couple learning how to cope with a loved one starting rehab

He has begun his rehab treatment, and you haven’t heard from him in weeks. You’re happy that she’s getting help for her addiction, but part of you is worried that she won’t be the same person when she comes out of inpatient rehab. When someone has a substance abuse problem, it’s never easy for the people who love them. Unfortunately, the worries don’t simply disappear when your loved one or significant other goes into rehab.

Those kinds of feelings of apprehension and worry are quite natural. You may also be wondering how your role in the relationship will change if previously you had spent so much time and energy taking care of your partner and managing the fallout that commonly accompanies addiction.

The chances are that your main preoccupation has been with helping your partner conclude that he or she needs professional help to deal with addiction and regain health and normal life for months or even years. (Read more about how to bring up rehab with a loved one.) Now’s the time to turn your focus towards equipping yourself with the knowledge and strategies that will allow you to be healthy and ready for when your partner returns from inpatient drug rehab or alcohol rehab.

What Happens In Rehab?

No matter the expected duration of their stay, if you have a loved one, girlfriend, or boyfriend in rehab, they will probably be facing some intense and, at times, difficult treatments. Following the detox process, they will be involved in different forms of therapy to help them on the road to recovery. (Read more about detox and post-acute withdrawal syndrome)

In most cases, rehab includes a combination of regular individual therapy sessions, group therapy, and a range of holistic therapies, among others. It’s a time for the patient to be focused on recovery, so it would be understandable if, during that time, you don’t hear from them as frequently as you might like.

Look After Yourself

Being in a relationship with someone who’s been struggling with addiction can be traumatizing in many ways. Your environment was probably emotionally charged and difficult, the effects of which can stay with you for years to come. Loved ones of individuals recovering from drug addiction and alcoholism may face some of those lasting after-effects such as depression, loss of trust, and emotional numbness. If those feelings are not addressed, they can be detrimental to your well-being, not to mention that of your partner.

Codependence

It’s common for individuals to develop a co-dependency due to their relationship with someone with an addiction. Codependency occurs when an individual takes on the role of caregiver and sets aside their own needs. Typically, they derive a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment from being needed.

Codependency can make it difficult for individuals to have normal healthy relationships. Some of the common attributes of an individual who is codependent include:

  • A lack of boundaries
  • Fear of abandonment
  • A deep-rooted sense of responsibility for the behavior of others
  • Need for approval

Codependent behavior can also serve to enable the addiction of others and therefore be a barrier to recovery. Enabling behavior makes it easier for addicts to avoid facing the consequences of their addiction.

Some common enabling behaviors exhibited by codependent individuals include making excuses for the addict’s behavior, blaming others for the person’s addiction, and repeatedly helping individuals get out of difficult situations by lending them money or bailing them out of jail.

When Your Partner Returns From Rehab

Many people in a relationship with a person who is in rehab worry about things being different when they return. The truth is, things will be different, but that’s a good thing. Recovery means change for the better. It also means that you will have to adapt to those changes.

Some old and deeply ingrained behaviors will need to be modified. If you’ve found yourself expressing blame or bitterness at your partner because of the addiction, you’ll have to be mindful of that in the future. For example, if you’ve ever said something like “we wouldn’t be so broke if it weren’t for the drugs” or “I wouldn’t act this way if you weren’t drunk all the time,” you’ll need to resist those urges in the future. Now that your partner is on the road to recovery, assigning blame will only hinder their success.

Family Recovery Programs

Among the best tools at your disposal to help you deal with the residual effects of living with an addicted partner is a family recovery program. Programs such as these can be precious to assist family members in healing and preparing them for life with their loved ones post-rehab.

An added benefit of family recovery programs is that they will arm you with the strategies and skills to best support long-term recovery success while avoiding enabling behaviors. Hopefully, if you’re figuring out how to cope with a loved one, wife, or husband, we’ve provided some useful insight and recommendations to make the time apart easier.