Addiction treatment is a time of healing, not just for the addicted person but for the people at home as well.
Taking time to fix some of the damage done is part of the focus for most family members, as is reconnecting with friends and personal interests. The respite from dealing with an addicted loved one’s addiction on a daily basis is much needed – but some time will need to be dedicated to preparing for the person’s return home.
Here’s what you can do to make your loved one’s homecoming easier for everyone.
Ways To Make Homecoming Easier
- Attend family therapy with your addicted family member. While your loved one is in treatment, you can take an active role in learning what he is experiencing and his hopes for the future by attending family therapy sessions with him. Meeting with him in the company of a therapist will allow the two of you to work through some of your past issues while learning how best to proceed as your relationship grows and changes.
- Practice positive communication skills. You may or may not have interest in continuing in an active relationship with the addicted person in her recovery – or you may be on the fence about what is best for you. No matter what your current position on the direction of your relationship, it’s important to learn how to talk about your needs without anger, blaming, or manipulation. You can do this within the context of your family therapy sessions with the assistance of the therapist, but it’s important to continue to practice positive communication skills outside of the therapy room as well.
- Work on anger with your personal therapist. It’s understandable that you may be hurt or angry over some of the events that occurred during your loved one’s active addiction. Stealing, cheating, lying, and aggression – these are all common behaviors when drug and alcohol abuse is an ongoing issue, and they cause pain to the people who love the addicted person most. Your feelings are valid, and working through them should be a priority, but this will best be accomplished by attending personal therapy sessions.
- Talk about your fears for the future. Though addressing your strong feelings of anger or judgment directly with your addicted loved one may not be appropriate, talking about your hopes and fears for the future is an essential conversation for both of you. You both will likely have some ideas about how you would like to see things unfold on a personal level and for your relationship, and it’s important to make sure that you are on the same page and looking in the same direction before he comes home.
- Reach out and connect with others in a similar situation. There are a number of support groups for family members of addicts and alcoholics. These groups can connect you to a range of people who have been where you are or who are currently dealing with someone who is actively using or drinking. You can learn from others’ successes and failures, and share your own experience and provide support in kind.
- Recognize that you cannot make your loved one stay sober. No matter how much you want to guarantee that your loved one will not relapse when she returns home from treatment, you can’t. You can be supportive, you can pray, and you can hope for the best – but at the end of the day, your loved one needs to choose to stay sober on her own. No one else can do it for her.
- Learn about codependent behaviors – and avoid them. Codependency is common among families where addiction is an issue. Over time, the definition of “normal” begins to warp due to the addiction. Emotional manipulation and crossed boundaries may be standard but they cannot continue in a healthy relationship in sobriety. Learning how you can avoid codependent behaviors with your addicted loved one will help him to become strong and independent in recovery and serve you positively as well.
- Protect your family’s finances. Money is very often a trigger for people in early recovery, and money is often tight when someone is struggling with addiction. Though you may want to welcome your loved one back and share the responsibilities of running a household together, giving anyone in recovery access to family accounts, investments, or even just a week’s worth of grocery money may be a dangerous choice.
- Prepare your children. If there are children in your home, they will need help understanding both the addiction and the changes that may occur during treatment. Help them to understand what they can and can’t expect from the person in recovery, and how they can best be loving and supportive but protect themselves emotionally at the same time. Personal therapy for children involved in addiction in any way is recommended.
- Create boundaries. Emotional boundaries around how you want to be treated, boundaries about what is okay and appropriate in terms of behaviors around the house and with children, and expectations in terms of working outside the home and contributing to the household budget or taking part in the care and maintenance of the home – all these things need to be discussed in advance so that both parties can agree on how things will unfold when the recovering person comes home.
It can take time to create a new sense of “normal” in recovery. Nothing about the process of building a new life without drugs and alcohol is magical or will occur overnight. Forgiveness and patience are key, but so too are respecting everyone’s boundaries and making sure that your whole family is continually moving forward and making progress in recovery.