How Can I Support a Loved One in Recovery?

December 27, 2022

Written By: Samantha Perry, LCSW

Overcoming addiction and the lingering effects of drugs and alcohol is a long and difficult journey. Despite prevalent feelings of isolation, shame, guilt, and more, an individual never has to take on these challenges alone. Family and friends play an integral role throughout any stage of recovery. These relationships empower loved ones to take their first step into a dedicated detox program or continue to hold one accountable for their sobriety in further levels of care. However, supporting effectively is a practiced skill. Learning to support a loved one throughout any stage of recovery can ensure that you can continue providing crucial aid while managing your own energy and health. 

The Role of Supports in Recovery

Recovery from the use of drugs or alcohol will always be a personal journey. It can be difficult to truly understand the challenges that addiction presents if you have not lived through the disease yourself. However, this doesn’t mean that you aren’t affected by someone else’s addiction. Supports often have an intimate understanding of the effects addiction can have on an individual’s life. Likewise, this experience is instrumental when it comes to empowering a loved one’s recovery.

Effective supports are not meant to fix problems for those in recovery. The line between supporting and enabling can be thin and ambiguous. Enabling can be dangerous, and can compromise the efficacy of recovery efforts and increase the chance of relapse. Anything that you may be doing for another that they could have otherwise done for themselves, or not holding a loved one accountable for the consequences of their actions, can all be dangerous enabling practices. Effective supports are not tasked with solving all the challenges that face those in recovery, but rather empowering loved ones to solve these problems themselves or navigate urges and cravings themselves. 

Adopting Effective Support Strategies

Supporting a loved one throughout recovery can be difficult. You must balance both your continued education on addiction and effective practices with your own needs. However, this balance is always possible. Embracing effective support strategies can create a healthy environment for families and friends to heal from the effects of addiction together while rebuilding key relationships with trust and change. 

Build New Communication Strategies

Communication is the cornerstone of any kind of relationship. Addiction can deteriorate even the strongest of relationships, with lies and distrust being prevalent as a result of a loved one’s engagement with drugs or alcohol. Establishing new communication strategies as early as possible can help to ensure that you and your loved one can begin the long recovery journey with an open and honest dialogue. 

Having regular family meetings and curating a safe space to discuss and accept difficult feelings, emotions, and points of view are all crucial. For some, this can be around a healthy dinner each night, while others may set up regular phone calls, texts, and more. Learning to navigate these conversations can also take practice. Focusing on specific actions or consequences, rather than personal feelings or blame, can allow those in recovery to learn from mistakes without feeling attacked for them. 

Effective communication is also always a dialogue – not a lecture. Just as your loved one should have a safe space to express their side of view, you must also extend this same courtesy to others to allow them a safe space to voice their perspectives. 

Keep Loved Ones Accountable

One of the most powerful things you can do is to hold a loved one accountable for their actions. Addiction recovery is a complicated and rocky journey. There will be days of great progress and celebration, just as there will be days of difficulty, depression, anxiety, and more. Your support is crucial in helping loved ones stay focused on their overall goals. Setting clear expectations and adhering to consequences is difficult, but also necessary, to support loved ones as they continue to develop a healthy lifestyle and routine. 

Engage in Self-Care

Supporting a loved one through recovery is physically and emotionally taxing. Likewise, you must set aside time to engage in self-care as you support your loved one. Engaging in regular self-care is not selfish, but necessary. Setting aside time for your own interests and setting boundaries for your physical and emotional health should be championed. Continuing to engage with hobbies and schedule not only ensures that you have sufficient outlets for yourself but also provides the mental respite necessary to continue providing the best support possible.

Avoid Dangerous Behaviors

Even the most well-meaning of supports may inadvertently engage in behaviors that go against their mission and a loved one’s recovery goals. Enabling behaviors and giving forgiveness without seeing active change can all be dangerous precedents to set. Protecting a loved one from consequences, rather than helping a loved one navigate the ramifications of their actions, are very different. 

Others may inadvertently use more accusatory or emotional language that can have adverse effects on a loved one’s recovery efforts. Avoiding statements like “If you love me, then . . . ” is paramount, and can undermine your support. Listening to a loved one’s needs and acting accordingly, rather than assuming what they need, is also crucial. It is necessary to ensure that you are continuing to support your loved one effectively without birthing new stresses or resentments.

Supports play an integral role in every step of recovery, from the first day in detox to ongoing outpatient support. If you have a loved one ready to take their first step toward a sober future, we at Buena Vista Recovery can help. We offer an array of dedicated treatments that can guide you through the entire continuum of care, from detox and inpatient treatment to intensive outpatient programs and continued aftercare and support. We also champion healing as a family alongside those closest to you. From family plans and education to scaffolding effective self-care and communication strategies, we can help you take a truly profound, transformative step toward a unified, sober future. For more information, call (480) 741-9414.