A Guide for Parents and Loved Ones

Choosing a Rehab – A Guide for Parents and Loved Ones

If you are reading our guide for parents and loved ones, it’s likely because someone that you love is having problems with addiction, and you’re searching for ways to help them. We recognise the challenges that you and your loved one are facing during this time. It’s not uncommon for families to find themselves feeling lost, overwhelmed, and unsure about the next steps.

This guide aims to equip you with the knowledge and resources to navigate these challenges effectively. We will explore the profound impact addiction has on families, including how it can lead the family unit itself to become ‘unwell,’ and offer hope and strategies for overcoming these difficulties together.

By discussing effective support strategies for your loved one and highlighting the critical role of establishing healthy boundaries, we aim to guide you from confusion to clarity, offering actionable advice for every phase of the recovery journey, from the initiation of treatment to aftercare and beyond.

At 12 Step Rehabs our aim is to alleviate some of those concerns by supporting you through the entire process and offer a free initial consultation with one of our experienced rehab consultants’ who has experienced addiction first hand and is in recovery themselves with over 12 years of continuous sobriety.

During the free initial consultation, you will have the opportunity to learn more about how to prepare for rehab, both mentally and practically and ask more detailed questions about the process of admission and allow us to address any further concerns you may have about going to rehab.

Other guides we would recommend reading are First Time in Rehab as well as Staying Clean after Rehab.

Understanding Addiction and Its Impact on Families

It can be very difficult to understand addiction, sometimes. We often hear questions from baffled loved ones like – “Why do they lie to us and steal?”

We also hear statements such as – “It’s not like them at all. It’s like they’re a different person.”

From our experience, this last statement is not so far from the truth. Without going too far into the neurobiological component of addiction – which, if you’re curious,  can be viewed in this link – we will explain the nature of addiction from the perspective of the addicted person and the family or loved one. We will then open up the topic of helping your loved one effectively and safely.

The Nature of Addiction

What happens, essentially when someone falls prey to addiction, is their perception of ‘normal’ begins to shift. It is, indeed, objectively abnormal to require 24 beers every evening (for example) in order to get to sleep. It is equally abnormal to need large amounts of a substance or engage in problematic behaviour compulsively in order to feel safe. But this is the nature of addiction. The addicted person convinces themselves that this behaviour is, in fact, quite normal and just part of their daily routine. This process is called ‘denial’, and most addicted persons are in heavy denial about the impact their behaviour is having on themselves and those around them.

Additionally, in order for the addicted person to meet these abnormal needs, it is very common for them to manipulate others to get their needs met. This may manifest as repeatedly asking for money, lying about why they need the money, even making the person feel guilty for not yielding to their demands. Of course, this behaviour may seem monstrous and can bring up feelings of anger and resentment from loved ones. But sadly, this is a part of the disease of addiction. In order for the addicted person to meet their abnormal needs, they, by default, become well-versed in deception, denial, and manipulation. This can have a devastating effect on the family and can even start to make the family unit itself sick.

Emotional Toll on Families

Of course, the emotional distress that addiction can have on the family unit cannot be overstated. Reputable rehab clinics will usually offer a family programme as part of their inpatient treatment programme to work with both the addicted person as well as their loved ones. What we often hear in these programmes is the family’s devastation of being lied to again and again and being stolen from in order for them to get their drug of choice or engage in their problematic behaviour (such as gambling or sex). The broken trust seems to be the biggest hurdle to get over.

Going a bit deeper into this, we also witness family members dealing with a sense of not knowing what ‘normal’ is anymore. Indeed, not only does the addicted person adopt a false sense of normal (in order to make their abnormal behaviour seem normal), we also see family members get swept up into the chaos of the addicted person’s life and lose sense of themselves in the process.

It’s quite common for loved ones to enable the addict’s behaviour without even knowing that this is what they’re doing. Often, yielding to the abnormal needs of the addicted person is the only way to gain a sense of peace in the household. Again, this is common and to be expected. Drug education often overlooks the impact it has on families and seldom arms them with the right information on how to help their loved one. By trying to help in the only way they know how (which is to try to maintain peace in the household), the family members themselves become sick in the process, as their sense of normal behaviour becomes warped, much like the addicted person.

When the family members learn to create healthy boundaries around what they are willing to tolerate, they start to become well…and this is all to the good, and actually shines a light on what ‘normal’ is to the addicted person.

Family Involvement in Treatment

When the family becomes aware of the nature of addiction and the impact it can have on everyone involved, it is encouraged for them to look at treatment options for their loved one. Learning to apply healthy boundaries on what behaviour will be tolerated and what won’t can really become a tipping point for the addicted person in finding and engaging in treatment. We will delve into treatment options and family involvement a bit later in this guide.

Researching Treatment Options

Navigating the landscape of treatment options for addiction recovery can be daunting. It’s crucial to identify a path that resonates with the unique needs of your loved one, ensuring they receive the most effective support. This section simplifies the spectrum of care, emphasising the significance of the 12 Step Model used by all reputable 12 Step Rehabs as a cornerstone for successful recovery.

Understanding the Spectrum of Care

It’s important to highlight that recovery from addiction is a journey through various stages of care, each designed to address the complex needs of the addicted person – from treating the physical dependence on the substance of choice, to the psychological and emotional treatment and right through to ongoing aftercare.

Medical Detoxification

Detoxification marks the first crucial step towards recovery, safely managing withdrawal symptoms under medical supervision. It clears the way for deeper therapeutic work, setting the stage for the transformative healing process that follows.

However, it’s important to note that not all people with an addiction will require a medical detox. However, a thorough clinical assessment must be conducted on the individual to determine how much of their drug of choice has been consumed and over what period.

Residential Treatment

Post-detox, residential treatment provides a nurturing environment focused on intensive therapy and skill-building. Here, the 12-step model plays a pivotal role, offering a structured framework for addressing the roots of the addiction. This approach fosters a sense of community and shared experience, critical for lasting recovery.

Sober Living Programmes

Many, but not all reputable rehab centres will offer a sober living programme. These sober living programmes offer a supportive step down from residential care, allowing individuals to practise sober living in a community setting. Sober living programmes reinforce the principles of the 12-step model, encouraging personal responsibility and ongoing growth in recovery. A sober living programme can range from 3 to 12 months in duration and offer an opportunity for graduated primary rehab clients to work on their recovery and attend 12-step meetings in a less controlled environment.

The Role of the Family in Treatment and Recovery

While it is true that the decision to go for treatment and to engage in the centre’s programme is the sole responsibility of the addicted individual, the journey towards recovery is not one that they walk alone. The family plays a vital role, offering a unique form of support that can significantly influence the outcome of treatment and recovery.

Understanding how to navigate this role effectively is crucial for the well-being of both the individual in recovery and their loved ones.

Learning Together as a Family

Addiction recovery is a learning process for the entire family (as we’ve touched on above). Engaging in educational programs together can demystify the nature of addiction, shedding light on its complexities and the challenges it poses for all involved.

Learning about the disease model of addiction, the psychological triggers, and the underlying emotional pain can foster empathy and a deeper understanding among family members. This shared learning experience serves as a foundation for building a supportive environment conducive to recovery.

Enabling vs Supporting

One of the most challenging aspects for families is distinguishing between enabling and supporting. Enabling behaviours, though often well-intentioned, can inadvertently perpetuate the addiction cycle by shielding the addicted individual from the consequences of their actions.

True support means encouraging accountability and independence, guiding your loved one towards making choices that align with their recovery goals. It involves tough love at times, setting clear boundaries, and sticking to them, no matter how difficult.

Applying these new support skills can often seem scary and confrontational, which is why we encourage family members to engage with the rehab centre’s family programme, where they can learn these skills in a safe and controlled environment.

Please reach out to us directly so we can guide you through this progress of finding suitable treatment options that offer these programmes.


Participation Beyond Therapy

Family involvement shouldn’t end with therapy sessions. Participation in the recovery process can extend into daily life, through open communication, and shared activities that promote sobriety.

There are further opportunities for family members to seek support for themselves through fellowships like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. These meetings can be particularly enlightening, offering perspectives from other families who are navigating similar challenges. Moreover, they underscore the importance of self-care for family members, reminding them that their health and well-being are just as important as that of their loved one in recovery.


Preparing for Rehab: Tips for Families

Once a rehab facility has been chosen and the decision to seek help has been embraced, the journey towards healing and recovery begins not just for the individual struggling with addiction but for their family as well. This pivotal moment marks a transition towards a hopeful future, yet it comes with its own set of challenges and preparations. Here are essential tips for families to navigate this critical phase effectively:

Communication and Support

Open and Honest Dialogue: Start with open, honest, and compassionate communication. It’s important to discuss the forthcoming changes and what they entail for everyone involved. Express your support and commitment to their recovery journey, ensuring they don’t feel alone in this process.

Educate Yourself and the Family: Understanding the rehab process and what your loved one will be going through can settle some fears and misconceptions. As mentioned above, many rehab centres offer family orientation sessions or resources; take advantage of these to educate yourself and any family members who will be part of the support system.

Setting Expectations: It’s beneficial to discuss expectations—both what your loved one can expect from the rehab program and what changes might occur at home. Address any concerns and reassure them of your support throughout their recovery.

Practical Preparations

Logistics: Attend the practical aspects of preparing for rehab, such as arranging transportation to the facility, managing insurance and financial arrangements, and handling any legal matters that may need attention before their stay.

Home Environment: Prepare your home for their return by creating a safe, substance-free environment. This may involve removing any triggers or substances that could jeopardise recovery efforts.

Personal Affairs: Help your loved one get their personal affairs in order before their departure. This might include taking care of work obligations, informing necessary parties of their temporary absence, and ensuring bills and other responsibilities are managed.

Emotional Preparation: Recognise that this is an emotionally charged time for both you and your loved one. Seek support for yourself through counselling, support groups, or trusted friends to manage your own feelings and stress.


Aftercare is a critical phase in the recovery journey, serving as a bridge between the structured environment of rehab and the realities of everyday life. It’s during this time that individuals apply the skills and insights gained in treatment to maintain their sobriety and navigate challenges. The role of the family in this process is pivotal, providing ongoing support that can significantly influence the success of aftercare.

Understanding the Importance of Aftercare

Aftercare isn’t just a phase—it’s an ongoing process that encompasses various forms of support, including therapy sessions, 12 step meetings, and sometimes continued medication management. This comprehensive approach helps the individual solidify their recovery, manage triggers, and build a resilient, substance-free life.

For families, recognizing the importance of aftercare is essential. It’s a period where the individual’s commitment to sobriety is tested, and the support system they have around them can make all the difference. Engaging in aftercare planning before leaving rehab, setting realistic expectations, and being actively involved in the recovery process are crucial steps.

How Families Can Support Aftercare

Stay Informed: Educate yourself about the aftercare process, understanding what your loved one will be going through and how you can best support them.

Encourage Participation: Motivate your loved one to stay engaged with their aftercare program, whether it’s attending meetings, therapy, or participating in sober activities.

Foster Open Communication: Keep lines of communication open, offering a safe space for your loved one to share their feelings, successes, and challenges without fear of judgment.

Support Healthy Habits: Encourage and participate in healthy lifestyle choices that support recovery, such as exercise, hobbies, and balanced nutrition.

Seek Support for Yourself: Remember, recovery is also an opportunity for family members to heal and grow. Engaging in support groups for families of those in recovery can provide valuable insights and coping strategies.

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