Josh Chandler | March 25, 2021

What to Say to a Family Member in Rehab

Communicating Effectively with a Loved One in Rehab

It’s often hard to know what to say to a family member in drug rehab. You may have been hurt by actions they took while abusing drugs or alcohol; maybe you’re still dealing with understandable feelings of pain. Even if you have no issues with your loved one, you may still feel uncertain about what to say. Your conversation will be easier if you speak honestly and approach your loved one with compassion and understanding.

What to Say to Your Loved One in Rehab

Forgiveness and support are the most important messages you should convey to a family member in drug rehab. Here are some phrases to say during your conversation:

“I Forgive You”

It might be hard for you, especially if you’ve been hurt, but it’s the first step in healing. Neither of you can move forward if you hold on to pain and damage and if you find yourself resenting them for their behavior. But don’t offer it until they’ve asked. Making amends and asking forgiveness are essential parts of their recovery, and they need to make the first move. Just be ready to offer it when asked.

“What Can I Do to Help?”

Knowing someone is in their corner can provide an essential boost of confidence and self-esteem for your family member in alcohol or drug rehab. Recovering from addiction is one of the hardest things they’ll ever do, and it’s even more complicated when they feel they’re all alone in the struggle. Knowing you’re there for them may be all they need to make it.

“What Has Rehab Been Like for You?”

Expressing interest in their recovery is another way to show support. You can ask about things like the programs they’re participating in, friendships they’ve made, successes, and challenges (never call them “failures”). Don’t come across like an interrogator by peppering them with lots of questions; show interest. Be sure to listen and respond to their answers. And if they don’t want to answer a question, just let them know you’ll listen when they are ready.

What Not to Say to Your Loved One During Rehab

Deciding what you should not say can be more complicated than figuring out what you should say. But it’s simply a matter of withholding negative comments and judgmental attitudes. Even when you think you are positive and supportive, the wrong word or question can make your loved one’s drug or alcohol rehab more difficult. Here are things you should not say and what you can say instead:

“Do You Really Have That Big a Problem?”

You may think you are supporting your loved one by suggesting their problem isn’t serious enough to check in to rehab, but all you’re supporting is their need to deny they need help. Your loved one probably chose drug or alcohol rehab because they knew they had a serious problem; no one checks in to rehab if they haven’t finally accepted that. Instead of denying their problem, congratulate them for having the courage to do something about it.

“I Know Someone Who Just Quit on Their Own Without All This”

Suggesting that your loved one needs “a little willpower” hurts their self-esteem and shows ignorance of how addiction works. It’s not a character flaw or a failure to try hard enough. Willpower is the first strategy many addicts try, and it rarely brings long-term sobriety. Addiction is a disease that can only be cured like a disease.

Instead, tell your loved ones you understand they have a severe enough disease to require professional drug rehab help and that you’re glad they’re not trying to go it alone.

“I Know You’ve Got It This Time!”

It’s tempting to be a cheerleader for your loved one; isn’t that what support is all about?

Not really. Virtually every addict has a relapse at least once in their journey to sobriety, even after years of sobriety. Telling your loved ones that you know they’re going to succeed adds undue pressure finally and reminds them that they’ve “failed” before.

Instead, tell them you know they have a difficult road ahead, and you’ll be there for them as they struggle as well as when they win. That’s all anyone can ask.

Muse Treatment has experienced treatment specialists who can help you learn about addiction and how you can communicate with your family member in rehab. Call us today at 800-426-1818 to find drug or alcohol rehab best suited to tackle addiction.

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Josh Chandler
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