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How Can I Help a Loved One Prepare for Addiction Treatment?

by Will Long

February 2, 2023

There are important steps you can take to help a loved one prepare for addiction treatment. Getting someone to commit to treatment is just the first step in what can be a long road to recovery from drug and alcohol use disorder. As a family member, you can help set your loved one up for success, and set realistic expectations for them, you and the rest of your family. There are several things to remember as you continue guiding them in the right direction towards a better, healthier life. Here are five things to remember as you help your loved one begin their journey and enter rehab.

5 Steps to Prepare Someone for Rehab

Preparing someone for drug or alcohol addiction treatment can help the transition into recovery go much smoother. The tips below can also help you develop an understanding of what to expect from treatment, and how the rest of your family can help.

1. Learn about addiction.

Understanding what addiction is and what it’s like can go a long way towards broadening your understanding of your loved one as they prepare to embark on their journey of recovery. You must remember that addiction isn’t a choice, but rather a legitimate disease as defined by the medical community. This is why effective, evidence-based medical treatment and therapy for an addiction is the best way forward for those suffering instead of going cold turkey.

In the spirit of understanding the struggle of your loved one, it’s always a good idea to speak with someone who’s been to the rehab that your loved one agreed to enter.

“The vast majority of the time, the fear of what might await them is entirely unfounded as all patients walk a thin line between great and disappointing expectations,” said Michael Walsh, a certified interventionist and Landmark’s Director of Clinical Outreach.

2. Don’t weaponize your relationship.

One of the worst things you can do to your loved one as they approach the day they enter rehab is weaponize the relationship. Don’t attempt to force their hand. Saying things like “if you loved me, you wouldn’t continue using” can be damaging to someone who’s attempting recovery for the first time. It conveys a punitive mindset around your perception of their approach to recovery instead of encouraging them. Perhaps consider saying something along the lines of, “I love you; how can I help you as you prepare for rehab?”

Codependency can also be a risk factor in getting your loved one treatment. As the emptiness in their life is filled by the presence of you or drugs, you must remember that you can’t allow them to use the relationship as an excuse for letting go of the disease that has them in its jaws.

3. Offer accountability.

One way you can help a loved one as they prepare is to continue encouraging them as a way of holding them accountable to their plan of going to rehab.

“Offer encouragement but don’t be the police,” Walsh said. “Leave that to the professionals in a treatment setting who know treatment best.”

Even after they leave and rejoin the outside world with new skills and techniques for staying sober, you must remember that you’re the loved one—not the therapist or sponsor. Be the liaison between the teachers and the learners!

One way you can help direct them towards the rehab they agreed to enter is to ignore them as they begin rationalizing. Ask them what they have to lose by going to rehab. While the fear of the unknown can be debilitating, those who’ve been to rehab describe entering it as a relief once they begin undergoing treatment. It clears the mind.

4. Help them find the right treatment.

Not all addiction treatment facilities offer the same treatments. Some, for example, may not treat people with opioid use disorder. Others may not take patients who are diagnosed with a mental disorder. Others may only use faith-based programs. So be sure to get an understanding of what your loved one needs and wants and what the treatment center can provide. 

When you’re exploring treatment options with your loved one they may have questions about it. They may just ask about what to bring or what it will be like. Don’t oversell it! They might be disappointed in ways that negatively affect their stay at rehab. Rehab isn’t utopia, nor is it a hellish place where they’ll suffer. Some people described rehab as a four-week vacation with intentional therapy sessions aimed at treating the causes of an addiction, For others it can be tough, especially if they suffer from withdrawals and aren’t undergoing medication assisted therapy. Don’t let this be an unrealistic description of what an experience might end up being like, however. Ultimately, keeping someone comfortable is ideal in a therapeutic environment—it’s not about bringing two suitcases of things, it’s about what you learn.

5. Listen to the experts.

“Let the treatment center answer questions after you get them there!” said Walsh. “It’s much better to allow the professionals who understand the process of treatment to answer the questions, not you. Patients will feel much more comfortable if the professionals give them a realistic idea of treatment.”

An example of a guideline that is strictly adhered to at most facilities is a rule about keeping phones locked up. This is to make sure patients are focused on their recovery and makes it harder to contact people outside of the facility for drugs.

The best thing to do just before you bring them to the treatment center and walk them through the front door is help them pack their essentials and offer them a final word of encouragement. Tell them you love them. Let them know that you have their back, even from afar. They may cling to those words as the thing that grounds them on the roller coaster of rehab.

Learn More

To learn more about how Landmark Recovery supports the families and loved ones of those in our treatment centers or outpatient programs, call us today at 888-448-0302 to speak with one of our dedicated admissions team. We also have a dedicated team of family liaisons that work to keep you connected with loved ones in treatment. Our therapists also provide family therapy sessions for the families of those in treatment so they can heal and grow together. We’re on a mission to save a million lives in the next century, starting with those in treatment and their families.

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About the Author

Will Long

Will Long

A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Long has been a writer for Landmark Recovery since 2021. He specializes in research and writing about substance abuse from a scientific and social perspective. Unearthing information from underexplored, far-flung corners of the Internet, Long’s passion is finding emerging trends in substance use and treatment that the public should know about.