When we think of drug and alcohol addictions, our minds often immediately zero in on the physical damage done to our bodies throughout the course of the addiction cycle. Just as important, however, is the damage done to the families and loved ones of people who have gone through addiction.
Making it through rehab is a huge accomplishment, but it really is just the beginning of a more protracted journey toward recovery. That journey involves making things right with those you may have wronged.
In the throes of addiction, you likely underwent many profound personality changes. These changes may have negatively affected your ability to properly manage your family relationships, marriages or even friendships. Throughout your addiction cycle, you may have become totally unrecognizable to these important people. Everyone feels it. You may think that these relationships are virtually beyond repair, but that’s just not true. Once the dust settles after going through rehab, you can start reconnecting with family and rebuilding relationships after addiction.
If you have found yourself in this situation, just know that you aren’t alone. Data collected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) reveal that in 2009, more than 23 million people in the US older than 12 years old were in need of treatment program for their substance abuse issues. Of that number, just 11% actually went on to receive that treatment.
SAMSHA also reports that in 2008, there were almost 2 million total admissions to rehab. Of those admissions, about 41% were associated with alcohol abuse, followed by heroin and other opiates (20%) and marijuana (17%). Broken down by demographic, 60% of people admitted to treatment facilities that year were white, while 21% were African American and 14% were of Hispanic or Latino heritage. The remaining 3.3% of people admitted were American Indian, Alaska Native or Asian/Pacific Islander.
Leaving a rehabilitation program is just the first step on the road to recovery, and repairing relationships and reconnecting afterwards is a very important part of your strategy for maintaining sobriety. Doing so can help you create a life worth living following your addiction. It’s not easy, and many people say that this stage of recovery is actually harder than withdrawing from the drugs or alcohol themselves, but you are absolutely capable.
Recovery is not just a matter of healing for the individual struggling with addiction. The family must also acknowledge their pain and challenges, and seek help for themselves. Unsurprisingly, this can be difficult at times, especially if there are others struggling with addiction in the family or loved ones who have become enablers.
Addiction affects everyone in an addict’s life. Everybody experiences the pain and dysfunction of addiction, which is why it’s known as a “family disease.”
Table of Contents
- Strategize and Repair Your Relationships After Rehab
- Understand the Different Types of Family Therapy for Substance Abuse
- Know-How to Reconnect With an Addicted Loved One
- Don’t Go About Reconnecting and Repairing Relationships Alone
Strategize and Repair Your Relationships After Rehab
The nature of the strategies for rebuilding relationships post-rehab depends largely on the type of relationship that needs repairing. Oftentimes, people must repair relationships with family members, spouses, friends, and even their own children.
No matter what relationship you’re trying to repair, however, a few commonalities exist:
Rebuild Trust With the Important People in Your Life
One of the most important aspects of any relationship, regardless of whether or not addiction is a factor, is trust. The unfortunate reality is that breaking someone’s trust is much easier to do than restoring it. To repair family relationships after rehab, you have to be prepared to put in the time to maintain the trust you’ve rebuilt.
Try to think back to how many promises you were unable to keep during your time as an addict. How often did you not show up to a place or event that you said you would? How many times did you tell someone you’d do a favor for them and not actually end up doing it? You have to try your best to understand how these sorts of disappointments can wear on people’s spirits and patience.
To start rebuilding trust, you should immediately start making and keeping promises — no matter how small. Offer to help clean around the house, and then actually do it. Offer to run small errands, like grocery shopping or going to the car wash, and then follow through. Keeping small promises and building up to larger ones can help rebuild your reputation as a trustworthy and dependable person.
Beyond actions, you can also demonstrate your commitment to rebuilding trust by being open and communicating freely about your feelings concerning your recovery and your relationships. Withholding this information may leave room for your loved ones to doubt your intentions about rebuilding trust. This is especially important in romantic relationships, where broken trust may be more difficult to fix.
Be Ready for People to Remain Angry With You
After rehab, as you come to terms with your addiction, you’ll realize that you’re unable to control other people’s feelings and emotions with respect to your experience. They did not have the same healing opportunity as you did in rehab — they continued living their same lives as you were going through the early stages of your recovery. Just as you had time to process things, they too will need time. Nothing has changed for them. If you’re persistent with your efforts to make amends with people, time may be able to heal the wounds endured on both sides.
If you have anyone still standing by your side after your addiction and going through rehab, you’re one of the lucky ones. You should not expect an immediate change in attitude or perception from your loved ones. They may meet your efforts with hesitation or resistance, but you should stay hopeful that they will eventually come around with open arms.
You also need to know that you can’t salvage every relationship after addiction. The damage may be too extensive, and your loved ones may decide that they are emotionally safer without you in their lives. Accepting this reality can be hard, but you should do your best to not let it discourage you. The most important task you have at hand is staying focused on your path toward recovery and maintaining sobriety.
Attend Support Meetings Regularly
The people in your life will almost assuredly want to see proof that you’re helping yourself through your own recovery. One way to ensure they know how serious you are is to attend meetings and connect with other people going through the same sorts of struggles. Getting support and advice from others can really go a long way toward keep you on track.
The first days and months following treatment are, unfortunately, the times in which you are most likely to relapse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that relapse rates for people addicted the drugs falls somewhere between 40% and 60%, compared with 30 to 50% of patients with type 1 diabetes and 50-70% of patients with asthma. Relapse rates for people struggling with addiction are akin to those of people suffering from chronic illnesses.
Recovery is a lifelong process, and meetings can help keep you connected with your revitalization. This can reassure your family, friends and loved ones that you’re committed to your sobriety. Before reaching out to loved ones in order to broach the subject of recovering and reconnecting, you should first make sure you’re totally ready. Getting your personal life in order should be the priority — there’s no need to rush yourself or anyone else through the rebuilding process.
Consider the Suffering of Others
When you’re ready to repair family relationships after rehab, take a step back and put yourself in their shoes. You’re not the only victim to your addiction, and in many cases, your family or loved ones may have been affected directly by your actions.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 30% of all crimes committed between 1998 and 2002 occurred when the offender was abusing either drugs of alcohol. When controlling for crimes against family, the percentage jumps to 39% — and it jumps above 40% when controlling for crimes committed against spouses.
If you’re a parent, the effects of your addiction on your family have entirely different elements. In the US, more than 8 million children live in a household with at least one addicted parent. 14% of these children are younger than two years old, while 12% fall between six and 11 years old and 10% between 12 and 17 years old.
The toll of child neglect and abuse associated with substance dependence can manifest in several ways:
- Mental health and developmental issues.
- Having to be placed into foster care.
- Children in these situations are more likely to develop substance abuse issues of their own down the road.
- Living in an unstable environment can cause children to miss school, their own social lives and having their basic needs like food and shelter covered.
If your relationship with your children suffered greatly during your addiction cycle, one of the best ways to repair the damage is to be a more active participant in their lives. This can take the form of learning more about their interests and hobbies or helping them out with schoolwork. Be intentional with your actions and let them know how much you care about them and want to be a part of their lives.
Understand the Different Types of Family Therapy for Substance Abuse
Family therapy — whether it’s with your own parents, your children or your siblings — can take the form of a few different types of interventions. If your loved one is in recovery and you know relationships need to be rebuilt, consider pursuing one of these avenues:
Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT)
Multidimensional family therapy (MDFT) is best suited for adolescents and includes both family and individual sessions. Sessions typically occur in a home, community or office setting.
One of the main goals of MDFT is to explore active parenting styles and to help develop the tools to positively impact substance abuse patterns. Individual sessions focus on improving problem-solving skills, communication and decision-making skills.
Family Behavior Therapy (FBT)
Family behavior therapy (FBT) has proven to be effective in both adults and teenagers. Beyond substance abuse issues, FBT also focuses on addressing mental health issues, such as depression or defiance, family issues, financial issues or family problems that often accompany addiction.
Treatment in FBT focuses on developing skills to improve the quality of home life and creating achievable goals to end substance use, while providing rewards for meeting these objectives.
Community and Family Approach (CRA)
The community and family approach (CRA) to substance abuse therapy extends to the community. Individuals attend CRA sessions once or twice each week where they learn to develop communication skills within their own families. They then use these skills to build wider support systems within the community. The family unit is key in helping the individual to identify and change their substance abuse patterns.
Benefits of Family Therapy After Rehab
Importantly, a treatment plan can incorporate family therapy along with other types of therapy, including:
- Individual therapy.
- Group therapy.
- Residential rehabilitation programs.
- Medication management programs.
There are several very important benefits to consider with respect to family therapy after rehab:
- Family therapy can help the recovering addict develop an awareness of their needs and behaviors.
- Family therapy can help the entire family unit improve and rebuild their mental and physical state following addiction.
- Through family therapy, family members have an opportunity to learn and develop self-care interventions to help them improve their own well-being.
- Participating in family therapy with a licensed professional can help all parties develop effective communication styles and improve the quality of all relationships.
- Moderated family therapy can help family members identify, understand and avoid enabling behaviors.
- Family therapy can help everyone involved address any codependent behaviors that could be working to prevent sustainable recovery.
- Family therapy can help provide family members with the tools and expertise needed to help support and deter future substance abuse.
Although the risk is relatively low, there are, unfortunately, some risks associated with family therapy and reconnecting with loved ones after rehab:
- Someone in the family may feel attacked or unduly criticized during the therapy session.
- Family therapy could unintentionally instigate further anger or violence toward one of the family members.
- Family therapy could potentially cause enough stress that the user relapses and continues or increases substance abuse.
Know How to Reconnect With an Addicted Loved One
When someone abuses drugs and in the process causes harm to others, both parties are tasked with things to do. If you’re the loved one of a recovering addict, it’s important to know that you need to make an effort to improve your life and health, as well. You too have suffered. You may need help rebuilding your own life as they rebuild theirs. Forgiveness on your part can be as hard as the recovery itself.
If you want to forgive, there are a few steps you can take to support your own efforts:
- Get help — You and your loved one may need a mediator to get through the hardest parts of the reconnecting and relationship restoration process.
- Forgive but don’t forget — Remember the suffering you’ve gone through. Forgiving does not necessarily involve forgetting.
- Choose to forgive — Forgiving is not something you have to do under any circumstances. If you forgive, you must do so freely.
- Take your time — Let the process of forgiveness take as long as you need it to. You have to stay true to yourself throughout the entire forgiveness process. Be honest with yourself and your loved one about how you’re feeling.
- Don’t point fingers — Try to avoid assigning blame and shaming others. It’s about moving forward, not looking backwards.
- Everyone makes mistakes — Understand that the person who hurt you is also human. Forgiving your loved one may be easier if you can keep this fact in mind.
- Stay strong — During the course of your loved one’s addiction, the power balance in your relationship may have become unfavorably skewed one way or the other. Try and restore equilibrium as much as possible.
Meanwhile, the following mistakes may undermine your ability to forgive your loved one long-term:
- Doing it alone — If you try to navigate the complicated roads of forgiveness after addiction by yourself, it’s unlikely that you’ll successfully move forward.
- Having fear — There’s no need to be afraid of the forgiveness process. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, it’s because both you and your loved one are committed to recovering and improving the relationship.
- Denying the pain — Your loved one hurt you during their time as an addict. Burying those feelings can undermine your efforts to forgive in the long-term.
- Manage your expectations — Just because you forgive someone does not mean things will go back to the way they were prior to the addiction. There will be a new reality, and you need to be prepared to accept this.
- Forgiving too early — Forgiveness is a process, and saying that you’ve fully gone through the stages before you’re ready is harmful for both you and your loved one.
- Ask yourself what you “did” — Just because your loved one treated you poorly does not mean you did something to deserve it. Remember that they were acting under the influence of something that made them totally unreasonable and unsympathetic. Don’t ask unanswerable questions — it’s not productive.
Don’t Go About Reconnecting and Repairing Relationships Alone
Though it can be extremely difficult, reconnecting with your family and loved ones is a crucial strategy to ensure that you can maintain sobriety. You don’t have to go through this process alone, and most counselors recommend that the first contact between all the parties happens in a neutral setting. This is especially true if family dynamics were a causal factor in the addiction cycle to begin with.
If any of the following scenarios apply to you, family counseling might be the right choice:
- There is a cycle of addiction within the family that seems to repeat itself.
- Someone in the family is, knowingly or unknowingly, acting as an enabler for your drug habit.
- There are deep-rooted emotional struggles in your family that no one ever addresses or talks about.
- Addiction has torn your family apart.
- You have tried treatment before but returned to your addictive behavior after reuniting with your family.
Tranquil Shores has therapists that are highly skilled at dealing with individuals going through recovery, including their secondary challenges. Compared to most treatment centers that focus solely on addiction recovery, Tranquil Shores offers other treatments and services based on individual needs. This makes us unique and gives an advantage to those who entrust us with their treatment.
Our aftercare services, continued counseling, support groups, and transitional living programs bring an extra level of accountability to your recovery that can work to prevent you from falling back into your old habits. Tranquil Shores is a safe space for you to connect with your loved ones, as well as with other recovering addicts.
Rebuilding relationships with your family, friends, and other loved ones can help give you the confidence to follow through with aftercare successfully. The basic steps of aftercare include:
- Continual care therapy
- Learning about and understanding your triggers
- Acquiring the tools necessary to cope with stress and cravings
- Preventing relapse
Upon leaving a rehabilitation program, you may have a sense of isolation. This is a time when some addicts relapse. By utilizing Tranquil Shores’s drug rehab which is located on Madeira Beach or by applying for our alcohol rehabilitation program, you can expect to receive support throughout recovery.
If you’re ready to begin reconnecting with family after rehab, contact us today to discuss your options and develop a sustainable plan to help you recover and rebuild your life alongside the people you love the most.