Addiction not only affects the person who abuses drugs and/or alcohol, but also those around them. It’s incredibly difficult to watch a loved one — be it a friend, family member, partner, or even colleague — struggle with alcohol or substance use disorder. Since substance abuse impacts all races, cultures, ages and genders, every part of society has been affected by addiction. Families, jobs, lives and communities are destroyed every day by alcohol and drug addiction. If you have a loved one recovering from addiction, you may feel helpless, frustrated, and mentally and emotionally drained. You may wonder if there’s any way you can help your loved one as they go through recovery.
Support from families is essential to recovery. If you have loved ones who are in recovery, there are things you can do to show your support:
1. Have calm, well-thought out conversations with your loved one. Casually checking in on your loved one’s mental health means making it clear that your worry comes from a place of love. Make sure you’re offering support, not accusations. A genuinely caring call or visit from a loved one can be crucial to help keep someone in recovery on their journey. This also helps you keep track of how they’re coping, and gives you an opportunity to offer support and a shoulder to lean on during the difficult times.
2. Be patient with the process. Like any journey in life, recovery is not always easy. It’s typically not a straightforward path. There will be challenging times, and may even be some setbacks along the way. Resilience is not only key to someone in recovery, but to the loved ones in their lives as well. The listening ear of someone with compassion, empathy and a lack of judgment can help restore hope. This small gesture goes a long way.
3. Don’t tell them what is best for them. Even if you think you know best, don’t offer advice — but do offer resources that can help. Finding out what help is available is a great way to connect and show care. Arming yourself with the tools to start conversations about prevention, treatment and recovery is important. Find out about different treatment options and programs in your area.
4. Remain positive and hopeful. There’s power in positive thinking, and expressing those positive thoughts to someone who is deep in the trenches of recovery can really help them see the light at the end of a potentially long and difficult struggle. Change is possible, and your loved one is in the process of changing their whole lives. Staying positive and sharing hope as they face the challenges ahead can help them stay the course.
5. Practice empathic listening. Using active listening techniques combined with a reflection of feelings and empathy to better understand the speaker, empathic listening will help your loved one feel comfortable and confident to share their feelings and experiences with you.
6. Take care of yourself. When helping a loved one recover, it’s completely normal to feel stressed, anxious or angry about the situation. You may find that you’re spending all your time thinking about your loved one, and you forget about taking time to care for yourself. Joining a support group for loved ones of people with addiction or seeking individual counseling to help you cope may be good ideas. There are a number of resources for those whose lives have been affected by another person’s drinking. As they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Although alcohol and substance use disorders are common, not everyone receives the support they need to recover. Despite the prevalence of these conditions, recovery is possible. Learn more about how you can support your loved one through recovery at www.samhsa.gov/find-help/recovery. It is absolutely possible for those struggling with addiction to recover and live happy, full lives.