With almost half of Canadians admitting to using illegal drugs at some point in their lifetime, the chances that you might know someone recovering from addiction could be quite high. It could be a family member, a dear friend, partner, or even a colleague from work. Like many others, you might be wondering how best you can help that person on their journey to recovery. You should understand that the road to recovery is not easy, so it is quite normal that your loved one might struggle to get better. It is filled with challenges and obstructions to overcome. It might not be easy, but it is fully worth it. So, how can you show your support? Here are some tips you can keep in mind as you offer your support.
1. Focus on yourself first
An addiction is a chronic illness that affects the user and those around them. It is very normal to see friends or family members putting the needs of the affected before theirs. Sometimes, they might not even realize it because they want what’s best for the addict.
However, in caring for someone trying to recover from an addiction, you run the risk of not taking care of yourself physically, socially, spiritually, and mentally. This may cause negative effects such as struggling with anxiety and, at times, depression.
Your loved one’s addiction should not take you off the course of your life. Ensure that you continue participating in other beneficial activities such as regular exercising, hanging out with friends and family, work, and hobbies. Partaking in therapy might also help you but make sure that your activities aren’t always centered on your loved one.
2. Educate yourself
Before taking on the role of supporting a loved one through recovery, you must educate yourself and continue to do so in the process. For example, if it’s helping someone with alcoholism, your research should focus on alcoholism, including its symptoms and treatment options available.
You will see which areas you believe you would be most helpful by educating yourself. You would also have a better understanding of what your loved one is going through and the type of recovery process they would undergo.
You might not fully understand their thought processes, but you would be able to empathize and support them better. By learning more about the addiction of concern, you would also control your anxieties and fears.
3. Treat them well
Addiction is very much a disease, just like diabetes or cancer. You would never blame a loved one for dealing with a disease like cancer. Instead, you would more likely be compassionate towards them and ready to help them beat their disease. That same approach should be geared towards helping a loved one dealing with addiction.
Sometimes, you might not fully understand why your loved ones behave the way they do or why they opt to abuse substances. You might be disappointed, frustrated, sad, or angry because of their choices.
The truth is, it is normal and okay to feel this way than to bottle it up and become resentful. But when your emotions are high, please exercise caution when communicating with your loved ones.
Do not treat them as social outcasts. That would be counterintuitive and might send them running back and finding comfort in the source of their addiction.
They might end up not trusting anybody and will stop reaching for support. When supporting a loved one through recovery, ensure that you actively communicate with them and learn to understand one another.
4. Expect difficulties
Helping a loved one through an addiction is not a walk in the park. The road to recovery from addiction tends to be difficult. Right at the start, your loved one might be unwilling to seek help.
They could be ashamed or fear that they might be socially ostracized if they admit addiction. They might also fear being stigmatized even after recovering and would rather not expose themselves.
Or, other times, they refuse to accept that they have an addiction. Throughout the journey, you will find challenges at every step.
Even towards the end of the recovery process, you might start to dread the risk of your loved one relapsing. However, channel that fear into encouragement and continue to remain positive.
5. Be prepared to support long-term
When you are helping a loved one recover from addiction, do not expect immediate changes from the get-go. Instead, be more realistic when it comes to seeing results.
If you want your loved one to recover and never look back, you must be prepared to provide long-term support. Sometimes, that could mean always being helpful for a lifetime.
It is also important to understand that treatment is unique to every affected person and so will need to be tweaked and changed from time to time. Don’t lose hope when a particular treatment fails to work. It doesn’t mean nothing will; it just means you will need to find the perfect one for your loved one.
6. Do not enable your loved one
There is a thin line between helping your loved ones recover and enabling their addictive behaviors. Sometimes what you think might be helping might rather be destructive.
For example, if you are firm with them, you might fear that they will be hurt or angry, so you would cave in and give in to their cravings. You must set boundaries when helping an addict recover.
Research shows that addicts tend to seek treatment when forced to face the consequences of their actions. Sometimes, if you want to help, it’s good for you to take a seat back and not always bail them out when they relapse. Otherwise, you will be establishing unhealthy codependency patterns.
7. Respect their privacy
Sometimes you might get frustrated when helping a loved one through addiction, and venting about it might sound relieving. However, talking about your loved one to another person might violate their privacy.
Sure, talking about your feelings is normal, and you are encouraged to be as honest as possible, but always keep in mind that you might be oversharing. Ensure that your loved one is okay with being talked about, whether in close circles or with a professional.
If you attend therapy, ensure that whatever you say stays there. You should always ensure that you don’t push your loved ones to reveal what they have shared in therapy sessions or group meetings.
8. Seek professional help
You cannot solve every problem by yourself. Yes, you might be extremely close to your loved one, and you feel you understand the situation best.
But in recovery, you run the risk of going in over your head. You need to acknowledge and accept the importance of seeking professional help. They are better equipped to handle such cases and have been formally trained to handle all aspects of helping addicts recover. Whether it’s counseling, therapy, or even taking your loved one to a drug outpatient rehab center, you can be rest assured that they would be getting the best quality treatment.
Helping a loved one on their journey to recovery is tough. There will be instances where they would relapse, or a particular treatment plan wouldn’t work.
However, it is not a reason for you to give up on supporting your loved one. The one thing that many recovering addicts need is stability.
So, it is essential to prepare your heart and mind to always support their efforts. Remember that you cannot do it all by yourself, so seek out professional help and other trusted people on this journey. Many people have successfully recovered, and so can they!