You Are Not Alone
How to Support a Loved One Through Addiction Recovery. Numerous people have experienced successful recoveries from drug or alcohol issues. In fact, The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and the Partnership at Drugfree.org report that about ten percent of adults in the U.S. are in recovery after suffering from substance abuse problems.
It can be devastating to watch a loved one struggle through an addiction. So when someone with a substance abuse issue finally begins working toward a recovery, that person’s friends and family members typically experience a great deal of relief.
However, even if former substance users are in recovery or have recently completed treatment, that doesn’t mean they no longer need the support of their loved ones. In fact, recovered former substance abusers can be at risk for relapse, even if they haven’t taken drugs or alcohol for years or decades.
Fortunately, there are numerous ways to support a loved one who is recovering from a substance addiction. Take a look at the following proactive steps friends and family members can take to help a recovering user remain clean and sober.
Move Past Common Misconceptions
There are many myths associated with addiction and when family members and friends believe and perpetuate those misconceptions, it can make recovery much more difficult for a former substance abuser.
One of the most common myths about addiction is that, rather than being a disease, addiction is actually moral issue. This belief has created a general stigma around addiction, which can cause recovering drug or substance abusers to feel ashamed or discouraged.
In fact, substance abuse can and does affect people from all income levels, religious backgrounds, moral belief systems and walks of like. If family members and friends keep this in mind, they are less likely to contribute to a substance abusers feelings of guilt and inferiority.
Another misconception is that people with addictions would have an easier time overcoming their problems if they simply possessed more will power. Far from being a matter of will power, addiction is a disease that leaves substance abusers with little control over any actions and decisions that are related to using drugs or alcohol. Understanding exactly how addiction works can help friends and family members maintain realistic expectations of their loved ones.
Ensure That the Recovery Option is a Good Fit
Contrary to popular belief, not all rehabilitation facilities are the same. In fact, each center offers different environments, treatment programs and methods of care. Choosing a treatment facility should be a carefully thought out process that places recovering abusers in the best possible environment for their unique situations.
For a loved one who is still looking for a treatment facility, it essential to choose a center that is a great fit. Enrolling in the wrong drug rehab facility could result in:
- An abandoned attempt at recovery
- Unwillingness to try rehabilitation in the future
Even if a loved one is already in a recovery program, it can still be beneficial to take a close look at whether the current facility is appropriate. Similarly, many recovering abusers enroll in aftercare programs – which continue to provide help after rehab treatment has ended. Aim to find the best possible aftercare center and program for your loved one. This choice could mean the difference between a failed attempt at recovery and sustainable success.
Learn About Relapse
Many family members and friends make the mistake of assuming that because their loved one has completed addiction treatment, that the most difficult and challenging times are behind them. However, relapse is a real risk for former substance abusers, no matter how long they have been clean.
Relapse is a complicated process that actually begins long before a person starts using again. This progression involves small changes in how former abusers think about recovery methods, the ways they behave and how much control they have.
Numerous factors can contribute to a relapse, including:
- High levels of stress
- Lack of family support
- Occasions of celebration
- Substance availability
- Lack of employment
- Exposure to situations and people related to the addiction
- Feelings of isolation and loneliness
Friends or family members should be aware of the possibility of relapse and look out for potential warning signs. These signs can be different for each individual, but in general loved ones can keep an eye out for significant behavioral changes, a sudden lack of interest in important activities or responsibilities and a failure to keep up with addiction recovery commitments, such as meetings and counseling sessions.
Also, while it may be tempting to ignore the possibly of relapse, it can be valuable to talk about this issue with the recovering abuser and develop an action plan just in case a relapse occurs. If a relapse does happen, the plan will give family members and friends the tools they need to act quickly and help their loved one engage in recovery efforts.
Relapse can be devastating for everyone involved. However, it’s helpful to understand that many recovering substance abusers experience a relapse and still go on to achieve a full recovery. Instead of making a loved one feel like a failure, it’s important to remain supportive and encourage that person to get back on the path toward a clean lifestyle as soon as possible.
Participate in Substance Free Activities and Networks
One of the best strategies for preventing a relapse is to help individuals in recovery find healthy, substance-free ways to remain occupied and engaged. These activities take up free time that might have otherwise been filled with unhealthy engagements that could trigger a relapse. Positive pursuits can also provide a sense of purpose and meaning that may have been lost when an individual was suffering from an addiction.
Many rehabilitation centers help recovering users find fulfillment through activities like artwork, yoga, hiking, organized sports, cooking and community service. Friends and family members can encourage participation in these activities by joining their loved ones as they pursue these interests and by helping them try out new hobbies.
Users Should Avoid Their Old Ways
In addition to participating in sober activities, people who are recovering from addiction problems may need to avoid interactions with old acquaintances who are still struggling with addiction or who are heavy users of drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to replace old friends with new ones, especially after a recovering user has been away while going through addiction treatment.
Friends and family members can help during this difficult transition period by introducing a recovering abuser to other people who are sober or who encourage sobriety. This may be a lengthy process, as it takes time to form meaningful relationships, but these interactions can prevent loneliness and give recovering users a more empathetic support system to lean on during times of difficulty.
Even though family members and friends may not be going through recovery themselves, they are often right alongside their loved ones during this challenging process. All of these steps can certainly be helpful, but friends and family members shouldn’t be afraid to check in with recovering abusers to see what else might be needed. Often, simply being available and willing to listen can help an individual in recovery get through another day of sobriety.