Sending a Family Member to Alcohol Rehab
The decision to send a family member or loved one to rehab for alcohol addiction is never an easy one. The individual’s family may have many fears about rehab itself, about how the person will respond both to the intervention and to treatment, and about how the process of finding a rehab and getting the person into treatment works.
There are many resources that can help. Knowing a little bit more about the process can make it easier to take the steps necessary to get a loved one needed treatment. Ultimately, the challenges of the process are offset by the hope that the individual will leave rehab in recovery from addiction, making it possible for the whole family to heal.
How to send a family member to alcohol rehab?
Families that spot an addiction in a loved one can start the healing process by researching treatment options. Once a provider has been chosen, the family can hold a conversation about the addiction and its consequences. After that talk, they can escort the person to the treatment program they have chosen. While it is never easy to send a family member to rehab, families that do so could be making a choice that keeps the family healthy, happy, and intact.
Sending a Family Member to Rehab
When a person or family suspects that a loved one is struggling with an addiction, it is easy to become overwhelmed with fear. Breaking the process down into steps can make it easier to manage the process and get treatment started quickly, which experts agree is more likely to result in long-term recovery.
The first step is to recognize when it is time to get help and admit the individual into rehab. It can be a challenge to recognize when a loved one is struggling with addiction, rather than just drinking too much on occasion. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, some signs that can help determine when a loved one may be ready for rehab include:1
- Missing work or school due to being hungover or because of drinking.
- Spending a lot of time obtaining alcohol, drinking alcohol, or recovering from alcohol use.
- Feeling physically ill when they stop drinking with withdrawal symptoms that may include shakiness, nausea, sleeplessness, or seeing things.
- Continuing to drink even if it is causing trouble with family or friends.
- Regularly getting into dangerous situations while drinking, such as driving, swimming, or using machinery while under the influence of alcohol.
Other alterations in behavior that cause concern and that happen regularly when the person is drinking can also be signs that alcohol misuse or addiction exists.
It can be challenging for family members to recognize these symptoms or admit that they add up to an alcohol use disorder, the clinical term for alcohol addiction. It can sometimes be even harder to ask for help. However, when you observe the symptoms of alcohol addiction and realize that it is time to find help for that person, certain steps, described more thoroughly below, can make the process of getting a loved one into rehab easier.
It is important to note that detox from alcohol can be a dangerous process. While some families may be tempted to try to encourage their loved one to just quit “cold turkey,” or suddenly, this can result in withdrawal symptoms that could prove dangerous or even deadly, depending on the severity and duration of the alcohol use. For this reason, medical detox in a reputable rehab program is a much safer option for alcohol addiction recovery.
Finding an Alcohol Rehab Program
Although it may seem counterintuitive to choose a rehab program before speaking with a loved one about the issue, a person who is thinking of entering treatment is more likely to do so if the program is ready to accept them immediately. Any delay could allow the person to back away from a decision to enter treatment.
A wide variety of private addiction treatment facilities are available all over the US. It’s important to find a program that fits the individual’s needs. While the choices are many, knowing what to look for in a facility can keep family members from feeling overwhelmed by the available options.
One option provides treatment in an inpatient, residential rehab facility. These facilities are able to provide 24-hour supervision and support that enable individuals to focus fully on the treatments and therapies that can help them achieve recovery, making a positive outcome more likely.
Services to look for in a residential rehab include:
- Medical detox.
- The ability to treat co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously.
- The capability to provide medical support during recovery, if needed.
- Research-based therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
- Family therapy.
- Peer support groups.
- Education and training in post-treatment coping tools and strategies.
The cost of treatment should also be considered. It is possible to at least partially cover rehab costs with most insurance plans. In addition, sliding-scale fee systems or payment plans may also be available if the person or family struggles financially to cover the costs of care.
Intervention for Individuals with Alcohol Misuse Issues
Once a spot in a program has been secured, it’s time for the family to confront the person with the addiction and present treatment as a way to a better life. Often called an intervention, this step is hard for some families because they don’t know what to expect from their loved ones. For this reason, it’s best to enlist the help of a professional interventionist who can steer the conversion in the best way, to increase the likelihood that the person in need seeks help.
An interventionist is skilled at dealing with potential challenges during the alcohol intervention, such as:
- An unwillingness to admit a problem exists.
- Angry reactions.
- Participants becoming overly emotional or enabling.
- A refusal to seek help.
Other interventions can come from medical professionals as part of the person’s regular health screenings. Studies show that early screening and brief interventions performed by primary care physicians can help individuals become aware of alcohol addictions and seek further treatment.2
Treatment for alcohol use disorder generally involves the person first withdrawing from alcohol, via medical detox, and then undergoing various treatments and therapies designed to motivate change. Therapy often involves identifying the underlying issues that led to alcohol misuse in the first place. Oftentimes, family therapy is part of the recovery process.
Family dynamics are often complicated, and the relationships that the individual has with specific family members, and the relationship with the family as a whole, can often become intertwined with addiction behaviors. This is not necessarily a negative thing for the person who is struggling with alcohol misuse. In fact, according to a chapter from SAMHSA’s Treatment Improvement Protocols, one of the purposes of family therapy is to draw on the strengths of the family to help the person develop tools and a support structure that can help that individual to manage triggers and cravings, and maintain long-term recovery.
Another purpose of family therapy is to adjust family relationships in a way that is supportive to all family members throughout the addiction recovery process. Sometimes, nuances in family relationships can be a source of stress or even a trigger for the person who has an alcohol addiction, and sometimes, family members’ behaviors can have the unintended result of enabling that person’s addiction. Family therapy can help with all these issues and provide all family members with the tools needed to improve relations.
Attending family therapy (if that’s part of the individual’s treatment protocol) is important, and it’s essential that you actively support your loved one in their recovery process. Sometimes, however, that support might require you to give them time and space so that they can do the hard work recovery necessitates. Rehab and recovery are life-changing and difficult at times. Your loved one may want to stop treatment early and even ask you to help them do so. However, American Addiction Centers (AAC) often advises family members to “lovingly disconnect” from their loved one while they are in treatment, allowing your loved one to adjust and immerse themselves in their new environment so they can fully understand the benefits treatment provides.
Post-Treatment Support from Family
It is important for family members to know that alcohol use disorder is a chronic illness that must continually be managed even after their loved one has completed a rehab program.
For this reason, continued support from family is vital—not just before and during rehab, but also after treatment has been completed—in order to help the individual remain in recovery. Rehab is not a cure; it is the first step in a process that will continue in the months and years following treatment.3
The continued support family members can provide to the person recovering from alcohol use disorder is a key element of ongoing treatment. However, it can be a struggle for family members to repeatedly confront the challenges their loved one will encounter. Fortunately, there are resources that can help family members continue to provide this support while still taking care of their own needs.
These groups can also encourage family members to take care of their own frustrations, emotions, and challenges as they work together to help their loved one avoid relapse.
Take Our Alcohol Use Self-Assessment
Take our free, 5-minute alcohol use self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with an alcohol use disorder (AUD). The evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are intended to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of an AUD. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result.