will take time to heal, but in the meantime your loved one needs your emotional support and healthy guidance. Keep in mind that an addict who truly wants to live a sober lifestyle will be transparent with you. He will be honest about what's going on in his life and won't make excuses. Recovering addicts demonstrate more sincerity than while they were using because they are learning to understand the causes and consequences of their addiction and want to live their life with more integrity and honesty. That doesn’t mean there won’t be problems. Sometimes a person enters treatment for reasons that are not there own and might only be half-heartedly going through the motions for the benefit of someone else. Perhaps they had no other choice when they entered a rehab program, and they don't truly care about getting sober. You may notice that their behavior hasn't changed since they got clean. The reason behind this behavior can be rooted in anger, fear, resentment, or a feeling of hopelessness but it ultimately stems from the need to continue working through the addiction in therapy. The addict could still have underlying issues they have not been properly addressed and substance abuse remains the sole means for him/her to cope.
Healing the Wounds of Addiction
If the addict in your family has burned bridges, it could be difficult for many family members to build up trust again. That's okay—this is expected. Stay patient and give them chances to regain your trust by remaining sober. If a relapse should occur, you will be able to tell, and the next step is to return to addiction rehab. You don't have to completely cut a person out of your life if the situation fails to improve. You can however give them an option to return to recovery, and assess the situation once they've attempted sobriety again. Many times it happens once and the addict recovers fully thereafter. Other times, chronic relapses occur and they will fall into their own patterns. If this happens, be sure to stay strong on your promises to yourself and the addict, and don't allow them to take advantage of you. This enabling activity only harms everyone involved, especially the addicted loved one.
Ultimately, the key to dealing with an addict in recovery is to communicate using facts. Don't feel as though you have to walk on eggshells with this person, as they should have nothing to hide if they're truly sober. Don't let the addict lie to you or anyone else in your family, even if this means asking for drug tests or contacting the outpatient program director. Make sure the patient understands what to expect on your end and remain consistent in this regard.