When someone you love decides to get help for their dependency problem, it can feel like a huge relief.
However, the process of recovering from dependency and improving their relationships, both during and after rehab, can be difficult and emotional. Learning how to support an addict while they’re in treatment, including how to live with an addict who’s in treatment and understanding the different types of help out there for you, can be a great support during this time.
In this article, we will cover how to provide addiction support to a loved one,
How to Support a Recovering Addict
If a loved one is recovering from dependency, whether that’s to alcohol or another form of substance abuse, there are many different ways to show your support. In addition, they may be struggling with mental health issues, and are likely in need of peer support. Here are three big ones:
1. Educate yourself on their addiction.
It’s important to understand the specific type of dependency your loved one is struggling with. Different types of dependency have different characteristics and addiction treatment options, so it’s important to know the symptoms of the type of dependency your loved one is struggling with. This will also help you to identify if they’re relapsing at some point in the future.
2. Prepare yourself for limited contact.
Many rehabilitation centers have strict rules regarding contact, especially in the first stage of recovering from addiction. Minimizing the client’s connection to the outside world, even to their loved ones, is a big and important step toward recovering. Even when they are allowed to contact you, it may take them some time – many addicts deal with embarrassment and shame, making it hard for them to reach out to their friends and family in the beginning.
3. Show up for Family Day.
Chances are that the rehab center is going to invite you to Family Day. You may have mixed feelings about this, but it’s important that you show up, even if contact with your loved one has been so far limited. Being present and providing peer support is essential in and of itself, but there will be other opportunities to show your support, too. For example, your loved one may choose to use this time to talk to you about their dependency.
How to Provide Encouragement for Addicts
The closer you are to the person in recovery, the more you may have been affected by their dependency. This can make it difficult to know how to best show them encouragement. These ideas may help:
1. Accept them without judging them.
Recovering addicts deal with a lot of shame and it’s common for them to feel judged by their loved ones. In order to encourage their sobriety, do your best to support them without being critical or negative, even if they end up making mistakes during their recovery.
2. Make sure the environment is free of substances.
If your loved one is going to live with you during recovery or even spend time at your home, it’s important to make the space substance-free. Get rid of any alcohol or drugs, and even related paraphernalia – you don’t want to have anything at home that could lead to a relapse. If they’re only going to come by for visits, it’s fine to pack this stuff away instead of getting rid of it permanently.
3. Encourage them to engage in healthy habits.
Addicts may feel bored with their new, sober life, especially if a ton of their time was spent engaging in their dependency or spending time with other addicts. It’s important that you encourage them to participate in healthy activities such as working out, cooking, going to the movies, visiting new places, etc.
Living with a Recovering Addict
Knowing what to expect when living with an addict who’s trying to stay sober is the best way to prepare yourself. Here are a few important points to keep in mind:
1. Understand that problems may still continue.
Even an addict who is committed to being sober may have other challenges to face, and these challenges can affect the household. For example, they may have issues related to finances, health or relationships to tackle. It’s important to accept that this isn’t a straight line and that there may be other problems to deal with that are the result of the dependency.
2. Keep stress to a minimum.
These common challenges have to be dealt with in a productive, calm manner by both you and the loved one. Find new ways to deal with stressful situations, such as meditating, journaling, deep breathing and exercising. The goal here is to face these challenges and solve problems without too much stress that could lead to a relapse.
3. Get support for yourself.
Dependency is a family-wide problem and it’s important to seek out support for yourself in addition to supporting an addict. There are all sorts of family support options for you even if you’re not the one who has an addiction problem. By meeting others who are in the same position as you, you can share your concerns and get advice from people who’ve been through it before.
What is Family Rehab?
Dependency on drugs or alcohol is considered a family disease, meaning it affects the entire family and not just the addicted individual.
You and the rest of your family (and the client’s friends) may be in a lot of pain. Family rehabilitation can take all different forms, from day-long workshops to longer seminars (and even shorter sessions). There are all sorts of family support options based on the duration and complexity you’re interested in. The goal of family rehabilitation overall is to help you heal from the harmful side effects of the dependency.
You’ll do things like sort through the upheaval and chaos you went through with the addict; learn how to set boundaries; and discover ways to rebuild your relationship. Other parts of the program may include presentations by staff members, goal setting, group discussions, and time for reading and reflecting.
What are Al-Anon Meetings?
Al-Anon is a type of support for individuals who have been impacted by a loved one’s alcohol dependency.
There is a set of principles that friends and family members of the addict can apply to their unique situation. Al-Anon is an option even if the addict isn’t ready to admit that they have a problem or that they need help. Alateen is a version that’s specifically for teenagers who have been affected by a person’s alcohol dependency.
Yes, this is hard work and most of that work is going to be done by the addict themselves, but friends and family still play an important role, especially when it comes to supporting an addict. The more supportive you’re able to be, the more likely it is that your loved one will have a successful time.