Showing Your Support
When a friend or family member is seeking addiction treatment, there are a number of ways you can show your support. The team at Waypoint Recovery Center‘s South Carolina drug and alcohol addiction treatment center has created this list of tips to help you better understand what your loved one is going through and how you can help them build the foundation for a lasting recovery.
1. Remember That Addiction Is a Chronic Illness
Addiction is a chronic illness with complex biological and environmental triggers. It’s not a character flaw. Blaming or shaming your loved one for their substance abuse is unproductive. Even if they don’t visibly show it, people with substance use disorders already feel guilty about their actions and the harm they’ve caused to the people they love. They simply feel powerless to change their behavior.
When speaking to someone with an addiction, think about what you’d say to a loved one who had cancer, heart disease, or another serious health problem. Instead of implying they’ve done something wrong, you’d offer words of encouragement such as:
- I’m proud of you for getting the treatment you need to be healthy.
- I love you, and I’ll be here to help you with every step of this journey.
- I know this is hard, but I believe in you.
- You are not alone. We’ll get through this together
2. Take Care of the Little Details
There are lots of smaller tasks associated with the decision to seek residential treatment. If your friend or family member doesn’t have a strong support system, the planning process can feel overwhelming.
Some ways you might be able to make things easier for your loved one include:
- Attending preliminary appointments or facility tours to take notes or provide moral support
- Providing child care or locating suitable providers
- Caring for pets while they are away
- Watering plants, picking up packages, and handling general house-sitting tasks
- Role-playing so they feel more prepared to ask their boss for time off work
- Helping to research their insurance coverage and payment options
- Making any necessary travel arrangements on their behalf
- Letting others know about the policies for calls, letters, or in-person visits and encouraging them to keep in touch
3. Be Prepared for Setbacks
No two people in recovery are exactly alike, and treatment plans must be personalized to fit individual needs. It’s normal for someone in recovery to have good days and bad days. Sometimes, relapse is even part of the process.
Be as patient as possible with your loved one during this time. A setback doesn’t mean that your loved one isn’t trying or that they’re not cut out for recovery. All it means is that the treatment team hasn’t found an approach that best meets your loved one’s needs. Trial and error is often necessary when someone has addiction and a co-occurring mental health condition such as anxiety or depression.
There’s always hope for recovery for anyone who desires it. Encourage your loved one to strive for progress, not perfection.
4. Look to a Brighter Future
People suffering from substance use disorders often say or do things that are extremely hurtful, so it’s likely that your relationship with your loved one is somewhat strained at this point. However, finding it in your heart to offer forgiveness for past mistakes is the greatest gift you can give to someone who is seeking treatment and starting their recovery journey.
When you offer forgiveness, you’re reminding your loved one that their past mistakes don’t define who they are. They can choose to make better choices and get the help they need to build a brighter future.
Depending on the nature of your relationship, looking towards the future might mean planning a fun activity after your friend or family member graduates from residential treatment. Going to a concert, seeing your favorite sports team, or taking a trip together can be something for your loved one to look forward to when they have rough days.
5. Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
Loving someone with an addiction isn’t easy. You’re under a great deal of stress, so it’s important to make time for self-care. Skimping on sleep, binging on junk food, or putting your exercise routine on the back burner will only leave you feeling cranky and fatigued. To effectively help your loved one, you need to be living a wellness-focused life.
Taking care of yourself also means finding ways to process your own feelings regarding your loved one’s substance use disorder. This might involve writing in your journal, talking to a close friend, seeking guidance from a spiritual leader, or visiting with a counselor or mental health professional. Support groups such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon can also be beneficial in helping you understand what to expect from your loved one’s recovery journey.