How to Support Someone Through Rehab
Addiction and mental health challenges impact people in different ways. However, the emotional effects of these illnesses are not limited to the person who suffers from symptoms. The person’s actions (whether intentional or unintentional) can, and often do, filter down to their loved ones and friends. When you abuse alcohol or drug or experience certain mental health symptoms, certain behaviors and actions will impact those closest to you. If you live with someone or have a close friend or relative who needs treatment help to overcome addiction or mental health symptoms, you may not know where to begin to provide support without enabling or furthering their illness. First, it helps to understand enabling behavior and how to avoid it.
What Does it Mean to Enable someone?
Enabling occurs when another person helps or encourages a friend or loved one to continue using drugs or someone with a mental health condition to continue engaging in potentially harmful behaviors. This encouragement can be either direct or indirect. Some examples include hiding the addict’s behavior from others, giving an addict money to buy drugs, or encouraging eating disorder behaviors.
What is the Difference Between Helping and Enabling?
If someone you love or care about is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol or severe mental health challenges, it is natural to want to help them get well and put their struggles behind them. Unfortunately, there is a very fine line between helping and enabling. But what is the difference between helping and enabling? How do you know if you are doing one or the other?
Simply put, when you help someone, you support or help with activities they cannot do on their own, or you help them regain control of their health and behaviors. Enabling, on the other hand, allows your loved one to avoid acknowledging the harmful and potentially dangerous repercussions of their actions (such as drinking or using drugs). Allowing them to avoid addressing their unhealthy behaviors enables them to continue engaging in them because they believe it is ok or acceptable to do so.
How to Support Someone Through Rehab
Suppose you want to help a friend or loved one through rehab. In that case, it is crucial to know how to be a source of support and strength without engaging in enabling or other behaviors that may hinder or otherwise negatively affect their success in recovery. The first step toward helping someone in rehab is recognizing changes in your loved one’s behaviors. If they suffer from a drug or alcohol addiction, it is essential to remember that the signs and symptoms of addiction will look different from person to person, based on several factors. For example, if your loved one has a cocaine addiction, their symptoms while using (and when trying to stop using) will differ from those of someone addicted to a prescription sedative. It is also crucial to recognize the symptoms of potential mental health concerns.
The indicators of substance use will sometimes differ from those of a mental health condition. But what is important to remember is that your friend or loved one will act or behave differently. They may develop problems with memory, sleep more often or at irregular hours, appear unwell or tired, neglect their appearance, and exhibit irritable, angry, or sad behavior. They may also avoid family or social events, experience difficulties at work or home, and develop new or worsening medical problems. These symptoms could suggest a potential substance use disorder or underlying mental health condition that could benefit from seeking help at a rehab like Meadowglade.
Once your friend or loved one enters rehab, there are several things you can do while they are in treatment and after treatment ends to help them progress through recovery and maintain lasting health and wellness after treatment ends. Whether their treatment is for addiction or a mental health condition, it is essential to be supportive, understanding, and empathetic to their treatment needs without enabling or encouraging ongoing (or a return to) harmful behaviors.
The first thing you could do to help someone through rehab is to educate yourself on their condition. If they suffer from a substance use disorder, take the time to learn more about drug or alcohol abuse and how the effects of long-term chronic addiction can impact your friend or loved one’s physical and emotional health. By understanding more about addiction, you will better understand the benefits of seeking and remaining in a treatment program while seeking sobriety.
Conversely, if they are seeking help for a mental health condition (whether related to substance use or on its own), it helps to understand medical and mental health challenges that may arise as a result of their diagnosis. Again, understanding their symptoms allows you to provide support during rehab and after they return home. Also, learning more about the common symptoms of a particular condition helps you understand relapse and what relapse signs may look like for your friend or loved one. Identifying relapse early is key to getting someone back into treatment to prevent further harm.
Practice empathetic communication
When a friend or loved one is in rehab, the desire to offer support and compassion without causing greater harm or emotional challenges can feel impossible. What are the “right” things to say? How do you offer support without sounding condescending or belittling? The truth is, there is no easy answer. However, there are ways you can communicate that will help your loved one know you support them as they progress through rehab.
First, be kind and understanding. Despite years of social progress, people still place a significant stigma on addiction and mental health challenges. Because of this, people who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction or who seek treatment for another mental health concern often expect accusations, rejections, and other painful outcomes to conversations. Many will consciously try to hide their symptoms to avoid such things. It is important to show that you still care for and love the person even if you do not accept their behaviors.
It is also essential to carefully choose what you say and how you say it. Avoid using words or language that can be further stigmatizing or harmful. Try using first-person words and other terms that clarify you are there for them and want to help. Another important aspect of communication is listening. If a friend or loved one is willing to open up about their medical and mental health challenges, listening without interrupting or being judgmental is vital. Offer help and ensure they know you are available when they need someone to talk to or help to get to an appointment.
When someone goes to rehab, they often leave behind friends, family, and the comforting environment of home. Although finding distance from triggers and other lifestyle challenges that may encourage harmful behaviors is a crucial first step toward recovery. However, time in rehab without loved ones close by can feel incredibly isolating. Sometimes a simple phone call from home can make a significant difference in their day. It is important to remember that some programs restrict phone calls during the early stages of treatment, so it is important to follow the program’s guidelines. However, when communication is allowed, try to offer encouragement whenever possible.
If you can send a note or care package to your loved one, this is an excellent form of support as well. It is essential to check with the rehab to make sure you are familiar with any restricted items that may not be allowed. Making sure you understand the policies will help ensure your loved one receives your supportive messages and packages without the potential for disappointment.
Attend family therapy sessions
Mental health and addiction professionals agree that family plays a significant role in substance use disorders. Because the family is inextricable from addiction and other mental health challenges, they are essential players in the journey to recovery. It is crucial to get involved when and if the program allows to help your loved one as they work toward healing and overcoming their symptoms. Anyone within the family who can participate in family therapy sessions should. This process will not only help the person in recovery but everyone else too. Participation in family therapy sessions helps everyone learn more about their loved ones’ illness and the things they can do to prevent relapse and provide support after rehab ends.
The road to achieving health and wellness after addiction or another mental health challenge is one of ups and downs. There will be good days and other days where things feel off or unpleasant. It is important to show compassion and encouragement to your loved one while they are in rehab. It is crucial to avoid discouraging talk or statements during conversations. Instead, let them know you are proud of them for taking the first steps towards achieving lasting physical and emotional health. Showing your support helps them know you understand the rehab process is not easy, and you are there to support them as they work towards achieving their treatment goals.
Many things factor into the likelihood of a person’s success after leaving rehab. Still, the most influential thing is perhaps how much a person can focus on getting better during treatment. Perhaps the most important thing a family member can do to help their loved one get the most out of their time in rehab is to be supportive. This dramatically affects a person’s experience and what they get out of their program. If you would like to learn more about supporting your loved one in rehab or the therapeutic programs we offer at Meadowglade, contact a member of our admissions team today.