When you discover a family member has an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it can turn your world upside down. No one wants to lose a loved one to an overdose or binge drinking, and the fear that this can happen fills families with deep anxiety. The good news is he or she is in treatment, sober, and safe. It’s time to take a deep breath and comfort in knowing you are not alone and that there are things you can do to help your loved one through this daunting time. Here are strategies families can use to help their loved one (and themselves) during the addiction recovery journey.
Encourage Positive Activities
Whether your loved one is in an outpatient treatment center, sober home, or in the post-rehab phase of recovery, make sure to support positive activities that encourage structure, routine, healthy living, and keeping busy. Some ideas include:
- If they take up a fitness program, buy them new workout gear or a membership to a local gym. Some gyms like the Phoenix in Denver, Colorado offers a variety of free workout classes and host outdoor group activities like bike rides and hikes to those in recovery.
- If they want to start eating healthy after rehab, set up a meal delivery service so your loved one can focus on their new life in sobriety. Well + Good offers a detailed breakdown of healthy meal delivery services to choose from, and most plans are affordable.
- If they want to volunteer on a weekly basis, offer to go with them. Helping others can give someone in recovery purpose, structure, and meaning, it can also help them to meet other like-minded people while giving back to the community.
Supporting your loved ones need to develop or re-establish these positive activities will encourage them to stay sober, healthy, and set them up for success. One thing to note during this time is that performing kind gestures, like buying a gym membership, is incredibly helpful – but the ultimate goal in supporting someone in recovery is to get them back into a routine and independent. Make sure your loved one understands that the initial help you are providing is to get them living and thriving on their own.
Gifts To Send to a Loved One
A loved one just took a brave step and started a recovery program. You want to support them in their journey and send a gift or care package to help them during this difficult process and journey. The next question may be “What do I send?” Every rehab center has different rules dictating what is allowed and what items are discouraged or not permitted. Before sending your package or gift, it’s best to call the treatment facility and ask if the items you’re sending will be acceptable. You also may want to think about what items would help with their overall mental, emotional, and physical health.
Building Financial Independence
If your loved one has completed their treatment program and is back home, it’s time to help them become financially independent. This is a complicated task as many people in recovery are in debt from treatment costs, legal fees, losing their job, and other financial issues resulting from spending money on drugs and alcohol. A few immediate things you can do to help a family member who is facing these issues can include:
- Taking an honest look at their financial situation and set realistic short and long term goals. Starting with the short term is best, as doing too much too soon can be overwhelming and even result in relapse. Making a list of current debt, monthly bills, and money your loved one has in the bank is a good place to start.
- Look at a calendar and see what bills are due immediately and what can be paid in installments (such as credit card bills or loans). Tackling these pressing financial issues will help your loved one feel like things are finally in motion. Having a spreadsheet or planner that organizes all of these due dates, bills, account balances, and savings can be very helpful. A US News and World Report article lists ten free budgeting tools to help your loved one get started. Once a system is set up, it’s up to your family member to follow through and continue keeping things on track.
- Looking for a job should be next in line. Offer to help your loved one find job hunting and resume services like ZipRecruiter or Indeed. But once this happens, explain that they need to take the lead on actually creating their resume and actively searching and applying for jobs daily.
Self-Care and Therapy
Before a plane takes off, the flight attendant always says, “place your oxygen mask on yourself before helping others in the event of an emergency.” This statement is a great metaphor for those dealing with a loved one in recovery. When you put all of your energy into helping someone else, you begin to lose your mental and physical health. Allow yourself time away from the process to clear your head. You have gone through hell and back trying to get your loved one into recovery. Now that they are safe and in treatment, it’s time to rest and recharge your energy. Reconnect with the people, places, and hobbies that bring your comfort and happiness. Therapy is also a great tool to utilize during this time as you need encouragement and support to deal with this next transition. Not only will individual and group counseling help you process all of the feelings and emotions that come with supporting a loved one in recovery, but it will also help you to connect with others on the same journey.
Recognize When a Loved One Is Addicted to Benzodiazepines
We want to help our loved ones when they are struggling with anxiety. Often, Benzodiazepines, such as Diazepam or Alprazolam (Xanax) are administered by physicians to help those with anxiety, as well as stress, sleep problems and alcohol withdrawal. Though legally prescribed, benzodiazepines are considered a psychoactive drug with a potential for addiction. Moreover, “benzodiazepine addiction is more likely to occur in individuals with certain anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, and mood disorders. Oftentimes, individuals diagnosed with anxiety disorders or sleep disorders will find the effects of benzodiazepines helpful, and will pursue higher and higher doses in order to increase or simply maintain the effects. Eventually, this can lead to physical dependence, and individuals may continue seeking high doses to ward off withdrawal symptoms (The UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior).”
Knowing When To Worry
In order to know when to worry if a loved one is suffering from benzodiazepine addiction, you need to understand the risks associated with the drug as well as be able to recognize the physical symptoms and signs of abuse when taking the medication. In terms of risk factors, some of the more common ones include:
- Long-term use of benzodiazepines (beyond four weeks)
- Simultaneous abuse of drugs or alcohol
- Use of high, or increasingly high doses, of the drugs
- Suffering from long-term anxiety disorders or other conditions for which benzodiazepines are used (UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior).
Here are a few of the more common signs of benzodiazepine addiction:
- Unable to function without benzodiazepines
- Increased tolerance of the effects of benzodiazepines, requiring higher doses to achieve the same outcome
- Failure or inability to reduce doses or stop using benzodiazepines (UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior)
Risk Factors of Living in Families With Addiction
In addition to an increased chance of developing an addiction or substance use disorder, there are other risks children face when living with a parent or caretaker with a substance abuse problem including:
According to a study from The National Library of Medicine and The National Institutes of Health, having one or more parent with a substance use disorder can cause:
- Problems with unexcused absences in childhood eventually turning into more serious truancy problems in adolescence, eventually culminating in school dropout.
- children may have difficulty with attention and concentration due to increased anxiety levels related to a chaotic home environment.
- Unstructured bedtimes and mealtimes as well as witnessing domestic violence and safety issues all contribute to an increase in learning problems and behavioral problems for children at school.
Social and Emotional Disorders
According to a study from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), research has found that children of parents with an alcohol use disorder are at greater risk for:
- Anxiety disorders
- Problems with cognitive and verbal skills
- Parental abuse or neglect
The same study also found that children of parents who have an illicit drug use disorder are at higher risk for mental and behavioral disorders and functional issues than children of parents with alcohol use disorder.
We hope these steps and advice will help you and your loved one during this stage of recovery. At Silver Lining Recovery, we understand the common challenges families face when re-entering the real world and offer resume building and writing services as well as academic and career counseling to help our clients make way for a more productive life in sobriety. We also offer specially designed modules like conflict management, anger management, and team-work building exercises in order to help integrate individuals back into the workforce. Our professional staff is open to conducting special career counseling sessions focused on short-term modules to address these challenges with individuals or in a group setting. Reach out to us today at 1-866-445-4563 for more information on our addiction treatment options and services.