If you are the spouse, sibling, parent or close friend of someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it is important to understand the role you play in your loved one’s addiction recovery — and that role is to be part of the recovery process.
Rehab is the first step toward achieving lifelong recovery. However, it is not the “cure” for an addiction. Substance dependence is a chronic disease. Just like with other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, overcoming addiction requires daily lifestyle changes. As the close friend or family member of someone with an addiction, your everyday support is crucial to helping your loved one stay on the road to recovery.
It can be difficult to know how to help a person with an addiction. Things that might seem helpful can actually be harmful. That is why we are here to help with five ways you can support your loved one during recovery.
1. Learn about addiction
Being educated about addiction will help you know what to expect when your loved one comes home from rehab. It will equip you to deal with the challenges that come from addiction. As a result, you can be prepared to support your family member or friend throughout recovery.
How can you learn about recovery? Here are some of the best sources for information:
- Blog posts and articles about addiction
- Your loved one’s treatment team
- A physician or substance abuse professional
2. Be involved in treatment
At some point, your loved one’s substance abuse treatment team will likely reach out to you to become involved in treatment. Most professional substance abuse treatment programs include a family component — the reason being addiction affects the entire family, not just the person who is drinking or using drugs.Things such as family therapy, family psychoeducation and family skills training sessions can help reduce the risk that your loved one will relapse. These treatment components help change family dynamics that contribute to addiction. They also help you learn ways to support your loved one in recovery.
3. Maintain a drug and alcohol-free environment
Lack of a drug- and/or alcohol-free living environment is one of the most frequent causes of relapse. A living environment where drugs and alcohol are present can derail recovery for even the most motivated persons. Just the sight of alcohol can be a trigger to drink again for a person who is recovering from alcohol addiction. Therefore, support your loved one’s sobriety by maintaining an alcohol-free or drug-free home.
4. Understand that you cannot do it for him/her
You love your family member so much that you would do practically anything to soothe the pain he/she is experiencing. You would love nothing more than to eliminate the addiction and smooth the road ahead. However, this is a problem only your loved one can fix. No one else can force the work toward recovery. Those with addictions must decide to change their lives. You can help them make the right decisions and point them in the right direction; they must make the decision to get help.
5. Find support
Caring deeply about someone with an addiction can be emotionally draining. It’s normal to feel hopeless or helpless when dealing with a family member’s substance abuse. You might feel completely overwhelmed with your loved one’s behaviors especially if it seems like drama and crisis are often right around the corner.
It is common to neglect your feelings and self-care when dealing with a loved one’s addiction. Your happiness and wellness are important, too. Taking care of your emotional and physical needs is important if you hope to help your loved one. You can find support from:
- Another family member or friend
- Support groups such as Nar-Anon and Al-Anon
- A doctor or therapist
- A spiritual leader
You have taken the first step in understanding how to support your loved one in recovery by reading these tips. The next step is to talk with members of the treatment team on ways you can help your loved one. With the right support, you can understand how to set healthy boundaries, work through chaos and crisis, and build a trusting relationship with your family member or friend again.