Most families have worked endlessly to support the ever-evolving needs of a loved one struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. Rehab, outpatient treatment, and sober living homes are just the first step on a long journey in recovery. Once a loved one receives the help they so desperately need, how do families continue to show their support? Here are the top 5 ways to support a sober loved one in their recovery.
1. Participating in Al Anon and Your Own Recovery
Family involvement in the recovery process is crucial. When families participate in the treatment process, they are able to identify and recognize negative behavior patterns. Families, even with the best of intentions, are often trapped in a cycle of enabling and co-dependency. These behavior patterns can have a significantly negative impact on the addict and on the entire family dynamic. In order to break free from this negative cycle, it is imperative that families participate in their own recovery. Family and friends of an addict are highly encouraged to attend Al Anon meetings. Al Anon is a free program dedicated to providing group support to drug and alcohol-addicted individual’s friends and family. Alcohol and drug addiction are considered “family diseases”. Addiction is a destructive force that affects not only the addicted individual, but also everyone in their life. The best way to support a loved one in early recovery is to participate in your own recovery.
2. Educating Yourself About Addiction and Recovery
In order to effectively support a loved one in early sobriety, it is imperative that family and friends understand addiction. Addiction is a complex and multifaceted disease. Families are best able to support a sober loved one when they have a deep understanding of both addiction and addiction recovery. Families should not only familiarize themselves with the disease of addiction, but also familiarize themselves with twelve step programs. One of the best ways family and friends can educate themselves is by utilizing recovery sites and blogs. These sites offer free information that covers a wide range of addiction and recovery related topics. Family and friends should strive to better understand addiction and ask questions along they way.
3. Eliminating Unrealistic Expectations
Most family and friends of an addicted individual have experienced their fair share of worry, fear and frustration. When an addicted person makes the decision to accept help, families often begin to feel a sense of hope. Hope that their loved one will be receptive to help, hope that the treatment will be effective, and hope that they will get and remain sober. It is understandable that friends and family will have high hopes for their loved one. However, it is important that loved ones eliminate unrealistic expectations. It is crucial that families hope for the best, yet be prepared for the worst. There is no simple quick fix for drug and alcohol addiction. It is important for friends and family to understand that just because the use of drugs and alcohol has been eliminated, the individual will most likely still exhibit negative behavior patterns, especially in early recovery. The drug and alcohol abuse was a symptom, not the problem. It takes time for an addict to address and identify the underlying issues that contributed to the substance abuse in the first place. Recovery is a long journey and unfortunately the odds are against most addicts. Relapse may be a part of your loved one’s journey. It is best for friends and family to have limited expectations and be patient during the recovery process.
4. Practicing Patience and Understanding
Recovery from drug and alcohol addiction is a long journey. Abstinence from drugs and alcohol is the first step in the addiction recovery process. As previously stated, the substance abuse was a symptom, not the problem. The real problem is an internal issue that times time to identify and address. In order for one to fully recover, they must be able to identify and address the underlying issues that contributed to the substance abuse. For each addict, these issues vary. In order for family and friends to support a sober loved one, it is highly recommended that they practice patience and understanding. Addiction is a complex disease and recovery takes time. Family and friends may not see a dramatic shift in their loved one right away. Practicing patience and understanding is one of the best and most productive ways to show love and support for your loved one.
5. Establishing Healthy Boundaries
Al-Anon teaches friends and family of an addict how to reclaim their own lives. In order to establish healthy boundaries, loved ones must learn to focus on themselves, build on their own strengths, and ask for and accept help. Many families have lost a sense of self due to a loved one’s addiction. Many families confuse the absence of boundaries with love and caring. This can have a significantly negative impact on both the family and the addicted individual. Friends and family must establish healthy boundaries in order to effectively and appropriately support a sober loved one.
Taking the time to try and implement these strategies into your life can benefit not only your loved one in recovery, but your own peace of mind and well being! Do you have any experience with engaging in your own recovery, setting boundaries or recognizing expectations? We would love to hear about it in the comments section below!