Watching a loved one struggle with a substance abuse disorder can be very difficult.
However, as a family member, there are several ways that you can help support the recovery process. Your actions can provide encouragement, accountability, and inspiration as your loved one works to develop a foundation for sobriety.
1. Stay Positive
Support your loved one’s decision to seek treatment with a positive attitude that expresses your belief in the possibility of recovery. Do not bring up past mistakes or doubt that your loved one is committed to sobriety. People in recovery know that they have made mistakes and often struggle with intense guilt and shame related to their past actions. Positive encouragement helps them build hope for a better future.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the situation, consider attending a support group for family members of individuals with an addiction. Groups such as Al-Anon can provide a safe place to discuss your feelings without negatively impacting your loved one’s recovery efforts. Writing in a journal can also be a way to explore your emotions without causing additional conflict at home.
2. Be Realistic
Addiction is a chronic illness, much like diabetes or high blood pressure. There is no quick fix or magic cure and it’s normal for your loved one to struggle or encounter obstacles as they learn how to best manage the condition. Everyone in the family needs to realize that recovery is an ongoing journey.
Your loved one will have good days and bad days establishing a sober lifestyle. You’ll make mistakes along the way as well, since nobody is perfect. What matters is that you remain focused on making progress towards your loved one’s sobriety and building a strong family bond.
3. Ask, Then Listen
No two people with substance abuse disorders are exactly alike. Everyone has unique needs during the recovery journey, so it’s important to avoid making assumptions about what will best help your loved one build a successful sober life.
If you see your loved one struggling, don’t immediately swoop in to save the day. State your concerns about specific behaviors you’ve noticed, then ask how you can best be of assistance. For example, if your spouse seems to be worried about finding work, printing off a list of job openings in the area isn’t necessarily the best approach. He may be more worried about explaining gaps in his resume due to residential treatment or how to best address his newfound sobriety in an interview. You won’t know how to help unless you can clearly identify the problem.
4. Keep Your Home Substance Free
For someone in the early stages of recovery, being around alcohol and addictive substances can be extremely difficult. Avoid unnecessary temptation by removing alcohol and drug paraphernalia from your home. If you are taking prescription drugs that have the potential for abuse, such as opioid painkillers, keep them in a secure location where your loved one can’t access them.
Keeping your home substance free may also mean avoiding movies, television, and music that glamorize or trivialize substance abuse as much as possible. Jokes about being hungover or high may make your loved one uncomfortable. References to using addictive substances to relax and have fun also obscure the damage that addiction can cause.
5. Model Behaviors Associated with a Wellness-Focused Lifestyle
There are several small tweaks you can make to your home environment that help promote recovery by showing the benefits of a wellness-focused lifestyle that addresses the needs of the mind, body, and spirit. For example:
- Keep a family calendar in a central location that is color coded to keep track of everyone’s appointments, including your loved one’s 12-Step meetings, therapy appointments, and any relevant court dates. This will help your loved one adapt to a new routine.
- Institute family meal times where everyone can share what they’ve been working on during the day while they eat. This creates an opportunity for bonding and healthy communication, while promoting accountability for your loved one in recovery.
- Keep the refrigerator and pantry stocked with fresh fruit and veggies, whole grain crackers, low fat yogurt, mixed nuts, and other healthy snacks. Avoid having large quantities of cookies, chips, and other processed foods on hand. Nutritious snacks help heal some of the damage to the body caused by substance abuse and reduce the irritability common in early recovery by keeping blood sugar levels stable.
- Encourage exercise by planning regular family walks, bike rides, or any team sport everyone enjoys. Physical activity stabilizes your loved one’s mood by releasing endorphins, which can help control cravings. Exercise also helps reset the body’s circadian rhythms, which can help with the insomnia that is a common problem in the early stages of recovery.
- Provide supplies and space for hobbies that promote creativity and relieve stress. This might include drawing, painting, photography, or music. Discuss possibilities with your loved one and encourage everyone in the family to participate.
6. Be Involved in Family Therapy
If your loved one is attending a residential treatment program, family therapy is often part of the services that are provided. Family programs cover lessons such as:
- Understanding the disease of addiction
- Avoiding enabling and codependency
- Setting boundaries
- Rebuilding trust
- Practicing healthy communication
Waypoint Recovery Center Provides family counseling opportunities as part of residential treatment as well in the intensive outpatient program. Spouses, parents, adult children, and other concerned family members learn how to develop the tools to be proactive with their support of their loved one’s recovery journey.