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How To Cope With A Loved One In Rehab

John Schaffer, LPCC

Medically reviewed by

John Schaffer, LPCC

February 28, 2019

Coping with the emotions that come with a loved one being in rehab can be difficult and may lead to feelings of blame and resentment. Knowing how to handle these emotions will help individuals be able to better support their loved ones while in treatment.

There are many steps you can take to cope with a loved one in rehab, and most are very basic: understanding the disease, trusting the person, avoiding the blame game, finding resources and support, focusing on your life, and learning to trust again. Easier said than done, right?

Maybe you’re reading this because your loved one just entered rehab, and you aren’t sure what to think or how to feel. Maybe you’re overwhelmed with emotions, and going crazy with worry, guilt, or anger. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that you need to find ways to cope that work for you.

Whatever substance abuse or mental health disorder that prompted your loved one into rehab is secondary to the healing process. Once a person gets into treatment, the focus is betterment and wellness—and that includes having a strong support group.

To fully support your loved one while in rehab, you should find ways that you can help them get better by improving your own response. It’s not surprising that you might be upset or angry with your loved one for becoming addicted in the first place. However, once you learn that addiction is a disease that affects the health of the mind and body, creating cravings and urges that cause a person to lose control, it’s easier to understand their actions and learn to forgive so they can heal.

No, forgiving your loved one and supporting them through it all may not be easy. In the end, though, if you want them to succeed, you have to give them strength and encouragement. This can only be done if you first take care of yourself. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

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Understanding: Why Do People Need Rehab?

Perhaps one of the hardest—and most important—steps to coping is understanding both why people become addicted and why they need rehab. It may be difficult to accept that addiction is a chronic disease characterized by cravings, urges, a loss of control, and at times, relapses.

It’s true that first time use of a substance is by choice. Yet many substances, such as opioids, change your brain’s chemistry, aligning it with perpetual substance-seeking and use. This changes the way your brain communicates, making it crave the way it communicates when affected by substances. That’s the reason people become addicted.

Withdrawal, or symptoms people experience when they’ve formed a physical dependence to a substance and don’t have access to it, contributes to continued abuse. Maybe you feel that your loved one chose to abuse substances again and again. In truth, once they were in the clutches of addiction, there was no choice.

So, addiction is a disease, but why do people have to go to rehab for treatment? That is, why can’t they heal with some medication at home and regular counseling? Many chronic diseases require diligent, round-the-clock, extended care, such as cancer or chronic autoimmune diseases. Addiction is similar in that, to truly heal and work toward a recovery, a person needs extensive care.

Rehab allows your loved one to get away from the triggers of their environment of abuse. Getting away also allows your loved one to align all of their energy into the greatest task at hand: healing.

Understanding these aspects of addiction and treatment may be difficult, and perhaps frustrating, but can help you find relief knowing your loved one has the greatest chance at recovery success while in rehab. There are many resources to help you cope with the emotions and feelings you might be experiencing, and find creative ways to channel your energy.

The Importance Of Family Care And Counseling

Addiction affects the whole family, not just the person addicted. That’s why many rehab centers offer access to family education, courses and family counseling. Education and addiction-centered courses aim to help families understand what their loved ones are going through, how to help them, talk about ways to cope, and how to prevent and understand relapse.

Counseling helps families work together to cope with the harm caused by addiction: negative thoughts and feelings, passive-aggressive actions, and more. While many rehab centers offer these services as part of their programs, not all do.

Those centers who don’t offer these services may have resources to connect you to similar programs, but if not you can get in touch with local, community resources or talk with your family health care provider to advise you on where to seek this kind of help.

Avoiding The Blame Game

Chances are, if your loved one has made it into rehab, you may have had some heartache at the expense of his or her addiction. Because of this, it can be all too easy to want to blame that person, saying hurtful, pointed things, if only to offer yourself momentary relief.

Take our advice: don’t do it. Pointing fingers, placing blame, and constantly reminding your loved one of the hurt caused by his or her addiction can be detrimental to their recovery outcome. If you want him or her to succeed, learn to let go.

If you’re not ready to let go, work on replacing negative comments and thoughts with positive ones, and try channeling your energy into creative endeavors like hobbies or new activities.

Find Resources And Support

Addicted individuals aren’t the only ones who can benefit from network support. Families and those close to individuals in rehab may find strength in connecting with others whose loved ones are in rehab.

There are so many people in addiction treatment, and many of them have families just like yours who are coping with the same stressors, similar emotions and feelings, and who just want to reach out to others who share similar experiences. The rehab center your loved one enters may be able to connect you with networking resources via family education.

If not, the internet can be a useful tool to find groups and websites dedicated to helping families cope. Community health centers, church groups, or even local addiction resources may also be of help. However you have to reach out, be sure to put yourself in touch with people who can relate to your struggles and offer strength in solidarity.

Focus On Your Life

This may be the hardest advice to follow, especially if your son or daughter is the one in rehab. There comes a point where there is only so much you can do. Once you have secured the best rehab possible for your child (or adult child), the best thing you can do is let him or her focus on healing, connect with the professional services at hand, and focus on rebuilding your life.

Remember, the best way to ensure you can help your loved one before, during and after rehab is to make sure that you stand strong in your own rite. If you run yourself ragged with worry, or drive yourself mad with emotion, you won’t be a help to yourself or anyone else.

Be sure you’re taking care of your own health: focus on getting adequate sleep, taking care of nutrition and exercise, and getting back to social life. You may not be ready to focus on all of these aspects at once, but little by little you can rebuild the life you once had before the harshness of addiction.

Learn To Trust Again

You may feel like you can never trust again, as addiction is plagued by deceit. But if your loved one has committed to this treatment, and is making a valiant effort to get better, trust is the only way to rebuild your relationship with him or her and to repair any damage. So, where do you start?

There is no better way to foster trust than open communication. After all, lack of communication can contribute to the cycle of addiction. This must be a joint effort. Try having an “open door” policy—your loved one can talk with you about anything, and in return you won’t be angry but will listen. After that, together you can chart a course of action in response.

You might be thinking, “but what if he or she starts abusing substances again?” It’s important to recognize that, like so many chronic diseases, addiction may see some relapses. Treatment for addiction will not be a one-time solution, but a long-term management process, a way of life.

That means that you’ll need both grace and patience in dealing with your loved one as they settle into this new normal of managing the disease. If you help your loved one commit to effective treatment principles, and build a fulfilling life, the chances of relapse are far less. The greatest way to do this is to provide support and priceless trust.

Know When To Seek Help

All of these suggestions for coping with a loved one in rehab are not meant to replace caution. Indeed, your loved one may still need help even after completing rehab. Again, treatment may take place over the course of some time.

This means that, while learning to trust and rebuild lives, you have to be wary of the signs of relapse and struggle. Has your loved one started avoiding eye contact, lacking in communication, or hiding things from you again? This may be a cry for help, and when it happens you need to have a plan of action in place.

We understand that addiction can cause some relapses. We know how to help, and when to help. If you want to be sure, or if you already know your loved one is relapsing, give us a call. Your information is kept confidential, and we can direct you on where to go from here.

At the end of the day, you want to learn constructive ways to cope with your loved one going to rehab, and also how to help when they return home.

Find Help Today

If you want to learn more about coping with a loved one in rehab, learn how to get him or her into treatment, or learn more about what happens if they relapse, we can help. Our specialists have vast experience in treating addiction, and offer the support you need.

Contact us at to learn more.

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