Supporting Friends and Family During Addiction Recovery

Supporting Friends and Family During Addiction Recovery

How can one go about supporting a loved one or friend in their recovery from alcohol dependence or drug addiction? It's important to understand that addiction is a disease that can affect anyone. A person doesn't have to be genetically predisposed or have grown up in a risky unhealthy environment to become dependent on alcohol or addicted to drugs.

Potentially anyone can struggle with alcoholism or addiction including those who have no moral shortcomings or laziness about them. It's not easy living with an alcoholic or having a family member or friend that's dependent on alcohol. When we deeply care about someone, we want to take their pain and suffering away so we often try take control of the situation which just makes things worse for everyone. Most people don't know how to go about helping the alcoholic in their life, nor do they realize they too are in need of help and support because a loved one's addiction has a major impact on the entire family.

Obtaining Addiction Help for Yourself

No one can control an alcoholic, but they can control their own behavior and how they react and behave in a relationship to a sick and suffering and potentially manipulative individual. The best thing a person can do if they want to help a loved one or friend is to attend an Al-Anon meeting. Steps Away, a mobile app for the IPhone or IPad is also an excellent way to locate an Al-Anon support group meeting in your area. With Steps Away no matter where you are you can find support when you need it the most.

The most important thing a person can do at this time is to educate themselves on setting limits and boundaries, and you can receive helpful guidance and enormous support at an Al-Anon meeting. Remember though, just because a person receives help and support for themselves doesn't mean a family member or friend will automatically seek treatment for their problem drinking. Al-Anon is there to help you heal and make healthy choices.

Assess the Addiction

Understanding addiction and the recovery process will help you in supporting a family member or friend in their recovery. It's impossible to determine the level of treatment a person may need to bring recovery into their lives if they have a problem with alcohol. Everyone's situation is different including their level of addiction and mental and physical health. Assessing the addiction will help to determine the best approach.

Typically an addiction assessment is the first phase of treatment for an alcohol problem. The purpose of an assessment is to determine if an addiction is present and if so, the extent of the addiction. The assessment also helps to determine if the individual is suffering from co-occurring conditions and to assist in the development of a treatment plan.

Alcohol assessments are typically conducted in private settings by professionals that are trained to diagnose addictions. All information that's provided by you is kept confidential and only used to assist in treatment.

Confronting the Alcoholic

Anytime a person casually approaches a struggling alcoholic or talks with them about the possibility of getting help, is an example of an informal intervention. This might not seem like a very useful option compared to a more formal and organized intervention, but it can be very effective in getting a family member or friend to see their need for help and treatment.

Finding the Right Addiction Treatment Facility

Deciding on the best alcohol addiction rehab facility for a family member or friend can be very difficult and challenging. It can be quite tempting to pick the first facility you run across because there's so many different treatment options to choose from today. Even though most facilities employ similar treatment models, it's important to take some time to weigh your options. Finding a program that fits well with a loved one or friend's situation and preferences increases the likelihood they'll achieve recovery.

Questions to Ask When Choosing an Alcohol or Drug Rehabilitation Center

  1. Accreditation and Licensing
  2. National accreditation programs such as the Joint Commission, the National Committee for Quality Assurance, and the All-States, look for elements of treatment that research has shown to be effective. State licensing is not the same as accreditation since states vary widely in their licensing requirements.
  3. What credentials and licenses does the clinical staff hold?
  4. Credentials and licensing ensures that the person providing treatment meets nationally recognized standards for professional service. Some of the credentials held by addiction professionals include; LADC which is licensed alcohol drug counselor, LPC which is licensed professional counselor, CAC which is certified addiction counselor and CCDP which is a certified co-occurring disorders counselor.
  5. Have there been studies done to measure the program's effectiveness?
  6. A treatment center should be measuring how effective their services are as well as using research-based methods.
  7. What is the patient to counselor ratio?
  8. It's important to maintain a patient-to-counselor ratio, this helps to ensure that a person receives the attention and care they personally need to efficiently address their addictions.
  9. Is treatment gender specific?
  10. Research shows men and women recover from addictions differently and have the best opportunity for recovery when separated by gender.
  11. Is medical detox offered as part of residential treatment?
  12. Comprehensive, medically-supervised detoxification ensures that patients are medically stabilized before beginning the multi-dimensional treatment process.
  13. What type of help is available for the families?
  14. Understanding the recovery process not only helps heal families, but builds a healthy support system for those in early recovery which is very important.
  15. Is there ongoing support after leaving treatment?
  16. Treatment by itself isn't enough to sustain recovery for most people. An aftercare regimen that includes participation in some type of Twelve Step program like Alcoholics Anonymous or other addiction mutual-help group is crucial. A good treatment program will actively help the recovering individual move into the next appropriate level of care.
  17. Do you work with insurance companies?

Treatment can be necessary but can also be a substantial expense. Understanding and navigating the complexities of insurance and other payment options can be very confusing. Tensions are generally running high at this time and finding a treatment center that can help you through the details can make a huge difference.

Topic Discussion

  1. Addict

    Thank you for this post. While there is some great information in it (I really like that you encourage people to ask a lot of questions about the rehab/treatment center), I think that you've left off a lot of very important information, and gave some information that is misleading.

    First of all, in your section about "Confronting the Alcoholic", you make the suggestion that an intervention is a positive and helpful thing to do. This is not an accurate statement, as there is ample research that shows that classic interventions, or "confronting" a person actually has a negative outcome on treatment in the future. Rather than "confronting" a person about behaviors that you want them to change, why not take a more mild approach, and reinforce the behaviors that you do want to change? That behavioral approach is the most recommended approach to making behavior change (for examples, research cognitive behavior therapy, which is built off of this theoretical model).

    Second, you recommend that family members attend al-anon for support on getting their loved one into treatment. Al-anon's goal is not to help people get their loved ones into treatment, rather it is to offer the loved one a space to be supported themselves. There it does an excellent job, but it doesn't even claim to help get someone to enter treatment. If you want to get your loved one into treatment, the best and most effective treatment option is Community Reinforcement and Family Training, which gets about 67% of loved ones into treatment. That should be the recommendation.

    Finally, the suggestion that people should immediately look into an alcohol addiction facility is a faulty suggestion. The book Inside Rehab, which reviews substance abuse treatment and helps consumers make more informed decisions, makes the clear recommendation that jumping to a rehab may not be the best or most appropriate recommendation. That book also has a list of questions you should ask a rehab if that is the route that you decide to go.

    Again, I thank you for posting this article, at the same time, a lot of the information in it is incorrect, misleading, or leading people down the wrong track. I hope this comment is helpful.

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