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Supportive Family

Supportive Family

Support of the family during addiction

Throughout my time working with clients in recovery from addiction, I have come to realise, and been frequently reminded, of the vital role that a supportive family plays in helping someone progress with their addiction recovery.

I think it is important to point out, that the majority of clients who are fully committed to recovery and giving themselves the best chance of making progress are doing so because they genuinely feel they want to change their lives for the better and often wanting to be more present as a family member is often a key motivation for developing an ability to deal with the challenges that need to overcome in order to achieve this and any other goals they might have.

I think the prospect of providing ‘support’ as a family member of someone who is in recovery from addiction, can be a daunting one for a lot of relatives. What does this involve? Do I need to find a miracle ‘cure’ for my loved one’s issues? Do I need to supervise them 24/7 in case they slip up?

The short answer to these questions is ‘no’.

What is the right level of support?

I’m going to use this blog to focus on three elements of a family environment that provides effective support for someone in recovery from addiction – empowerment, accessing outside support and not enabling them to maintain their addiction.

Achieving an effective supportive environment involves striking a fine balance. One of the key elements is ensuring you are working with and not against the person who is in recovery

An absence of support can obviously have negative effects on the person’s well-being and ability to maintain recovery progress. Equally, the simple truth is that, however good the intention, too much support can itself be counter productive. It can lead to negative feelings for the individual, such as being judged or mis-trusted and can hinder progress.

The support might involve providing the person with a roof over their head. A safe environment where they can regroup and relax before they are ready to move on again. It might involve offering an opportunity to talk, listening without judgement, allowing them to express their thoughts, fears and feelings if they feel this will help. Listening can also be a good opportunity to learn more about addiction, what it involves and what it means for the person in question. As a counsellor, I have learned a lot from clients about what addiction means for them and this has helped me develop my knowledge and develop relationships with clients and it can help family members to engage on the subject of recovery.

The last is often not an easy thing to effectively do between family members. The depth of caring that one feels for another family member means that it is often difficult to have that kind of discussion whilst resisting any urges to raise angle of vested interest, however well intentioned, based on our existing relationship with them.

supportive familyFor that reason, counselling and/or support groups have a vital role to play in the person’s recovery process. This will allow the person a vital opportunity to discuss issues with someone who is of a completely neutral position, is trained to listen and to help them explore and develop better ways of dealing with issues and situations. In the case of support groups, opportunity to take part in facilitated discussion with peers who have been through similar experiences and can offer different perspectives on progressing in recovery.

It can be helpful to have some awareness of available services and resources that the person can be gently signposted towards if they are not looking to access this help themselves. But again, it is important to pitch such suggestions in the right manner, inviting a discussion about options and giving the person themselves the responsibility to make any decision based on their own support needs.

This is an important factor in a progressive recovery, because the person will have the best chance of progressing their recovery if they feel they are in control of their own decision making processes.

Finding their own support network

As well as having awareness of services and support available to a relative who is in recovery, it can be of great value for relatives to seek support of their own. It can be just as beneficial for a family member to have an outlet in which to talk freely without fear or being judged about their thoughts and feelings in relation to their relative’s situation and to be allowed time and space to explore and process these and possibly even to develop ways of thinking that will help them deal with situations more effectively. This may be by having their own counselling, or attending a support group, where they can meet others who are going through similar experiences and give and receive support and knowledge of how to handle different situations.

I was going to say that trust is a vital component of progressive recovery. In many ways it is, but most people I have worked with in recovery are honest enough to acknowledge that trust in relationships has been affected by the development of the addiction. If a client feels that trust is showing signs of being repaired, then this can be a real boost to their recovery progress. Most, though, understand that this is a long, slow process.

It’s more a case of the person gaining benefit from feeling empowered to guide their own recovery, based on their own evolving needs. A person is far more likely to engaging positively with family and friends if they feel they are in charge of their own process.

Empowering someone to take responsibility for their own recovery avoids another potentially risky development within a supportive family environment. Enabling.

Enabling might mean different things to different readers of this blog. Or it might be a factor that some people aren’t aware of. Enabling goes further than creating a situation where the client may be able to access an addictive substance. It also means enabling an environment where the person may be allowed to avoid responsibility for things like daily tasks, the completion of which can be a very useful aspect of recovery in establishing structure and giving them a sense of self responsibility. The absence of the need to do these tasks can maintain a void which might make more conducive for an addiction to be maintained. Likewise, enabling a situation where the person may be able to avoid some of the consequences of addiction, by doing things like excusing negative or avoidant behavioural patterns, ie, calling in sick on someone’s behalf, or turning a blind eye to conflicts.

I hope that this blog has provided some insights into the important role that a supportive family environment can play in a person’s progress in recovery. Many clients believe that recovery is never a process that is ‘completed’, rather efforts must be maintained to keep doing the things that are effective in helping them progress and being aware of their evolving needs and finding new ways to accommodate these safely. A family environment that is effective in supporting these needs can be a really solid foundation on which to build progress.

 

Written by Neil Weston.

Nicholas Conn / 28th March 2018/ Posted in: Latest News

One thought on “Supportive Family

  1. really interesting read, i am struggling with my daughter at present and was unsure if I should be angry towards her or support her.

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Detoxification (detox) is the medical intervention required for someone who is physically dependent to drugs or alcohol. If required, medical detoxification would be the first step taken in residential rehab. Detox is used to prevent uncomfortable and dangerous (even fatal) withdrawals symptoms resulting in suddenly becoming abstinent from alcohol/certain drugs.

The goal of a medical detox is to aid in the physical healing required following long term addiction and rid the body of all together of substance whilst providing a cushion for unpleasant symptoms of withdrawals. Detox is not considered the whole treatment for drug/alcohol addiction and it is always recommended that a comprehensive rehabilitation program is used along side to help maintain long term abstinence.

Medication is often required for alcohol detox. If you are dependent on alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms it is vitally important to seek medical advice prior to stopping. There is a long list of medications used when treating alcohol addiction and the exact medication given to an individual will depend on their needs/medical history. Some of these include;

  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Diazapam (vailium)


Librium and Valium are the most commonly used detox medication in the UK. All medication used to help with alcohol detox have been proven to help reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms.

There are also a number of drugs recombined by the NHS to help treat alcohol misuse. Some of these include:

  • Naltrexone
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
  • Nalmefene
  • Acamprosate (campral)

Medication is always required for heroin detox. For someone suffering from heroin addiction, the thought of detoxification (detox) can be exceptionally daunting. Withdrawal symptoms from opiates, such as heroin, can be severe and include pain, vomiting, nausea and shaking.

There are different ways that heroin detox can be carried out, most usually either ‘maintenance therapy’ or ‘full medical detox’.

Attempting to switch from heroin to a heroin substitute, usually on a controlled prescription, is known as Maintenance therapy. Subsites used are most often methadone or buprenorphine.

A full medical detox from heroin will always be carried out in a residential rehab setting and will allow the individual to switch form heroin to a substitute and slowly withdraw completing treatment free of all substances. Someone using a heroin substitute can choose to have a full medical detox at any time, however detoxing substances such a methadone can often add to the length of detox required. Drugs most commonly used to fully detox from heroin are, Subutex, Suboxone and Methadone. Much like alcohol, the exact drugs used will be dependent on the individuals needs/medical history.

Once detoxed from heroin the risk of overdose is much higher following relapse due to tolerance following withdrawal.

The length of treatment in a residential rehab depends on a number of elements. Some substances require longer periods of detox than others.

Private paying patients will also often choose a length of stay that suites their therapeutic and financial needs. As a rule, a full treatment program in a rehab is considered to be 28 days (often referred to as a month), however, treatment is offered in several different ways and lengths starting at 7 days.

Treating alcohol addiction will always require a minimum of 7-10 days, this would be considered the detoxification (detox) faze. The length required for treating drug addiction can vary drastically depending on the substance being used. Detox for Heroin addiction is generally around 14 days minimum, with more time required if substances such a methadone are being used. Treating prescription drug addiction can often take the longest. The time required for treating gambling addiction, eating disorders and sex addiction will be based on the individuals needs.

Rehab programs can be as long as an individual requires but primary treatment is normally caped at 12 weeks, with the offering for further secondary and tertiary treatment thereafter.

*based on average rehab stays, everyone will vary dependant on needs and medical requirement/history.

There is no need for your employer to know that you are seeking help for trauma and addiction unless you choose to involve them with the process. All employers should have a policy that explains what you do if you cannot come to work due to illness – illness to include treating alcohol addiction/treating drug addiction.

If your work absence extends over 7 days your employer is likely to require an official statement of fitness to work which would be obtained from your GP. This would need to supply evidence of your illness as well as any adjustments required for returning to work, fazed return or reduced hours, but does not need to specify in detail the reason why you have been absent.

If you are absent from work for 7 days of less, for example entering rehab for a detoxification (detox) on a Saturday for 7-10 days taking a full week away from work, you can self-certify your illness by letting your employer work you will not be attending work for that period of time. Exactly how an individual would do this would be dependent on a specific companies’ policies on taking sick leave.

Any time longer than 7 days it is likely an employer will require a note from the individuals GP certifying their sickness and a fit note on return. Most companies have a clearly outlined policy on sickness and receiving sick pay so the exact requirement can vary. A rehab will always be willing to advise on time off work.

How much does rehab cost is a very frequently asked question. The cost of treatment can range from £1,000 per week upwards depending on the place, with luxury rehab being the most expensive.

There are free options available on the NHS but the waitlist of those looking for free treatment is longer than that for privately paying patients. Some private health insurance policies will cover treatment in some rehabs around the country.

Choosing the right rehab centre will often be based on priced but it is important to follow guidance on the most suitable treatment centre for an individual’s needs which our expert team of advisers are on hand to offer.

There are certainly pro’s for both treatment near by and traveling for treatment with one of the most asked question being should I get rehab near me? There are rehabs all over the UK and around the world that all offer expert programs, let’s look at how to choose a rehab.

Local treatment

Being close to home gives certainly has benefits. Visitors are normally permitted in rehab following the first 7 days stay, therefore if an individual is in treatment for a length of time longer than that being local will make it easier for loved ones to visit.

Most rehab centres will also provide a full aftercare plan for someone following treatment, this will include ongoing aftercare in the specific treatment centre. Living close by can make it easy to take full advantage of ongoing aftercare. There can also often be the option for ongoing care with an individual therapist, again being close by will allow that treatment to be carried out face to face.

Some individuals wish to be local but are willing to look broader, for instance the greater city of residence (London, Manchester, Liverpool, etc)

Treatment Away

Getting treatment away from home can be very appealing to some. Being out of the local area makes it a lot harder to just walk out of treatment as resources locally are unknown. Some also take comfort in knowing that they are not near home and focus more on treatment.

As the price for treatment can vary so much from one residential treatment centre to another, private paying patients often would rather travel to keep the cost down. Those using private health insurance may also have to travel to find a treatment centre covered in their policy.

When opting for treatment away from home this can be anywhere in the UK and also abroad. Aftercare can still be carried out and very successful using tools such as The Online Rehab.

There is no right or wrong when choosing where to go to residential rehab, but our expert advisors are always on hand to help provide information on all possible options.

Whilst millions of people in the UK have taken recreational drugs (amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, GHB, heron, ketamine, methadone, and prescription drugs) and drank alcohol not all become ‘addicted’. Most recent reports show that 279,793 individuals were in contact with drug and alcohol misuse services in the last year with over half of that being from opiate addiction and a quarter for alcohol.

There are several risk factors invoiced in addiction and those using drugs and alcohol socially, simply take the risk. These risks are as follows;

Tolerance – basically, if a substance is used repeatedly an individual’s tolerance to it will build. This will result in more of the same substance being required to get the same effect. In the long run this can easily lead to addiction and physical dependencies.

Environmental risks – these can include influences such a peer pressure and stress as well as physical or mental abuse of an individual (particularly as a child). Overall, those who live with frequent pressures and stress are more likely to reach for a substance to cope and are therefore at higher risk of becoming addicted.

Drug type – it is very well known that certain drugs are simply more addictive than others. Using substances such as heroin increases the risk of becoming addicted for need to ‘chase’ a high as well as physical dependency.

Drug administration – how a drug is administered can affect its addictive qualities. A drug injected rather than smoked or snorted will release a quicker and more intense high thus making it psychologically (and in many cases physically) more addictive.

Biological factors – it is now widely reported that being an addict is not only psychological but also biological. This includes your genetic makeup, mental health, sex and age. It is also reported to be 8 times more likely for the child of an addict to become an addict themselves.

Its believed that addiction is approximately half genetics and therefore some are 50% more likely to become addicted than others.

How do you help a loved one trapped in addiction?

The first step is to help and encourage the individual to become willing to accept help. They do not need to be shouting this off the rooftops, but they do need to be willing to go into treatment. There are ways to help someone become willing to get treatment for alcohol or treatment for drugs.

Set boundaries – set boundaries and stick to them. Once you have laid them out follow through with whatever consequences you have set however hard it is.

Stop finances – if you are financially supporting someone stopping these finances can be the quickest way for the addict needing to ask for help. With no money to acquire a substance an addict’s options become very limited.

Intervention – getting together with other family members/friends/colleagues and staging an intervention is often very successful in the fist stage of acceptance and gaining an admission to residential rehab.

You can’t make them quit, this can lead to dangerous withdrawal. Boundaries are very important in helping someone become willing to get help. Unfortunately you cannot do someone’s recovery for them and without self-motivation it is very hard to make it work.

The next step is to call our highly trained advisers 0203 955 7700.

There is a huge range of rehab options available and where to start can be completely over whelming so let us help.