Tips for Supporting Someone in Recovery
Addiction impacts countless individuals nationwide. As of 2020 in the United States, approximately 50% of individuals age 12 and older reported having tried illicit drugs at least once, and roughly 20 million people reported having struggled with addiction. These numbers are alarming and on the rise, causing more and more people to feel the devastating effects that addiction can have — either directly when they themselves are affected, or indirectly when addiction affects a loved one.
Watching someone we love struggle with addiction can leave us feeling powerless. Fortunately, there are ways to support your loved one (and ways to support yourself!) through the ups and down of recovery.
Although you may never fully understand what an individual in recovery is going through, you can do your best to learn more about addiction as a whole. Addiction is a chronic brain disease that rewires the brain and interferes with an individual’s reward system, which can result in compulsive substance-seeking behaviors and cravings for the substance. In addition, the disease of addiction can interfere with an individual’s decision making skills and their ability to regulate emotions and behaviors. Understanding the nature of this disease can help you to gain insight and develop a greater sense of compassion for what your loved one is going through.
Avoid enabling and set healthy boundaries
It is important not to engage in behaviors that may enable your loved one. Although enabling often comes from a genuine desire to help the individual, it is not beneficial in the long run. Ignoring problematic behaviors, making excuses, or taking over responsibilities for your loved one can all be forms of enabling which can result in the individual avoiding consequences for their actions. Setting healthy boundaries can help both you and your loved one have a clear understanding of what behaviors are and are not acceptable. Ensuring there is open and honest communication can further help to promote healthy relationships.
Recovery is a unique journey for each individual
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to approach recovery — it is a unique journey for each individual. What works for one person may not work for another due to a variety of factors. Setbacks can happen, and it is important to remember that a relapse does not signify failure, but instead, that a different approach to treatment may be needed. There are countless different treatment modalities, support groups, and medications available to help your loved one. Remind your loved one that you are there to help support them and that they are not alone.
Focus on the positives
Oftentimes, we tend to focus on what is going wrong in our lives instead of what is going right and recovery is no different. Acknowledge the strides your loved one is making — no matter how small. Recovery is hard, and individuals in early recovery often deal with overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame. Noticing positive emotional and behavioral changes in your loved one can help generate feelings of accomplishment and increase self-efficacy. Avoid looking back and reminding your loved one of mistakes they have made in the past; instead, focus on the present moment, including what could be done today for tomorrow to be brighter.
Last, but definitely not least, ensure you are taking care of yourself both physically and mentally. Addiction is often called a family disease, as its impact goes far beyond the individual using substances. Loved ones can experience a whirlwind of emotions when someone they care about is affected by addiction. Confusion, guilt, blame, fear, and other painful emotions are common, and more importantly, valid. Addiction can be scary, and these emotions can take a toll on your own well-being. Engaging in self-care activities can help you manage stress and improve your resilience. Self-care comes in many forms, and finding what works best for you is key. Find a list of various self-care activities here.
As part of their recovery, your loved one may be attending various support groups. It may be comforting for you to know that support groups exist for family members and loved ones of those battling addiction as well. Support groups can help you feel less alone in what you are going through, as many members have undergone similar struggles. Groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are available for you to seek support in this difficult time. SAMHSA also offers a helpline that can assist in finding treatment centers, individual therapists, and various other forms of support for both the individual impacted by addiction and their loved ones. Recovery is a lifelong journey; be patient, take care of yourself, and remember that both you and your loved one are not alone.
If you have a loved one who is struggling with substance use or addiction, we can be a resource. Reach out to email@example.com and learn more about our substance use and addiction therapist Nicky, who wrote this blog!
Mind Body Co-op is Chicago’s only space for individuals to discover, explore, and heal what is occurring internally at the cognitive, emotional, and physical levels. This unique, holistic approach to treatment and wellness is born out of the belief that examining the cognitive, emotional, and physical pieces and how they intersect helps lead to uncovering your full potential by providing thoughtful, collaborative, and complete integrative mental health care. We offer a variety of clinical services, including individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, psychological/neuropsychological assessments, medication management, DBT, adventure therapy, therapeutic yoga, and more. We provide culturally-competent services in English, Spanish, French, Polish, and Arabic. Learn more.