Over 23 million Americans struggle with some form of addiction. In fact, some believe that this issue could easily be one of the country’s most pervasive issues. Not only that, but research indicates that more than 64 percent of the population has dealt with addiction in someone close to them – be it a mother, father, child, relative, friend. Below are some tips for helping someone battling addiction.
If you are one of that number which has had to watch a loved one struggle with addiction, it can be a welcome relief when your loved one agrees to seek help. But it doesn’t stop there. In fact, there is a great deal more work to be done once the recovery process begins for both the person you love and for you.
It is also important to recognize that your responsibility goes beyond just supporting your family member or friend. It is vital that you learn both what you can do to help your loved one as well as what you need to avoid doing to best support your dear one through the recovery process.
To help you both along the road to recovery, use this list of dos and don’ts to help you establish firm boundaries while still providing support to your family member or friend both during and after treatment.
Positive Ways to Support Your Loved One During Recovery
As much as your loved one needs to complete recovery on his or her own, there are some ways you can effectively support him or her during this period. When helping someone battling addiction, follow these suggestions to be a mainstay of support for your loved one during recovery.
To facilitate his or her recovery, your loved one will likely be enrolled in some support meetings – therapy, support groups, 12-Step sessions, etc. If your family member invites you to attend one of these meetings, do your best to attend. But also keep in mind that your family member may need to work through things privately in these settings before being comfortable letting you participate in these vulnerable settings.
It is important to remember that you need to heal just as much as the individual who is overcoming the addiction. So you should also seek the support for yourself outside of your loved one’s recovery program. This can also be in the form of therapy, 12-Step meetings, or programs facilitated through Al-Anon. These support systems will provide you with the necessary space and people who understand what you are going through.
Invest in self-care
The road to recovery is a long one paved with lots of ups and downs. You’ll not be able to ride it out effectively with your loved one if you are dealing with your own health concerns – physical or emotional. Make it a priority to invest in self-care during this time. See your doctor for a checkup as needed, exercise and eat well, and get good quality sleep.
Of course, you want to be supportive of your loved one during his or her time in recovery. However, you both need space to heal during this period. And no matter how hard you try, you cannot stay sober for your loved one. It is recommended to establish boundaries for both of you and to give your family member the space he or she needs to make decisions independently.
Pitfalls to Avoid While Helping Someone Battling Addiction
It is easy to fall into specific patterns of behavior to attempt to cover for and protect your loved one who is in recovery. Avoid these behaviors and allow him or her to work through the process independently to give him or her the best chance of overcoming the addiction.
You may feel tempted to “cover for” your loved one during the recovery period, such as calling into his or her work to cover for an absence or taking the blame for a disagreement that occurred while he or she was under the influence. All that this does is enable the behavior of your loved one. Instead, remember that he or she needs to deal with the consequences of his or her choices related to the addiction to fully recover from it.
Set unattainable expectations
The best advice you can adopt while your family member is in recovery is “hope for the best and prepare for the worst.” Allow your loved one the space to work through treatment, but don’t expect change to happen overnight. Likewise, do what you can to support your family member during treatment, such as limiting his or her access to household funds.
Share personal concerns
It is important that your loved one knows you care; however, it is not constructive that your family member knows that you think his or her close friend or a chosen activity will cause him to relapse. Likewise, recovery is not the time that you need to discuss choices your loved one made during addiction with him or her. Avoid projecting your concerns onto your loved one and instead find a safe space and person/people to work through them with.
Many loved ones think it is their responsibility to see the family member or friend through treatment even if the situation isn’t working. If either of you is unhappy or you know that you won’t be able to resolve the relationship even if your loved one achieves recovery, don’t feel stuck. As sensitively as possible, free both of you from the expectations of the relationship to facilitate healing for both of you.
Recovery is never easy, but it is possible. Use these suggestions as a guide for the basic dos and don’ts of helping someone battling addiction.