With over 20 million Americans dealing with addiction each year, you probably know someone in recovery. The support of the people in their life plays a crucial role in getting back on track. In other words, you can really help someone with their recovery process without enabling them. No matter how close the person is to you, your help cannot come in the form of covering up for them or helping to pay for their problem.
With consistent treatment and healthy support, they can and will thrive again. If you want to contribute to this effort, it’s useful to know what and what not to do.
6 Things You Can Do To Helping Someone Recover From Addiction
A person in their position could be experiencing shame and guilt. Cut through that by openly verbalizing your support. Tell them directly that you’re here to help. This type of productive communication also involves healthy listening. Also, do not engage in emotional manipulation — even by accident. They don’t need to hear you say something like “If you love me, you’ll change.”
There’s a lot to learn when it comes to addiction, substance abuse, recovery, relapse, and more. Commit to self-education and to sharing what you learn.
- Respect and Compassion
As you get more informed and enhance your communication skills, you can blend that into a powerful combination. Never forget that addiction is a disease. You’re not making excuses for anyone but you’re also not here to lecture, mock, or blame. Two examples to keep in mind:
- Avoid calling them an “addict”: No person is defined by one characteristic. It’s not their entire identity.
- Remember the past but don’t linger on it: There is no value in trying to erase the addiction from the conversation. Accept it as a reality but do not get caught up always reminding the person about their past and the pain they caused.
- Be a Role Model
Demonstrate on a daily basis that people can have fun, be happy, and live rich lives without reliance on self-medication. Speaking of being a role model…
- Prioritize Yourself, Too
You cannot help anyone else if you’re not taking care of yourself. Set and enforce healthy boundaries. You’re not on call 24/7. You have every right to enjoy your life and experience joy while being a support for someone in need. Most importantly, practice self-care. Some basics to factor in:
- Safeguard your sleep patterns
- Engage in daily exercise
- Make healthy eating choices
- Practice stress management
Another important step could be to connect with others who are also helping loved ones recover. An online or in-person support group is an ideal setting to feel understood and empowered. In such a setting, you can learn from each other.
- Be Patient
Recovery from addiction is an ongoing journey. Your loved one will have ups and downs. Relapse is a very real possibility. Two in three people will slide back in the first year, so learn the signs of relapse, e.g. missing meetings, speaking fondly of their past life, mood changes, and speaking critically about the recovery effort. Be supportive but also be diligent and patient.
Find Your Own Safe Space
When supporting a loved one’s recovery efforts, you may lose sight of your own needs and wants. Your dedicated desire to help can overshadow everything else and become a new identity of sorts for you. In a time like this, please consider talking with a professional. A therapist is uniquely positioned to guide you as you a) help your loved one and b) keep a healthy focus on your own life.
Don’t go it alone. Let’s talk soon. Feel free to contact me if you need additional support and tools to manage your stress.
You can also get the latest info by following me on Facebook.