Addiction affects more than just the person using, and recovery follows the same path. It’s not always easy to make the decision to try to help someone who has an addiction, but your loved one will have a greater chance of overcoming addiction with your support. Addiction recovery is a lifelong process that dramatically changes things for someone in recovery on a daily basis.
Often, recovery will change an individual’s goals, expectations, behavior, and even personality. In turn, this can cause changes in loved ones and relationships. It can also force two people to confront underlying issues that were long masked by addiction. While every addiction is different, there are some general guidelines that will be helpful in most circumstances.
How You Can Help
Focus on building trust in addiction recovery
Building trust in addiction recovery is a challenging task that demands a great deal of honesty and planning to ensure that broken relationships can be repaired. Rebuilding trust is very much a part of the recovery process, especially if a person with substance use disorders violated another person’s trust at some point in the past. Individuals might feel undeserving of the trust and support they once received from their loved ones.
The work needed to repair relationships in recovery can introduce many different feelings, including some stress and anxiety. Therefore, it is important for people in recovery to seek a healthy means of self-expression, adopt positive and constructive coping strategies and learn how to mend broken relationships with those they love.
Examples of relationships where individuals may hope to rebuild trust include:
- Relationship with yourself
- Relationships with friends
- Relationships with family
- Relationship with your spouse
It is important to note that there are other potential relationships that individuals in recovery may wish to mend. These may include relationships with sponsors, teachers, coaches, coworkers or bosses.
Honesty is one of the most respected moral characteristics of all. Being honest isn’t just about telling the truth. Rather, it’s about being real and genuine with yourself and showing up authentically. Honesty in recovery from addiction promotes a sense of openness. In the same way, you will feel a sense of empowerment as you show up consistently as your authentic self for your loved one in addiction recovery. Healthy communication means being honest, being open to hearing someone else’s point of view, and receptive to their feelings. When helping someone through addiction recovery, maintaining honest communication is key to success.
You will not achieve honesty in one day when trying to help someone through the recovery process. Recovery is a journey. Be prepared to face setbacks as well as victories. One thing you should practice each day during and after recovery is honesty. Don’t give up when you fail. You are never perfect. It is okay to make mistakes but learn from them.
Help your loved one follow all treatment recommendations
Family members can play an important role in helping a loved one with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders get on the road to addiction recovery. Integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders often includes a combination of different services that are tailored to each person’s needs.
A comprehensive treatment plan may include:
- pharmacological treatment
- individual and/or group therapy
- vocational rehabilitation
- family therapy
- case management
You can support follow-through by:
- helping your loved one remember to take all prescribed medications for one or both disorders
- listening to any concerns about medications — such as their purpose, benefits, and side effects — and helping address those concerns
- making sure appointments with treatment providers are kept
- working with the treatment team to stay informed and help address any issues related to medication
Set your own boundaries and respect privacy
Setting boundaries is important for both you and your drug or alcohol addicted loved one. Boundaries are key to creating healthy relationships; even when your loved one isn’t healthy. With boundaries, you are less likely to become entangled in the chaos of the addiction, you will keep the focus on yourself and your well-being, and get off of the emotional roller coaster rides.
Free from the extremes of emotions, you’ll think more clearly, healthy, and rationally, reclaim your self-respect, set healthy examples for your family, and give your drug addicted reason to seek help. When your boundaries are weak – or don’t exist at all – you compromise what makes you, you.
Weak boundaries allow you to lose yourself, your freedom, your personal space. Weak boundaries when a loved one is addicted, means you will likely be lied to, cheated on, and stolen from. When you set boundaries with an addicted loved one, you increase the chances that he or she will seek help.
Checking in with specific questions catered to your friend’s interests will show you understand while making the person feel more comfortable and cared for without overstepping your bounds with their privacy. Uphold respect, compassion, and patience
- Don’t say this: “Have any cravings lately?”
- Say this instead: “What have you been up to, anything new? Wanna go on a hike this weekend?”
Get outside input and educate yourself about addiction recovery
An important first step in helping your partner is understanding their substance use. Educate yourself on substance use disorders and available resources. By doing this, you are not only empowering yourself to make well-informed decisions, but you are also ready and equipped with information when your partner decides they are ready to seek help. It’s also important to remember there is no one set way to take on addiction recovery.
Seek help and outside advice early and often. Talk to friends, people and family members in recovery who have the lived experience of what you’re going through, and seek the help of addiction specialists.
What Doesn’t Help
Don’t Ignore the Problem
No one ever imagines that addiction will happen to someone they know. So, when it does, it can be very difficult to accept. You may be tempted to ignore the signs of addiction, to make excuses for your loved one, or to deescalate the severity of their addiction. But trying to convince yourself that “it’s not that bad,” or that they’re simply going through a tough time or phase that they’ll snap out of is not doing your loved one any favors. Remember, addiction is a progressive disease, and your loved one will only get worse the more they use or drink.
Threaten or criticize
Addiction is a disease. It results in a distorted value system that shifts toward supporting ongoing substance use. It is OK to get frustrated or angry with your loved one and, for your own well-being, you may need to limit your contact if your loved one is actively using. But be wary of treating the person like someone who needs constant criticisms. This can shame your loved one and interfere with them reaching out for support. Once they enter recovery, though, communicate with them and try to understand how substance misuse became a routine part of their life.
Expecting immediate change
Remember that change is gradual and may have ups and downs. A multi-year study of people with addiction showed that only about a third of recovering individuals who had been sober for less than a year remained abstinent. That means 2 out of 3 recovering addicts will likely relapse within their first year of recovery. As time goes on in sobriety, the chances for relapse drops, and relapses are not an indication of failure. Instead, they are a sign that the method of treatment needs to be changed.
Unrealistic expectations about addiction recovery
The major desire of anyone who loves an addict is to see them clean and sober. There is also a belief that the addiction is the source of all the problems in the addict’s life and their relationships, and it is commonly assumed that merely by attending rehab someone is “cured.”
Unfortunately, neither is true. Many loved ones find themselves disappointed by a recovering addict and the progress that they’ve made, or haven’t made. This is especially true when relapse occurs. It is definitely best to avoid disappointment, because the recovering addict will sense that disappointment, which will in turn make them feel hopeless and more likely to relapse.
What if your loved one relapses while in addiction recovery?
The current understanding of addiction as a disease means that symptoms will get worse at times. For people with diabetes or asthma, treatment will work for a period of time, and then symptoms may progress. This does not mean giving up; instead, it means returning to the doctor and developing a new treatment regimen. Understanding addiction as a disease means treating relapse in exactly this way: Work to avoid it, but if it happens, return to treatment. Relapse is only a serious problem when the person who has fallen back into addiction refuses to admit the problem and refuses to get help.
Addiction recovery is much easier when people have the support of friends and family members. If you have concerns that a recovering addict may need further help, give us a call at 888-708-2602 and our admissions coordinators will help guide you through the process.