It can be incredibly difficult to know how to be there for someone who suffers from a substance use disorder (SUD). Having substance abuse issues is undeniably challenging for the person. However, their family members, friends, and loved ones suffer too, in a different way.
If you are wondering how you can help a loved one during their addiction treatment journey, there are many steps you can take. The most important thing to remember is that addiction is a lifelong journey that is full of ups and downs.
How to Support an Addict in Recovery
Recovery is a lifelong process. It is a chronic mental illness that requires professional treatment. When your loved one is going through recovery, it is normal to want to help and to feel powerless over the situation. Watching someone you love suffer is never easy, but there are some things you can do. The number one thing you have full control over is your own physical and mental health.
While it may seem counterintuitive, taking care of yourself first is the best thing you can do for someone during the recovery process. While you can offer assistance, you are not fully responsible for someone else’s recovery. It is natural for family members or loved ones to feel guilty and experience other negative emotions, but it is important to remember that it is not your fault.
In early recovery, people are more likely to relapse. Most people who fully recover from substance abuse have relapsed in the past. This is not a personal failing on the person’s part and it is a common occurrence for those suffering from substance use disorders.
Setting Healthy Boundaries
To protect yourself in the event of a relapse, the most supportive thing you can do for everyone involved is to set boundaries. Setting boundaries may be unfamiliar territory, but it is necessary for maintaining a close relationship with someone suffering from addiction. Boundaries are a set of ideals that we live by to protect ourselves from emotional or physical danger. Sticking to our boundaries ensures that we feel safe and comfortable within a relationship. Setting boundaries with someone suffering from addiction could look like providing financial help for returning to education, but not giving money that could be used for drug use. If you suspect the person has relapsed or is actively using drugs, you could set a boundary that they cannot bring drugs into your home. While you may understand addiction, you do not have to be a victim of addictive behavior.
Remember that you may need help too. Luckily, there are many support groups created specifically for family and friends who are affected by addiction. Your mental health is important and you may require emotional support during the recovery process too. A support group specifically for partners, friends, and family members can provide a safe space to discuss your experiences and concerns.
Creating Healthy Habits
When you make time to take care of yourself with activities such as eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep, you will have more energy to support your loved one. Both you and your loved one can only benefit from you being in the best frame of mind you can be in. While we all wish we could swoop in and save a loved one from addiction, it is important to practice patience. You can help your loved one by:
- Helping them find the correct addiction treatment
- Attending family therapy sessions if necessary
- Providing emotional support
- Offering any appropriate recovery help
You can do all of this while protecting your well-being. Addiction is a lifelong process, so it is important to learn how to set healthy boundaries and form good habits for the future. Be honest with yourself about how you are coping. Consider therapy to work through experiences you may have had, or seek professional help if you are struggling with your mental health.
Learn about Addiction
The adage “knowledge is power” is certainly true when dealing with addiction. Educating yourself on addiction can help you recognize addictive behavior and give you the knowledge and skills needed to help a recovering addict.
Substance abuse can be a difficult thing to understand if you have never struggled with it personally. Substance use disorders were misunderstood for a long time, but it is now recognized as chronic mental illness. Alcohol abuse or drug abuse is not a moral failing, but an illness. Understanding addiction can remove judgment. Furthermore, it can remove the common misconception that if the person loved you enough, they would stop.
Addiction research has formulated many treatment options for successful recovery. Educating yourself on recovery methods can help you understand the treatment process your loved one is going through. There are many ways to find treatment resources for addiction help online. Treatment locators can help to find local treatment facilities. If your loved one is not yet in treatment, learning about treatment options and rehab programs can help you understand what steps to take when the person wants to stop using.
Understanding The Addiction Cycle
Addiction typically follows a cycle. Understanding the addiction cycle can help you recognize addictive behavior as it happens. Addiction follows a pattern of initial use, substance abuse, building up a tolerance, and developing a dependence on the drug or alcohol. If a person tries to stop at this point, they will experience difficult withdrawal symptoms.
During withdrawal, the person will likely show visible signs. At this stage, they will have symptoms such as drug cravings, mood swings, nausea, anxiety, and depression. During withdrawal, they are more likely to relapse. Depending on how severe the addiction is, they may require medical attention during this time. Knowing how to spot the signs of withdrawal can help you protect yourself and your loved one from harm. Encourage your loved one to seek treatment as soon as possible.
If your loved one is in recovery, they will likely learn a lot about themselves. They will learn about addiction and what may be underpinning their substance abuse issues. Recovery can be a very emotional process and many people who suffer from addiction often suffer from a mental illness too. The more you know about addiction, the more effective your emotional support will be.
Support vs Enabling
It is very important to know the difference between supporting your loved one’s recovery and enabling drug addiction. It is important to be honest with yourself and your loved one if you recognize potential signs of relapse. Enabling could look like making excuses for unacceptable behavior or providing financial resources for potential drug use. It is not uncommon for those struggling with addiction to get into financial or legal trouble. While you may wish to try and rebuild their life for them, be patient and understand that it is healthy to take ownership over mistakes. In recovery, your loved one will learn to forgive their past and move forward positively. It is not possible to protect someone from all future temptations, for they must learn how to avoid dangerous situations by themself.
Support that is required in recovery is usually emotional and material. It is helpful to listen to your loved one’s concerns, struggles, and emotions. It is helpful to provide resources for future goals such as getting a job or attending further education. Providing any help that is directed toward the person’s health, life, and future goals is positive for a recovering addict.
How to Support a Friend in Recovery
If your loved one is not a spouse, partner, or family member, there are ways you can help. It is still important to protect yourself and set healthy boundaries. Similarly, learning about your friend’s substance use disorder (SUD) can help you emotionally support them. Whether your friend suffers from drug addiction or alcohol abuse, the treatment process is similar.
When spending time with your friend, suggest drug and alcohol-free activities. While your friend will have to get used to being around temptation, you can help them build healthy social habits. Going to the movies, going for walks, or going to a cafe are all positive examples of sober activities. Alcohol or drug addiction can affect everyone involved, even friends. There are support groups you can attend to discuss your personal experience with your friend’s addiction. Substance use disorders can cause a ripple effect on the lives of everyone involved, so try not to feel guilty for also needing help. Don’t hesitate to speak with a trained mental health professional if you need therapy or professional medical advice.
Taking care of yourself first is important for you to be the best friend you can be. If you need to limit contact with the person for your healing, you should respect your own needs. While it may seem unkind, boundaries are the key to having a healthy friendship. If you feel safe regaining contact, you can help your friend emotionally by listening and offering words of encouragement.
What To Say to Someone Who is A Recovering Addict?
Healing from drug addiction is a unique experience and you may not always know what to say to your loved one. Be gentle with yourself; substance use disorders can be difficult to navigate. The most important thing is to check in with your loved one. Asking them how they are doing, feeling, and thinking can show them that they are supported and loved during this process. Active listening is a technique that creates healthy conversations and deepens the connection between people. By active listening, you can understand what kind of support they need to break free from addiction and where they may be struggling.
While you may not personally understand addiction to alcohol or drugs, try to understand substance use from a medical perspective. When discussing your loved one’s substance use, try not to be judgmental. The person has already sought addiction help and they are trying to heal. It is likely they are already judging themselves and need reassurance.
If your loved one shares improvements they are making in treatment, celebrate these wins. Encourage their journey and plans for the future they might make. Your loved one is trying to create a better life that is free from drugs and alcohol. Your encouragement will go a long way in helping them do that.
Try to let your loved ones know that you love and care for them. You can tell them you are proud of them for seeking treatment and taking steps to change. It is not easy to heal from alcohol or drug abuse, so let them know you appreciate their efforts and are there for them.
What Should You Not Say to Someone in Recovery?
There are a few things that you should never say to a recovering addict. It is common for family members, children, or friends to feel that their loved one’s behavior is within their control. As a result, they might say things like “if you loved me, you would stop engaging in alcohol and drug abuse.” In reality, it can be very difficult to stop. If a person is trying to overcome substance abuse without treatment, the withdrawal symptoms can be overwhelming. Many people relapse to try and stop these dangerous and painful symptoms. Understanding that addiction requires treatment can help prevent the thought that they could just stop if they cared enough.
Those who may not understand substance use disorders may wonder why the person can’t just have one drink or engage in recreational drug abuse. Never encourage a recovering addict to try and recreationally use a substance. Doing so will severely hinder their treatment process.
Understand that many people wish to keep addiction private. While you may mean well, try and respect their private life. Asking how long they have been sober or telling them about people you know who also struggled with substance abuse will only make them anxious. Instead, try and ask general questions about how they are feeling. If they share that they are in treatment, you could ask how the treatment is going.
Treatment Methods for Substance Misuse
Learning about the common methods of treatment can help you understand your loved one’s journey. In cases of prolonged substance abuse, a person may attend drug rehab. At rehab, they will detox from drugs with medical supervision. In some cases, the person may take addiction medicine to help with withdrawal symptoms.
Rehab can be a challenging and emotional time. The person will have to overcome difficult withdrawal symptoms as well as face their addiction head-on. A rehab facility will typically provide therapy, addiction counseling, and support groups.
If you have a loved one who is recovering from addiction, Cirque Lodge can help. At our luxury treatment facilities in Utah, we include support groups for children and family members of those going through treatment. We understand the unique emotions that children, friends, spouses, and other family members go through during this time.
You can find resources on our website that will help you learn about addiction and how to help someone on their journey. Contact us today if you have queries about our luxury treatment facilities, support groups, or other services. We are here to help.