How to support someone in recovery from addiction
Recovery is a process, not an end state.
For people who make the decision to seek help for their addiction, completing an addiction treatment program is just the beginning.
Recovering from addiction — and achieving long-term sobriety — is a one-step-at-a-time, lifelong journey. And it’s one that’s much easier with the support of friends and loved ones.
If you know someone in recovery and want to support them, you’ve come to the right place.
Maintaining recovery and sobriety — together
Every person’s recovery is unique. Not every situation will have a clear answer, but long-term sobriety is worth it.
Michele Davis, director of counseling at Geisinger Marworth, offers a few tips to keep in mind as you navigate this journey together:
1. Educate yourself on addiction and recovery
One of the best ways to support someone in recovery is by educating yourself as much as possible. You can start with credible online resources, like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website.
Addiction is a disease that involves changes in the brain and body. Learning about your loved one’s particular addiction, the physical and psychological changes that can occur as a result of it and what the treatment and recovery process looks like can help you understand what they’re going through.
And because relapse happens, it’s a good idea to learn about potential relapse triggers so you’ll be better equipped to spot the signs and lend a helping hand.
If you have a close relationship, you can also offer to join their support group or 12-step meetings. Actively participating in their recovery is a great way to show you’re serious about being there for them.
2. Be patient
When someone finishes addiction treatment, it’s common to hope that everything will get back to normal. But the reality is, everyone involved will have to work toward a new normal.
Recovery is a lifelong journey, and it’s full of ups and downs. Your friend or loved one will have good and bad days, weeks and months — and they’ll need time and space to focus on themselves and their recovery.
If they confide in you, listen closely and be understanding. And instead of criticizing, try to be kind, non-judgmental and encouraging. Slip-ups will happen. And when they do, step up your support and let them know you believe they can get back on track.
3. Plan sober activities to do together
The support of loved ones can make all the difference in maintaining sobriety, especially in the first few months after treatment.
If you live together, keep the environment substance-free. And don’t invite them to parties or gatherings where there might be triggers. Instead, find sober activities to do together.
Invite them on a hike, hit the gym together or plan a board game or movie night. New hobbies and activities can help your loved one learn how to have fun without using substances. They also help provide a positive distraction as they work to build a new, sober life.
Part of this work includes building healthy habits. When your loved one was in active addiction, they likely neglected their health. So, along with new hobbies, try to encourage healthy eating habits, getting a good night’s rest and daily exercise.
4. Take care of yourself, too
If you’re close to someone with an addiction, you’ve likely put a lot of time and energy into helping them. In doing so, you may have neglected yourself.
When you don’t take care of yourself, it can lead to resentment and stress, which won’t be healthy for either of you. Don’t hesitate to seek therapy, counseling or a support group.
Counseling or therapy can help you set healthy boundaries, while staying calm, collected and reassuring. And that’s just what your loved one needs.
When it comes to supporting someone in recovery, it’s all about being there for them — for the good and bad days. Recovery is possible. And your support can fuel their motivation and determination to take back their life and truly enjoy it.