Here are 5 tips that may help you better support a loved one during recovery.
Recovering from a substance use disorder is not an easy journey. Those who are going through the process can benefit from having a strong support system, but sometimes loved ones and friends don’t know what to say or do.
Each person in recovery has different wants and needs when it comes to the type of support they are willing to accept, so not every tip may be appropriate. But having an idea of what may help can make it easier for you to figure out the best way to be there for someone who needs you.
Here are 5 things to keep in mind when trying to support a person recovering from a substance use disorder or other addiction:
- Educate yourself. It’s understandable that you may not know what your loved one is going through or how to best help them. Learn as much as you can about the addiction the person is battling and how you can help. Join a support group to not only get the emotional support you may need but to hear from others what may have worked for them and their loved ones.
- Don’t nag or try to coerce the person. A person will only be successful in recovery if they decide they’re ready to take on the challenge and are self-motivated to keep going. Although they need your support, they don’t need you to constantly nag them about what they’re doing or not doing. They also won’t respond well to you trying to coerce them with statements like “If you loved me, you’d stay clean” and similar sentiments. Also, don’t rehash what they’ve done in the past or tell them they should have sought treatment earlier.
- Don’t enable the person. Although you may want to show that you’re always there for your loved one, be careful not to do things that may enable them to keep using. Monetary support may be needed as the person gets back on their feet, but make it clear that you will only support their recovery efforts and nothing else.
- Take care of yourself. If you live with someone in recovery, it can take its toll on your physical and mental health. Addiction is a chronic condition and the recovery process is ongoing. You may put the other person first most of the time, either by choice or necessity, but over time this can be very draining on you. If you don’t take care of your own needs, you may find yourself dealing with depression, anxiety, illness and even your own substance use problems.
- Accept that this is not your fight. It can be hard on people who are supporting a loved one battling addiction. After all, you care about the person and want to do anything in your power to make things right for them. But you need to realize that your love and support can only go so far. It’s not a reflection on you if the person slips – only they can control how successful they are in recovery. All you can do is show them that you care and are rooting for their success.
“The best, simple approach to remember when helping a loved one struggling with addiction is to ensure you are not enabling during the addiction phase and ensure you are providing as much love and support as you can offer during the recovery phase. It is important to remember that slips and relapses are a part of the recovery process and need to be viewed as times for reassessment of current recovery strategies, not times for admonishment. People involved in recovery work (AA meeting attendance, outpatient treatment, IOP treatment, etc) with continued use have better outcomes than those continuing use and not engaged in any recovery work.”
-Blake M. Bourgoyne, MD
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Date Last Reviewed: July 20, 2023
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
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