Recovery of any kind is never a solo journey. Despite the feelings of isolation that addiction recovery is often paired with, there are always many people involved in the process – from counselors to other sufferers to each person’s family and loved ones. The thoughts and actions of the family are important at every step in recovery.
When someone is going through an intensive outpatient program (IOP), that impact is felt even deeper. The role that the family plays in recovery goes far beyond a constant cheering of “you can do it.” There are things that need to be learned or relearned and other changes made in order to go through the healing process and emerge as a single, cohesive, caring family unit.
The Family Is Part of the Process
Like it or not, the family is intimately involved in the recovery process and often one of the most influential support systems someone can have. Outpatient programs rely on a supportive homefront to a degree in order to achieve a more impactful level of success. It may be a better idea to internalize the fact that they are two different fronts of the same recovery process – trying to separate the treatment facility and home life yields few beneficial results.
The family will be there. They are a part of the process. For a person going through recovery, it is important to accept them for how they may want to help and put aside any shame for the benefit of the recovery itself. A loving family will want someone to succeed no matter what. However, this is not a one-way street. The family also has to be ready to accept the person and their inevitable changes. There will be vulnerability on both sides, but that vulnerability can breed new connections and a deeper understanding of how the process looks and feels for all involved.
Freedom in Practice
It is normal for a family to be feeling a mixture of emotions when a loved one starts an intensive outpatient program. There may be a mixture of pride, concern, hope, happiness, worry, anxiety, and many other feelings whirling around. While the family is a highly influential aspect of recovery, it cannot outright try to control a person. People suffering from addiction need a degree of freedom in their recovery, and a chance to prove and utilize the skills they have learned in treatment in the real world. This includes allowing them to go out and do something that they want to do.
Freedom in practice involves not outright denying them the opportunity to express themselves, but instead helping them create escape plans, working with them to be sure that triggers are mitigated, and ensuring there is a plan in place if an urge gets too strong. This freedom is a practice of trust on both sides. The person in recovery needs to trust their loved ones enough to tell them when something is getting too difficult, and trust from the family that they can handle themselves and be honest and open. In the event that something seems too dangerous, open the conversation and talk about it before imposing any kind of ultimatum.
Everyone Can Change
Going through recovery involves many changes. From one’s own mind and outlook on the world to their physical health and their interests. But changes and finding new hobbies aren’t just for those going through recovery. In fact, this is a good time to find a new family hobby – something that everyone involved can do as a group. Not only can this help deepen the bond and trust between all family members, but it also lends itself to forming new traditions.
There will be changes. Being ready for those changes and willing to adapt to changes with the person in recovery leads to strengthening family unity. While the time in intensive outpatient will be stressful for any and all involved, the goal here is still coming together as a single unit with the goal of recovery in mind. Trying new things as a group is a good way to deal with those stresses together, while instilling the strength of the family as a whole.
Simply asking someone to open up about their stresses is usually fruitless. Keeping the rules clear, as well as their reasons and purpose, can help mitigate feelings of antagonism that a person in outpatient recovery may feel if information was hidden from them. Having the family be open about how they are feeling about each other and how their own lives are changing can be a way to lead by example for people in recovery. Even if things seem to be straightforward, there can be no harm in vocalizing one’s feelings to their support systems.
However, the family holds extra responsibility here. They need to be prepared to listen. Much of the recovery process is difficult and involves a rewiring of one’s mind and body. Again, there will be changes. The family has to be ready to hear about those changes, and ready to accept what kind of person will be waiting on the other side of recovery. Keeping things transparent and vocalized leaves little room for misunderstandings that could lead to a chasm in the family unit.
If you or a family member are suffering from addiction and you’re not sure what to do next, contact Lighthouse Recovery. Our modern take on sober living and intensive outpatient programs uses a holistic approach that includes loving family support at home. With the help of our caring, professional staff, Lighthouse strives to provide a lasting and effective recovery and prevent relapse.