The 3 Main Challenges Families Encounter Following Addiction Treatment
Addiction is frequently referred to as a family disease because it can severely impact both the user and their friends and family. Once a person has been admitted to treatment, loved ones often become hopeful that the stress, worry, and dysfunction is coming to an end.
Recovery, however, is a long-term process that must be dealt with for life, and family and other loved ones can offer invaluable support to the person in recovery. But unexpected obstacles and hardships can still promote stress among those in the user’s innermost support circle.
The New Normal
Loved ones who participated in family therapy learned that minimizing triggers that contribute to relapse is a useful approach to help recovering addicts to stay clean long-term. For example, ridding bathroom cabinets of unused prescription drugs can prevent diversion and reduce the temptation for the person in recovery to use.
Also, recovering addicts and alcoholics often view parties, celebrations, and holidays in a different light than others. In the past, these are occasions in which heavy substance abuse likely occurred. For this reason, people in early recovery may have to avoid these gatherings unless those attending can rally around the person and shun substance use themselves (or at least keep it on the down-low.)
But this approach is not always straightforward – at some time, resentment among those who would like to partake in substance use may manifest, and they may feel as if they have to unfairly alter their life or “walk on eggshells” around the person in recovery.
Because of this common perception, it is crucial that family members learn how to moderate their expectations – that is, loved ones erroneously believe that since the addict or alcohol has received treatment and is in recovery that they are “cured.” This belief is false.
Moreover, it is critical for loved ones to remain sensitive and understand while the recovering person adjusts to life again without the use of substances.
Dealing with Pressure
Stress is an unavoidable problem in the daily lives of those who are supporting a loved one in recovery – but that goes both ways. People in recovery often feeling like all eyes are on them, and are terrified that even one relapse will bring their much-needed support system crashing down.
On the other hand, family and friends may feel intense pressure to support their loved one at all costs – another source of stress that can permeate throughout a family during this fragile period of transition.
Those in recovery should have learned critical skills such as time management and how to cope with negative thoughts and feelings. It’s vital that they are allowed to use these tools, and that loved ones don’t try to micromanage their emotions.
Conversely, fussing too frequently over a person in recovery who is struggling with a negative mood can hinder their independence and accountability and adversely impact their ability to avoid relapse.
Therefore, both the recovering person and his or her support group must make sacrifices, communicate, and compromise to reduce the stress of all of those involved.
Foster Forgiveness and Remember that the Past is Gone
Most people who have battled addiction will be forced to face displeasing realities during treatment and recovery. Addiction fuels conflict and dysfunction and can destroy essential relationships. There will likely be some loved ones who will find it challenging to accept the person in recovery, sometimes due to the stigma of addiction or because of past transgressions related to substance abuse.
Exposure to these people should be minimized in early recovery because feelings of shame and guilt are likely to arise while in the presence of someone who comes across as judgmental. Negative emotions such as these can quickly lead to relapse, and also undermine the hard work the recovering person has done to overcome feelings of hopelessness and low self-esteem.
Eventually, through all of this, there will come a time when involved parties will have to forgive and let go or move on. Some people’s opinions cannot be changed for some time after treatment, and relationships may take time to heal.
If continually labeled as an addict or alcohol, the person may continue to feel that they are defined by their disease and that they will never be able to obtain redemption of their past decisions. This negative perception of self-worth can undermine the entire recovery process and then everyone, including the person in recovery and also their loved ones, are back to square one.
Addiction is a lifelong disease and families and loved ones should understand that no one is perfect, and healing emotionally and physically can take considerable time.
Those in recovery should never minimize the fact that they have done damage to relationships, and not everyone is going to be on the same timeline in terms of forgiveness. That said, they should also not let this fact interfere with recovery.
Get Help Today
If you or someone you love is abusing substances, please seek treatment as soon as possible. There are many resources available to help you or your loved one.
Please call us today at 888-380-0342 for a free consultation.
~ Nathalee G. Serrels, M.A., Psychology