It can be scary went a struggling person enters a rehab program, either voluntarily or under someone else’s guidance, but it’s also scary for family and friends left at home.

If your loved one is in treatment or about to enter a program, there are ways to prepare yourself so that you know what to expect. You must prepare to be there as a steady support system.

According to Pamela Alba, clinical director at Bayside Marin, family and friends need to understand that they are a part of the recovery process just as much as the person in addiction rehabilitation. And they need to be prepared for the “buyer’s remorse”— so to speak — that their loved one will likely experience early on in treatment.

“Expect within a few days that there will be some ambivalence,” Alba says. “It’s quite likely that they will call you and give you various reasons why they need to leave the program; why it’s not the right program. They will try to manipulate and they will come up with a really beautiful, well thought-out excuse for why they have to leave.

“This is a part of the process. Their loved one is afraid. Be prepared for that.”

Remember that addiction is a family disease, says Alba. The best way to get through it successfully? Consider yourself in treatment as well.

“Go to Alanon meetings. If you don’t have a therapist, get one. This is a process that doesn’t stop once their loved one comes home,” Alba says, adding that family members usually anticipate that everything is going to be perfect when their loved one comes home from rehab. But, while they may be sober, it’s still a challenge for the family and for friends.  

Taking care of yourself and other family members is just as important as focusing on the individual in treatment, she adds. You need to let go and know that they are in a place that can take care of them. Even though having a loved one away can make families and loved ones anxious, you have to rely on the experts to know what is best.

Even though it’s important to let go, don’t forget to also engage in the recovery process, such as going through a family program.

“I think it is incredibly hard for family members to manage life without a partner, especially if you have young children. People in treatment will pick that up. If they feel that family members are struggling, it can be hard for them to stay and focus on their own situation. So, focus on keeping yourself well so your loved one in treatment can also get well.”

During this time, you should also prepare for when your loved one will be coming home. They cannot come back into the same environment that they left, Alba says. Family members should prepare for their own substance abstinence as a means of support, and how they will honor that pledge. Maybe you won’t have alcohol in the house. Maybe you won’t attend large family gatherings for awhile. Whatever needs to be done because recovery must come first.

Click here to learn more about Bayside Marin.

“Remember, your loved one is starting a marathon, not a sprint.”

Pamela has more than 15 years of experience in multi-disciplinary treatment for addiction, mental health disorders, eating disorders and process addictions. She specializes in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and experience working with families of addicts.