The journey of recovering from addiction doesn’t end at rehabilitation. Even if the addict was treated in a private rehabilitation clinic, where facilities are more sophisticated and the programs more customized, they’ll still be prone to relapse. Often, recovery is a lifetime process for them.
Your role as a recovering addict’s loved one is critical in their sobriety. Their addiction has most likely strained your relationship, but if they successfully completed their rehab, that clearly indicates that they’re willing to mend things over. But they’re still vulnerable, hence, you need to know what to expect to keep them from relapsing.
That said, these are the things you should expect while supporting a recovering loved one:
1. Extended Problems
Addiction results in many lasting problems, both for the addict and their loved ones. Though sobriety can mitigate all of those problems, many will remain unresolved. Such include financial issues, considering that addicts often lose their jobs and will have to rebuild their careers after rehab. They may also have unpaid debts, health problems that will require costly treatment, expenses incurred from misdemeanors like DUI, and others.
Relationship problems may also persist. It can take years to rebuilt trust between a recovering addict and their loved one, and in some cases, it is impossible. Understand and prepare for problems like this as well as the financial issues, so that dealing with them can become less difficult.
2. Relapse Triggers
A recovering addict will have external triggers and internal triggers. The former can be people, places, things, or situations that evoke thoughts or cravings for alcohol or drugs. Internal triggers, on the other hand, are feelings, thoughts, or emotions related to substance abuse.
Some common triggers include:
- Emotional distress
- Environmental factors that elicit cravings
- People they used to hang out with who abuse alcohol or drugs
- Relationship problems
- Job or financial issues
A relapse begins before your loved one abuses a substance again. When they exhibit the following behaviors, consider them warning signs of relapse:
- Returning to their addictive thinking patterns
- Compulsive, self-defeating behaviors
- Seeking situations where people would abuse drugs or alcohol
- Irrational thinking and a decreased sense of responsibility
- Seeing drugs or alcohol as a logical way to escape from pain or problems
To prevent relapse triggers, get rid of all addictive substances within their reach, keep them away from social events where substance abuse may occur, find new hobbies you can enjoy together, and help them build relationships with people who will be a better influence for them. This will help a recovering addict shift their focus in life and become hopeful again.
3. A Degree of Dependence
A recovering addict cannot function right away as they did before their addiction. As such, they’ll likely rely on you to take up more slack, such as childcare, financial obligations, house chores, and other responsibilities. It may drain you financially, physically, and emotionally, so don’t go so far that you’d become unfair with yourself. Letting yourself be depended on 100% is counterproductive.
It may also worsen the resentment and bitterness you feel for them. So instead, help them become productive again by sharing responsibilities. Support their job-hunting, encourage sober recreational activities, and don’t treat them as if they’re weak or sick. Make it clear that you expect them to maintain their sobriety, but don’t be harsh on them, or it may trigger a relapse.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself as well. Having an adult-dependent may take a toll on your mental health, so find support for yourself. You and your recovering loved one are healing together, and your journey will be more fruitful if you’re both healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally.