When you love someone battling drug or alcohol addiction, watching them struggle is painful. However, there are many ways that friends and family can show their support and encourage sobriety. At Waypoint Recovery Center in South Carolina, we’ve seen firsthand how a strong sober support network can help our clients become successful in their recovery journey. In this article, we provide an overview of some of the different ways people close to an individual in recovery can help their loved one stay on track while they are in treatment.
1. Stay Connected
Substance abuse treatment can be an isolating experience, but a regular check-in or call can make all the difference. Even if your loved one isn’t ready to talk, letting them know that you are thinking of them is a powerful reminder that they are not alone in their recovery.
People who are in treatment for substance use disorders are often dealing with intense feelings of guilt and shame related to their past behavior. It is very likely that your loved one believes they don’t deserve your forgiveness—or that you’ll hold their mistakes against them forever. Letting them know that you understand they have an illness and that you want them to get the help they need to recover can be incredibly beneficial.
2. Encourage the Development of Healthy Habits
Substance abuse is often a result of deeper issues such as unresolved trauma or mental health struggles. Helping your loved one turn to healthy coping mechanisms like exercise, meditation, and creative outlets can be a great way to encourage their recovery.
If you’d like to support a loved one who is in recovery, ask them to join you for a workout at the gym, sit in on the painting class you’ve been taking, or invite them over to cook a healthy meal together. Demonstrating what a sober life can look like is incredibly helpful during the early stage of the recovery process.
3. Offer Practical Support
From running errands to providing rides to treatment, there are plenty of ways to lend a hand to a person in recovery who is working on getting their life back on track. Ask your loved one what they need help with, and then offer to take care of it for them.
While helping your loved one is important, remember there is often a fine line between being helpful and enabling. Addiction is a difficult illness, and it is understandable to want to shield your loved one from the pain. Unfortunately, this can often lead to enabling behaviors that make it harder for someone in recovery to stay on track. It is important to remember that, ultimately, the responsibility for recovery lies with the person who is receiving addiction treatment.
4. Listen with Compassion
It’s important to remember that addiction is a very real and difficult illness, and it can be challenging for someone to talk about their struggles. Demonstrating nonjudgmental support through active listening is key. You want to remind your loved one that you are there to listen and understand, not to judge or criticize.
Addiction is often stigmatized in our society, so it can be helpful if you take the time to educate yourself about the biological and environmental triggers of the disease as well as what to expect from the different stages of the recovery process. Understanding the science behind addiction and recovery can help you challenge stereotypes and misinformation as you provide ongoing support for your loved one in recovery.
5. Celebrate Small Victories
Recovery is an ongoing process that takes time—and it’s important to remember that progress is not linear. So, when your loved one reaches a milestone, such as being able to stay away from drugs or alcohol for one week or one month, you should take the time to celebrate those wins with them. Here are a few suggestions:
- Plan a small celebration or treat, such as a special meal or outing.
- Give your loved one a heartfelt gift or card to commemorate the milestone.
- Share their successes with others in their support system.
- Reflect on how far they have come and the progress they have made.
- Help them set new goals and milestones for their recovery journey.
6. Encourage Patience and Persistence
Substance abuse is a difficult illness, but it can be managed and overcome with the proper support. The road to recovery isn’t easy, but with your help, your loved one can get there.
When your loved one is struggling, gently remind them that making any sort of major life change is difficult and that encountering challenges doesn’t mean that they don’t have what it takes to succeed. In recovery, the goal is to strive for progress—not perfection. Encourage them to reach out to their treatment team to see if their care plan needs to be modified or if there are additional resources that may be beneficial.