12 Ways to Support Someone in Recovery
Watching someone battle an addiction can be terrifying and draining. Oftentimes, family and friends feel helpless as their addicted loved one struggles through each stage of their recovery. As supporters on the outside, there is a fine line between being supportive and enabling bad behaviors that landed an addict in rehab in the first place. Trying to walk that line can feel like a monumental task.
There is good news, however: No one has to be powerless when it comes to helping a person that you love get through drug or alcohol addiction. Here are twelve ways to help a close friend or family member who is in recovery.
- Make a conscious effort not to judge them. Addiction is unlike other diseases in that many people do not view it as a medical condition. The shame and painful emotions that come with substance abuse often makes it hard for former drug abusers to open up about their thoughts and feelings regarding their drug use. Not only does this make getting treatment in the first place hard, but it can also make staying sober difficult as well. Let your loved one know that you will not judge them for struggling some days or for opening up about past use. This can go a long way in building trust and helping an addict feel like they are worthy of forgiveness and happiness.
- Create an environment that is free of intoxicants. Alcoholics and drug addicts can feel awkward in a world where having an occasional drink or using drugs recreationally is often seen as "normal." It can also open up the opportunity of an addict having access to the substance that they struggle with. Having supportive friends or family members making a conscious effort not to use or keep intoxicants in the home is crucial. Having get-togethers that center around social interaction that does not involve being intoxicated can help an addict learn to socialize while sober and show them that life does go on, even when they aren't using.
- Attend meetings with them. Attending meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) has been shown to reduce the chances of an addict relapsing in the first 90 days of their sobriety. Even after 90 days has passed, many former drug abusers say that attending meetings regularly helps them stay balanced and stay sober. Offer to accompany your loved one to a meeting at least once a week to show solidarity and learn more about the struggles they are going through.
- Help them find new activities and hobbies to get into. One of the things that helps former addicts stay sober is keeping active. Addicts can feel avoided when they first return from a recovery program because their addiction has taken up all of their time and thoughts for so long. Replacing harmful habits with healthy ones like exercise, dance classes, yoga, or playing music can redirect their restless energy and inspire new feelings of excitement and interest in life.
- Attend group or family counseling. It is no surprise that when an addict is not themselves, they tend to burn bridges in the course of their time abusing drugs or alcohol. There is often resentment or pain left over in the wake of an addiction that is best handled with talk therapy. Offering to come with your loved one to therapy sessions geared towards rebuilding friendships and family bonds can help the both of you heal from the damage caused by their drug use.
- Be an active listener. Outside of therapy, it can still be helpful to an addict to have someone with an open ear on their side. Make it known that you will listen to them vent when needed and be there to offer suggestions or encouragement. Having a safe place to discuss their troubles can help an addict stay aware of their thoughts and feelings and avoid relapsing in order to suppress them.
- Stay informed. Ask questions during therapy and research support groups around you. Keep rehabilitation information and guides on the 12-step program and other programs like it. Not only will this show your loved one that you care, but it will also make it easier to get them help in the event of a lapse or relapse.
Every addict needs a strong support group to back them up, especially in the earliest days of recovery. Stay engaged and show them how much you care. Call 215-383-2672 to get help finding treatment centers that can assist you with aftercare and support systems.