When someone goes into rehab, we often get questions from families about what they should be doing while their loved one is undergoing treatment. Our number one answer might surprise you. We tell them to take care of themselves.
The truth is that when you love someone deeply, watching them struggle with addiction is very difficult. You want to help but you’re not sure what to do. And even after they start rehab, you may worry that you weren’t supportive enough.
That’s a lot to carry. That’s why we emphasize self-care and healing for the family members of our patients.
Why Self-Care Is Important
Before we share our self-care recommendations, let’s talk about why self-care is important. As we’ve already mentioned, caring for a loved one who is struggling with addiction is hard work. You may have put aspects of your life on hold as you tried to help them.
Addiction takes a toll on everyone in the family. You may feel exhausted, overwhelmed, relieved, sad, scared, and hopeful all at the same time. That’s a lot of emotions – and can drain you physically and emotionally.
Of course, you may also be wondering what things will be like when your loved one returns home. It’s essential for you to take some time to heal, rest, and recover from what you’ve been through. Only then will you be able to be a positive, supportive influence after rehab.
In other words, self-care is an important part of the recovery process for you and your recovering addict. You might not have a problem with addiction in that you’re not drinking or using drugs, but that doesn’t mean that addiction hasn’t taken a toll on you.
With that in mind, here are some ways that you can take care of yourself while your loved one is with us.
#1: Find Ways to De-Stress
One of the best things you can do is find ways to relieve the stress and tension that resulted from your loved one’s battle with addiction. Stress takes a physical and emotional toll on you, and it’s not possible to heal if you’re still feeling its effects.
Some things that may help include:
- Practicing mindfulness
- Getting fresh air and exercise
- Doing yoga
- Journaling about your experiences
- Seeing a therapist or counselor
These things can help you let go of your worry and anxiety and live in the present. The more you can de-stress, the better you’ll feel.
#2: Get Your Life in Order
It’s common for family members of addicts to experience disruption and confusion before their loved one goes into rehab. It’s important to use the time that they’re away to take care of things that may have fallen by the wayside.
Here are some things that you may need to deal with to get your life back on track:
- Paying bills, balancing your checkbooks, and catching up on late payments that may have occurred because of the financial strain due to helping your loved one
- Cleaning your home and getting rid of items that might be triggering to you or your loved one, including drug paraphernalia and reminders of addiction
- Reconnecting with friends and family members you haven’t seen in a while
- Catching up on work, errands, and other parts of your life that may have taken a backseat to your loved one’s addiction
- Reprioritizing the elements of your life
Use this time to take control of your day-to-day, add balance to your life, and get things back on track.
#3: Find Support
Dealing with addiction isn’t easy. It’s very common family members of addicts to feel overwhelmed, burdened, and guilty. Your loved one’s addiction isn’t your fault, but it can feel that way – especially if family dynamics have not been balanced or healthy.
One of the best things you can do is find the support you need. The rehab process will give the recovering addict in your life support and guidance, but you need help, too. You may be feeling a lot of anger and confusion, and getting help now will put you in the best position to be supportive and helpful when your loved one comes home.
The kind of support you seek out is up to you. You may decide that one-on-one counseling is what you need to work through your emotions. Or, you might decide that a support group designed for friends and family of addicts is the best choice. You may even decide to try several support options before settling on the ones that work best for you.
Keep in mind that not all support has to be in person. There are online forums and support groups that you may want to try as alternatives to face-to-face therapy.
#4: Set Boundaries
It’s very common for healthy boundaries to be destroyed by addiction. Addicts tend to push boundaries by involving people in their addiction. Sometimes they borrow money to support their addiction; other times they simply take what they need.
Emotional boundaries are impacted by addiction, too. If you reach a point where you find yourself taking responsibility for someone else’s behavior and letting self-care slip, it’s a good sign that your relationship was a codependent one.
The solution is to think about your relationships and decide where your boundaries should be. Keep in mind that the only person whose behavior you can control is your own. Everyone else – including the addict – must take responsibility for their behavior.
Setting boundaries can be very difficult in the wake of addiction. It can take a long time to find and enforce them, but it’s important to begin that work while your loved one is in rehab.
On a related note, it’s a good idea to think about what you might need to do to enforce the boundaries you put in place. Your loved one will learn about healthy boundaries in rehab, but understanding on an intellectual level and putting what you learn into practice are two different things.
#5: Have Fun
There’s nothing fun about addiction. A lot of times, friends and family members of addicts find that their lives end up revolving around addiction.
The time when your loved one is in rehab is an opportunity for you to let loose and have a good time. Making time for social events and outings is a good way to shed some of the stress that has accumulated, and remind yourself of who you were before addiction became something you had to think about.
Sometimes, people feel guilty about having fun while someone they care about is in rehab. But keep in mind, fun is important in our lives. When you give yourself permission to have fun, you’re also laying the groundwork for positive things to come back into your life.
The healthier and happier you are, the better your relationship with your recovering addict will be. Having a bit of fun is an essential part of reclaiming your health and happiness.
Start Practicing Self Care
Watching a loved one cope with addiction is an exhausting, all-consuming thing. It can make your life feel very small – and getting back to normal represents a significant challenge.
Engaging in self-care while your loved one is in rehab is the best thing you can do to lay the groundwork for a healthy relationship with them post-rehab. Learn more about our rehabilitation services and how they can help your loved one by visiting our website.