Being there: How to support a loved one going through drug rehab

Supporting a loved one in rehab can be one of the most important roles you will ever take on. Every individual embarking on the addiction recovery journey faces emotional and psychological challenges, but a steadfast anchor of love and understanding can make all the difference. Providing this support is not always easy, particularly when you may be dealing with the impact your loved one’s addiction has had on yourself. It takes patience, determination and, quite often, forgiveness.

In this article, we will explain how you can be that pivotal pillar of support, ensuring your loved one’s journey through rehab is bolstered by love, empathy and encouragement.

Understanding the rehab process

Educating yourself about the rehab process will not only help you provide better support but will also empower you to manage your own expectations and emotions. UKAT provides all our client’s loved ones with family therapy and education, and some of the key points covered include:

Accepting the complexity

It is important for families to understand that addiction is not just a physical reliance on drugs or alcohol; it is deeply entwined with a person’s emotional and psychological state. This means that detox and rehab are not linear processes; there will be ups and downs, moments of progress and potential setbacks.

Expecting emotional turbulence

Rehab is as much about emotional healing as it is about breaking free from substance dependence. Your loved one may experience a rollercoaster of emotions, from anger to sadness, euphoria to depression. It is important to prepare yourself for this flux and know that it’s a natural part of the healing process.

Being aware of triggers

Triggers are situations, people, places or emotions that may stir cravings in the person undergoing rehab. By understanding these triggers, you can help create a supportive environment post-rehab that minimises their occurrence or impact.

Effective support strategies

Once you have a firm understanding of the rehab process, you can then formulate a plan to support your loved one. Here are some effective strategies that can help make the road to recovery smoother:

Stay in regular communication

While some alcohol and drug treatment centres have restrictions on contact, it is crucial to ensure that you communicate with your loved one as often as allowed. Your words, whether spoken or written, can serve as powerful reminders of their reasons for recovery and the support system waiting for them outside.

Participate in family sessions

As noted above, many alcohol and drug treatment centres, including UKAT, offer family therapy sessions. It is important to participate actively in these sessions as they provide a space for open dialogue, helping families to understand the depth of the addiction and how they can collectively work towards healing.

Be patient and non-judgmental

Your loved one is battling a profound internal struggle, and while there may be times of frustration or confusion, it is essential to approach them with patience and without judgement. This also means recognising their efforts and celebrating small victories, which can provide extra motivation to keep going.

Help create a recovery-conducive environment

If your loved one is returning home post-rehab, ensure that the environment is free from drugs, alcohol and other temptations. Remove any substances that could act as triggers and encourage a healthy, positive living space to make the transition as easy as possible.

Encourage healthy habits

Alongside steering clear of substances, adopting a healthier lifestyle can also aid recovery. Encourage activities like exercise, meditation, reading or offer to try out new hobbies together. These activities will not only keep the mind engaged but also promote overall well-being.

Assist in finding support groups

Post-rehab support groups can be invaluable. They provide a community of individuals who have undergone similar experiences, offering understanding and camaraderie. Assist your loved one in finding a local group and offer to go with them for moral support.

Stay informed about relapse risks

Relapse is a common challenge in the recovery journey, and while it is not a sign of failure, it is still crucial to be vigilant. Unfortunately, it is easy for both the person in recovery and those around them to become complacent when things seem to be going well. Understand the signs of potential relapse and have a plan in place should it occur.


Self-care, boundaries and enabling

Supporting someone in rehab is an act of love, but it’s essential to remember that your well-being is just as crucial. Here are some ways to look after yourself while your loved one is going through recovery treatment:

Prioritise your well-being

Remember the adage, “You can’t pour from an empty cup” and making sure you are in good mental and emotional shape will put you in the best position to help your loved ones. Whenever you get the chance, take some time for yourself, whether it’s through hobbies, exercise, meditation, or just having a well-earned rest.

Establish clear boundaries

While it can be hard to see your loved one suffer, it is equally essential to set clear boundaries. This could mean setting specific times when you’re available to chat or limiting discussions about certain triggering topics. Setting boundaries helps prevent burnout and ensures a healthier relationship going forward.

Avoid enabling

This can be challenging, especially when you want to shield your loved one from pain or discomfort. However, constantly rescuing them or minimising the consequences of their actions can hamper their recovery journey. Sometimes, it is vital to let them face the natural consequences of their actions, as this can be a powerful motivator for change.

Always seek professional guidance

If you’re unsure about the line between support and enabling, seek guidance from the professionals who are looking after your loved one. They can provide advice and suggestions tailored to your specific situation.

Join a support group

You can also join groups like Al-Anon, which are designed for families and friends of those with addictions. These groups provide a safe space to share experiences, gain insights and learn strategies to avoid enabling behaviours.

Acknowledge your emotions

It is natural to feel a range of emotions, from anger to sadness, guilt to hope. Recognising and processing these emotions is crucial to prevent them from overwhelming you. Journaling, therapy, or simply speaking with a trusted friend can all help you navigate your feelings and renew the strength of your support.

The journey ahead

Supporting a loved one through their rehab journey is a testament to the strength of human connection and compassion. The path to recovery from addiction can be tumultuous, filled with moments of hope and despair, but with understanding, patience and consistent support, you can make a significant difference in your loved one’s journey towards sobriety.

We understand that, at times, the weight of this responsibility may seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to struggle alone. UKAT provides comprehensive support for all our clients’ families. We can educate you about addiction and recovery, give you the opportunity to voice your thoughts and feelings and equip you with all the tools you need to be a force for change. If you ever find yourself uncertain or in need of advice, don’t hesitate to contact us.


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