Living with Persons with Substance Use Disorder

Living with Persons with Substance Use Disorder
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Living with Persons with Substance Use Disorder

How do you live with a person recovering from substance use disorder?

Substance use disorder is a disease that affects the person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug/medication.

It is diagnosed when the substance use interferes with functioning at work, school or in social relationships.

It is classified under mental health disorders.

Research shows that 50% of people with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse. 37% of alcohol abusers and 53% of drug abusers have at least one serious mental illness.

  • Warning signs of mental illness;
  • Long-lasting sadness/irritability
  • Extremely high and low moods
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • The family remains the primary source of attachment, nurturing, and socialization for humans in our current society. Therefore the impact of substance use disorder(SUDs) on the family and individual family members merits attention
  • When one person in a family begins to change his/her behavior, the change will affect the entire family system positively or negatively.
  • Some family members may sabotage treatment with their own behaviors as they respond to the change in the individual using substance. These behaviors can be seen as an attempt to maintain the comfortable equilibrium of the system because as one person changes, it upsets the equilibrium of the whole family system including extended family relationships.

Tips for Living with A Person Recovering from Substance Disorders

  1. Understand extended problems
  • Even though your family member may have successfully completed treatment, the consequences of addiction could continue to affect the rest of the family for a long time.
  • You can take some steps to help alleviate some of the stress of different hardships i.e. getting financial advice, encourage regular doctor visits and attend family based therapies
  1. Become educated and stay involved
  • The entire family needs to be involved in the treatment as well as the recovery process. To do this, the family will need to learn the best ways to support the recovering addict. Agreeing to participate in family education is a great way to support the addict’s recovery.
  • Many outpatient family therapy programs are available for you and your loved ones. You meet with a certified therapist who teaches you intervention skills you can use at home during stressful and trigger situations. You learn healthy communication skills and ways to express feelings and needs without projecting blame.
  1. Support sobriety
  • It is important for family members maintaining an alcohol- or drug-free and sober lifestyle.
  • Keeping someone in recovery away from the temptation of using is essential, especially in the first year of recovery. This is why many people prefer inpatient rehab programs; they get the addict away from the environment in which they were using.
  1. Get rid of substances in the home
  • Ideally, a home should be completely emptied of any substances that could be intoxicating.
  • If your family has always kept alcohol or other substances on hand for social events or special occasions, it may be necessary for everyone to make a lifestyle change to support a loved one during recovery
  1. Find new activities
  • The family can participate in activities and hobbies consistent with a substance-free lifestyle.

      Fun Sober Activities

  • Visit a museum
  • Play a sport together.
  • Ride bikes.
  • Go to the movies or a play.
  • Work on a garden.
  • Host a potluck.
  • Make crafts.
  • Play card or board games.
  • Go kayaking or rock-climbing.
  • Plan a family vacation.
  • Go for a hike or camping.
  • Go to an amusement park.
  • Make a bonfire.
  • Try out a new restaurant.
  1. Obtain support for yourself
  • Just as the individual in recovery will require support from family and friends, it will also be important for family members to have support.
  • Counseling can also be helpful as you adjust to your loved one’s sobriety. You can meet people who understand what you are going through and can offer advice based on similar experiences.
  • When your recovering family member sees you asking for support, they may be more likely to seek out support on their own in the form of recovery and aftercare support services.
  1. Reduce stress

Recovering alcoholics and drug addicts may be more susceptible to stress and, in turn, to relapse.

Some of the most common sources for stress among individuals in recovery include:

  • Family conflicts.
  • Health concerns.

Understanding what to expect and how to help a recovering alcoholic or drug addict proceed with recovery can prove to be beneficial. In addition, it’s important to focus on yourself and manage your own stress.

Other proven sources of stress relief for you and your loved one include:

  • Breathing steadily.

Don’t merely suggest stress-relieving activities. Offer to do the activities with them. Encourage open and honest communication, free of blaming language. Emphasize that recovery takes teamwork and that he or she doesn’t need to do it alone.

Keep in mind that you should not expect recovering drug addicts or alcoholics to behave perfectly when they first leave rehab. They will often need time to adjust to life outside of treatment. Your job is to foster and promote a supportive and comfortable environment for he or she to adapt.

  1. Avoiding relapse

It is imperative that you take action if you believe that your loved one may be at risk of a relapse. You don’t need to wait until the relapse has already occurred.

If you believe your family member is in danger of drinking or using again, immediately take steps to provide a safe environment.

Warning Signs of Relapse

  • Romanticizing past drug use.
  • Starting to reconnect with old friends from drug-using days.
  • Sudden changes in attitude or behavior.
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities.
  • Appearance of withdrawal symptoms.
  • Going to fewer self-help meetings.
  • Spending less time on self-care.

What Do You Do If Spot Relapse Warning Signs?

  • Approach your family member in a kind and caring manner. Avoid judgment and blame and express your concern.
  • Have them contact their sponsor. If your loved one has a sponsor from a 12-step program, suggest he or she meet with the sponsor or call them.
  • Suggest they attend a 12-step meeting. Encourage your loved one to attend a 12-step meeting or recovery support group.
  • Encourage your family member to talk with his or her therapist. Or recommend that they enter an intensive outpatient program to get back on track.

How To Handle A Relapse

  • A relapse does not mean that treatment failed or that the person is a failure. It just means that the person needs to readjust their treatment plan or try another form of treatment.
  • Relapse rates for addiction are similar to rates for other chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma.
  • Going back to rehab should not be considered a failure, but rather an act of courage. The person realized the dangers of falling back into addiction and valued their life enough to make a positive change.
  • Though it may seem difficult, the relapse can be seen as a learning opportunity that can strengthen recovery. The person needs to understand what triggered the relapse and develop a plan for preventing another one.

By understanding what is involved in living with a recovering alcoholic or drug addict, you can be better prepared to assist with recovery and offer support to decrease the chance of relapse.


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