HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR LOVED ONE IN RECOVERY? 12 STEPS FOR FAMILIES

Why is addiction a family disease?

Addiction affects the family as a whole and each member individually and as living in an unsafe environment filled with disruptions to normal routines, the tension of strained relationships, and dishonesty changes one.

Very family member's life, attitude, and way of thinking are affected perhaps more dramatically than it does for the drinker/user.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT THAT FAMILIES/SIGNIFICANT OTHERS ARE INVOLVED IN THE AFTERCARE?

Family engagement has been stated as a fundamental element of treatment (Etheridge & Hubbard, 2000), noted to predict improved retention in treatment (Liddell, 2004) and can lead to better outcomes (Coppello et al., 2005). Engaged families during the treatment process and in recovery gets a better understanding of addiction. They receive coaching from the therapists and staff on how to best support the treatment plan and support the process of recovery. The family is able to tailor their behaviours in a positive manner that creates a better environment for the service user in treatment and allows for a supportive family structure in aftercare.

A strong clinical relationship with a service user’s family members is needed if the service user is resistant or defiant to treatment. The family also go through the stages of change (Prochaska et al. 1992). Although these stages can be applied to a whole family, not every family member necessarily will be at the same stage at the same time. The therapist needs to address where each family member is, for these factors play an important role in assessment and treatment matching decisions. This can assist the service user as it decreases conflict between the family and the service user. Connection between the loved one and the family to re-establish attachment.

Herewith are 12 STEPS for families to guide the support they provide to their loved one during treatment and eveb after treatment towards a lifelong journey of recovery:

STEP 1: BE PART OF THE HEALING PROCESS

  • Attend family support groups to understand SUD; the impact on the family and know the difference between enabling and support

  • Family/couple therapy sessions with the counsellor

  • Own individual therapy sessions to work through own emotions, experiences and own co-dependency

  • Seek one’s own support group

STEP 2: BE PART OF THE DISCHARGE PLAN

  • The transition from rehab to home is so crucial that people should begin preparing for from day one in treatment. If not, they have a high risk of relapse.

  • Set up a mutual agreed discharge contract looking at practical logistics, aftercare plans, expectations, rules, roles of each family member including dealing with high risk situations and possible future relapses.

  • Remove temptations and drug paraphernalia.

  • Discuss abstinence for whole family.

STEP 3: ADVOCATE FOR TOTAL ABSTINENCE OR MEDICALLY ASSISTED RECOVERY

  • Express your understanding that addiction is a life-long disease.

  • Helping them avoid exposure to others' alcohol and drug use, including staying away from social situations where substance use is common and avoiding substance use with the family.

  • Help them find and participate in sober recreational activities.

  • Support them in developing a social network of sober people who support abstinence.

  • Ensure compliance to any OST programme or other medication prescribed for comorbidity.

STEP 4: HELP BUILD GOOD COPING SKILLS

  • You can help a loved one cope with stress and avoid stress-induced relapses.

  • Listen, talk, and help your loved one process stressful experiences.

  • Help solve practical problems related to stress.

  • Remind them of the coping strategies for dealing with distressing symptoms or cravings.

  • Talk about their feelings and emotions by asking them how they are doing.

  • Don’t take it for granted that they have been clean for a while and a mistake is to stop speaking about it.

STEP 5: REDUCE FAMILY FRICTION AND PROVIDE SOCIAL SUPPORT

  • Develop good communication skills that minimize tension and maximize constructive support.

  • Be flexible and resourceful in the face of problems.

  • Letting one another know how much you care.

  • Spending positive time together that is rewarding for everyone.

  • Don’t dwell on the past or bring up resentments.

  • Don’t smother them but set boundaries from beginning.

STEP 6: ENCOURAGE PARTICIPATION IN PEER SUPPORT GROUPS

  • Going "meeting shopping" with your loved one, attend meetings of several local peer support groups to help find the right one(s) for him or her.

  • Explore online NA meetings and other recovery Apps.

  • Adjusting the family schedule to support regular participation in these meetings

  • Learning about the philosophy of the peer support groups(s) your loved one is joining, so you can support its language and concepts in daily life.

STEP 7: HELP CREATE A SOBER PEER NETWORK

  • Encouraging the person to reconnect with sober friends

  • Directly reconnecting with sober friends you share with your loved one

  • Asking about and discussing ways to meet potential sober friends

STEP 8: KNOW THE SIGNS OF RELAPSE

  • Knowing their early warning signs of relapse.

  • Monitoring them to detect possible warning signs; keeping your eyes open and noticing changes.

  • Developing a family plan in advance, together with the loved one, for responding to the signs of a possible relapse or an actual relapse.

  • Involving other important people (such as treatment providers) in making a relapse prevention plan.

STEP 9: SUPPORT THEIR INVOLVEMENT IN MEANINGFUL, STRUCTURED ACTIVITIES

  • Asking them, "What kinds of activities have meaning for you? What roles would you like to take on in your life?“.

  • Encouraging them to pursue involvement in work, school, or other personally important roles right now -- not waiting until other problems are "solved“.

  • Letting them know that personally important and meaningful goals are achievable, despite the co-occurring disorders and any previous setbacks.

STEP 10: ENCOURAGE HEALTHY HABITS

  • Well balanced diet.

  • Good sleep patterns.

  • Exercising regularly.

  • Reduce tobacco smoking.

  • Limit coffee and energy drinks (caffeine).

  • Headaches to be naturally dealt with.

  • Spending time in nature can also be a great way to help relieve stress and promote mental health.

  • Inform medical doctors, dentists about recovery before being prescribed medication.

STEP 11: KEEP HOPE ALIVE

  • Family members can offer support by firmly believing in their loved one's inherent capacity to get better and create the future life he or she wants.

  • Such hope can be powerful medicine.

  • It can fuel the person's efforts and determination to take control of life and enjoy its rewards.

  • Be optimistic and stay positive.

  • Remind them that each step forward is another step closer to recovery.

STEP 12: YOUR OWN SELF-CARE

  • Ensure that you attend own support group.

  • Continue with your own healing process by attending individual therapy sessions.

  • Practice healthy habits such as balanced diet, exercise and enough sleep.

  • Do what you love such as sport and hobbies.

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