Alcohol and drug addiction can put a tremendous amount of stress on not just the people struggling from substance use disorders. Issues surrounding the misuse of drugs and alcohol extend to family members, friends, and even colleagues. And the closer these relationships are, the greater the strain can become. With time, and as the addiction gets worse, almost every interaction between loved ones can become influenced by addictive behaviors, in some form or another.
It’s disheartening to see how the people we care about become estranged; however, this is not uncommon with substance abusers as they start to favor the substance and allow the addiction to take over everything – including what were once valuable and loving relationships. It may be tempting to simply turn away and let them walk this road alone. However, supporting your loved one is vital to their recovery, no matter how hard it may look like at the moment.
You may encourage your loved one who struggles with alcohol and drug abuse to seek help from a treatment center, sometimes for months or even years. In turn, this makes alcohol detox or alcohol rehab seem like a magic cure that will solve everything, including your relationship.
Unfortunately, however, the road to recovery is not as easy or as straightforward. While addiction treatment does often start with a drug or alcohol rehab program, and it is a critical first step, it is only one piece of the puzzle. As mentioned, the love and support provided by friends and family are equally as important, particularly throughout their recovery journey. Below are several things you can do to help guide your loved one through life after rehab and recovery.
Be There For Them
In some cases, people during the recovery process will reach out to you for help and assistance. Most often, though, they will not. Whether they are too ashamed to ask for your help or feel too proud to say anything about it, it’s up to you to make the first move and tell them that you will be there for them.
Next, you need to consider specific ways of providing assistance to your loved ones. Some may only need a listening ear while others may want your support when visiting their doctor. Don’t forget to keep in regular contact and communicate specific times when you are available so they can reach out. It’s also a good idea to have someone else fill in for you if you are unavailable to respond.
Educate Yourself About Recovery
Addiction and recovery can be challenging and complex as it’s not the same for everyone. While some complete their twelve steps and immediately commit to sober living and healthy habits, another may find that staying sober and avoiding relapse is too hard.
For you to help effectively, you need to understand what they are going through and the levels of care. It’s not easy to put yourself into an addict’s shoes. Nevertheless, you need to find out how addiction affects a person and what they will likely go through while in recovery. This may include any health issues that exist, type of addictive behavior, potential triggers, the psychological effects of addiction, and the recovery process. It’s fairly difficult for people to empathize with an addict that’s going through recovery truly.
But you’ll find it much easier to relate and help your loved one if you have a better understanding of alcohol abuse, substance addiction, treatment programs, and how their journey to recovery will look like. Support groups such as Al-Anon, Nar-Amon, and SMART Recovery, among many others, offer families and friends plenty of research material, helping friends and family members, not only recognize the signs of addiction, as well as how to help someone heal. With this information, you will also be better equipped to tackle the challenges posed by addiction and recovery, as well as celebrate all the triumphs that will come along the way.
And aside from learning more about addiction, you should also learn to recognize the signs of relapse and know how to respond in time, before things start getting out of hand again. You should develop a relapse prevention plan by working together with their behavioral health and treatment provider. Taking action as soon as the first signs of relapse appear, is the key to keeping your loved one on track over the long-term. Keep in mind that recovery can be a lifelong process and not a quick fix.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your loved one in recovery about what they’ve been through, as well as what they’ve learned during treatment. If you think the moment is right, you should ask about their triggers to prevent relapses in the future. It’s important to remember that, particularly during the early stages of your loved one’s recovery, their withdrawal symptoms can be overwhelming. This will make it incredibly hard for them to remember how it felt before.
Do your best to “check-in” on an emotional level and remind them that these feelings are only temporary. Emphasize their personal strengths and help them slowly reclaim their interests, talents, goals, dreams, and hobbies. In time, these will also help them realize that their illness is only a part of who they really are and not something that defines and dominates every aspect of their life.
Provide Honest Feedback
Paying attention to the red flags of relapse is crucial. When people are in rehab, those around them will tend to walk on eggshells to avoid “provoking” them in any way. As honorable as these intentions may be, this is not the best way to approach the situation. People who undergo addiction recovery need a good balance between honesty, compassion, reality, and forgiveness. Ask them if they will be okay for you to provide them with some honest feedback and express your concerns when they show signs of relapse.
Just remember to keep it positive and provide plenty of encouragement along the way. Don’t neglect to provide constructive suggestions about things that aren’t going as well, to help the person stay on track. If you do notice any signs or behaviors that may indicate a relapse, don’t ignore them and hope they go away. Say something about it; otherwise, you will only encourage secrecy and denial. Work on creating an honest environment by providing a listening ear than a preaching mouth. When your loved one feels safe and secure, they will feel confident in sharing their struggles with you. They will even come asking for help when they need it. Keep in mind that the longer a situation is allowed to fester, the worse it will get. That’s why it’s so important to address them as soon as possible.
The journey to recovery is never an easy one, nor is it short. The path to recovery is not the same for everyone, and your loved one’s journey may be filled with plenty of setbacks that can often be exhausting and discouraging for both you and your loved one. The bright side of all of this is that victory over addiction is not a one-time thing, but a lifelong string of constant achievements.
Every single day that goes by is yet another success that can and should be celebrated. You don’t have to be a trained psychologist to help someone through their recovery, but when things get through, it’s always better to have a professional by your side. Remember, as you help your family or friend overcome addiction and stay in recovery, remember to also care for yourself. So, if you need any help or advice, do not hesitate to call us at (619) 630-7844 or visit our website for more information.