Having a friend or family member that is suffering from an addiction is a difficult time for everybody involved.
Watching a loved one suffer is almost unbearable, but knowing how to be helpful in directing them to recovery is the best thing you can do for them.
No matter where an addict is on the recovery spectrum, there are steps that you can take to be just the support system they need.
Try one, or all, of these ways to aid an addict in a healthy manner, rather than enabling them.
1. Encourage them to follow treatment
Seeking a professional’s advice for treatment in addiction recovery is a good first step in finding out the direction an addict needs to go.
Behavioral Health Revolution reports that treatment for addiction recovery may include pharmacological treatment, therapy, vocational rehabilitation, and case management.
Once an addict has a treatment plan, try to encourage them to follow through with the professional’s recommendation.
You can have a method of reminding them to take their medications, ensure they make it to their appointments, and listen to their concerns with their treatment; being sure to address them with a professional.
2. Be a support for total abstinence from their addiction
Being an addict isn’t always isolated to one drug or just alcohol, and taking a drug or drinking alcohol can trigger a relapse.
Staying away from any drug and alcohol is the best way to ensure your loved one stays on the path to recovery.
Be clear with the one suffering from addiction that you believe total abstinence is how you are going to support them, and try to offer activities that are free from drugs and alcohol for them to participate in.
3. Help to strengthen coping skills
It will be impossible to avoid all triggers in life, especially if a trigger is just being unable to manage stress in a healthy way.
If your loved one goes through a major stressor, such as a loss or big change, then be available to go over all the coping skills given to you by a professional.
These may include going to support groups, distracting yourself with a healthy activity, and reminding yourself of where addiction takes you.
Sometimes, even just being a listening ear to an addict who is struggling may provide enough support to get them through the tough time.
4. Ease relationship troubles
Many addicts have triggers related to relationship conflict, according to Behavioral Health Revolution.
Having a strong social support system gives your loved one somewhere to turn when they are having difficulty in a relationship.
Help your loved one to develop strong communication skills to work through conflict, and find resolutions to problems that arise.
Be ready to provide resources when a problem arises, explaining to them how you care enough about them to get the help they need to be in healthy, stable relationships.
5. Urge participation in group therapy
Support groups with other addicts, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), allow your loved one to know they are not alone in their struggles.
There are also support groups for those suffering with a mental health disorder on top of an addiction, such as Dual Recovery Anonymous.
Offer to attend meetings with your loved one until they feel comfortable enough to go alone, and make sure they have a ride to get to meetings when they need them.
Take note of how the support group encourages recovery so you can help your loved one follow through with the recommended steps.
6. Help establish a sober group of friends
A new life apart from recovery also means new social circles. Addicts align themselves with other addicts that cater to their lifestyle.
In the same way, an addict in recovery needs to align themselves with people who have similar goals; to stay sober.
Help your loved one to connect with sober friends, and discuss often who they are spending their time with to encourage healthy relationships.
7. Recognize signs of relapse
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that “Individuals recovering from any kind of addiction often experience at least one relapse.”
Preventing a relapse is key to supporting an addict toward sobriety, but if they do relapse continue with the other methods discussed above to aid in your loved one getting back on track.
Any changes in mood or physical state can be a sign of a possible pending relapse. Developing a plan to deal with signs of a relapse before it occurs can save their life.
Keep an ear out for how your loved one talks about the recovery process. A disdain for it could mean they have been contemplating a relapse.
8. Be a support for activities that give structure and meaning
Addicts can feel lost after leaving a life where their daily goals revolved around seeking out drugs or alcohol.
Finding new activities and meaningful tasks can give your loved one a sense of purpose in their day that distracts them from the daily struggle of staying sober.
This can be getting a job, going back to school, getting involved in the community or charity.
Brainstorm activities with your loved one that bring them joy, or that they would be interested in trying, and then help them get started.
If they don’t think that any activity will help, then suggest some that you can join them in until they do.
9. Be a constant reminder of hope
Behavioral Health Revolution reminds addicts and their families that “Above all, family members play an invaluable role in helping their loved one keep hope alive. Change is possible.”
Every life is valuable, and that is shown when you believe in them and their ability to change.
Hope is a powerful tool in sobriety. It may be just what your loved one needs to get through all the steps necessary to move toward a healthy lifestyle; full of joy and purpose.
While all these ways provide direction in being the support your loved one suffering from addiction needs, it is important to remember that change has to begin with them.
It is not your responsibility to see an addict seek recovery, and it is not your fault if they backslide.
Through these methods, we hope you and your loved one find the road toward a healthy, happy life; the one each individual is capable of.