Learn About Their Addiction
It can be hard to watch a loved one become addicted to drugs or alcohol. You might be thinking to yourself, why cant they just stop? or, the hard part is over now that theyve stopped drinking/taking drugs.
And however common these thoughts might be, theyre rooted in a misunderstanding of addiction itself.
Its easy to want to lecture your loved one or to minimize the difficulty of quitting when youve never been addicted to anything before. But this can backfire: they wont feel like you understand what theyre going through, and it can cause them even more guilt and shame.
Addiction is a disease that affects brain chemistry, behavior, emotions, and the physical body.
Learn as much as possible about addiction and about your loved ones journey so you can fully understand and support their struggle to get sober.
How To Support A Recovering Addict
Many people who want their loved ones get rid of substance abuse often think that professional services like detox and rehab are the start and the end of the recovery process.
They often fail to understand that these drug rehabilitation centers are just the start of a long journey.
Recovering from substance abuse is a very long process because it requires a lot of courage, persistence and resolve to stay on the sobriety track. Recovering addicts need the support of loved ones after getting professional assistance, so it is very important for you to embolden and motivate recovering addicts to stick to a drug-free life.
Studies suggest that recovering addicts who received continuous support and encouragement from their loved ones found more success in beating the addiction than those who didnt.
Below are some ways to support a recovering addict:
Prepare For Potential Problems
Addiction causes many, many long-lasting problems that dont just go away when someone gets sober. And these problems dont just affect the recovering addict. Financial problems are common as the recovering addict works to rebuild their life, career and pay off debts. Health problems also are common. Addiction does terrible things to the body, some of which are permanent. These problems will live with the person long after they kick their addiction, unfortunately, and will add stress and complications to their life going forward. And of course, there are relationship problems, trust that may never be regained, wounds that dont heal. Thats just the way of things. Understanding these potential problems and preparing for them can help you support the recovery of your loved one.
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What To Expect When Your Family Member Enters Treatment
Part of learning how to help an alcoholic loved one is knowing what treatments are available. Another part you may not have considered is what you can expect once they begin treatment. You may end up experiencing the gamut of emotions, all of which are normal, such as:
- Relief: You may be glad your loved one is finally getting treatment and comforted to know that your loved one is physically in a safe space.
- Anxiety: You may worry about the well-being of your loved one and whether theyre getting the help they need.
- Anger: You may feel resentment that your loved one seemingly burdened you with their disease.
- Sadness: Feeling bad for your loved one and their struggles is a sign of empathy and compassion. Sadness doesnt necessarily mean pity, either.
- Shame: You may feel either shame stemming from the guilt that you couldnt save your loved one or embarrassment at having to explain that your loved one is in Recovery.
When your loved one enters treatment, its the perfect time for you to focus more on yourself and your healing. Reach out to support groups of people who are in the same situation as you. If you find yourself blaming your loved one for their addiction and its impact on your life, speak to a therapist to work through those feelings healthily.
Eventually, you will be asked to become involved in your loved ones Recovery. Family involvement in rehabilitation has proven to be incredibly beneficial for both the patient as well as the family.
Who Should Consider Attending Alcohol Rehab
Anyone that suffers from alcohol use disorder the clinical term for alcohol addictioncan benefit from treatment.4
Alcohol addiction is diagnosed by a medical professional based on the diagnostic criteria for AUD set in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition . The more criteria someone meets, the more severe their AUD.4 However, its important to note that even a mild disorder can lead to significant problems, including being put in physically hazardous situations , chronic health problems, and persistent social or interpersonal issues.4,5
Patients often begin treatment with medical detox for the safe and supervised management of alcohol withdrawal, which can be intensely uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous. While detox is a necessary step for many patients struggling with alcohol addiction, many will need continued treatmentsuch as inpatient or outpatient rehabto achieve long-term recovery.1
AUD is very common, affecting an estimated 28.3 million Americans 12 years old or older in 2020.6 Take our confidential self-assessment quiz to see if you may suffer from alcohol use disorder.
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Get Support For Yourself
Supporting an addict in recovery is a challenge at any capacity. Whatever support you are providing to someone who is suffering from addiction, it will take a toll on you. Whether it is financially, emotionally, mentally or physically, it takes a lot of effort to support an addict in recovery.
A great way to make sure you take care of yourself while supporting someone in recovery is to seek professional counseling. Many counselors are trained to support people who are struggling with addiction in families. They are able to not only provide emotional support, but also resources and education to help your efforts be as easy on you as possible.
Ways To Help A Recovering Alcoholic
Educate Yourself On Addiction And Recovery
Addiction and alcoholism are very complex, and recovery is one of the greatest challenges of most individuals lives. The best way a loved one can help an addict is to educate themselves on the many aspects of addiction and recovery, such as potential triggers, health issues, enablement, the recovery process, and the psychological changes that addiction causes. Loved ones will find it much easier to relate to and assist a recovering addict if they understand addiction, and they will also be much better equipped to help prevent relapse.
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Understand And Prepare For Extended Problems
Dont Hold Unreasonable Expectations
Make Changes To Support Sobriety
The support of loved ones is often critical to a recovering addict maintaining their sobriety, especially in the first months after rehab. Examples of changes that support sobriety include:
- Removing all addictive substances from the home.
- Avoiding social gatherings where substance abuse will occur.
- Finding new, sober activities to do together.
- Putting a focus on new aspects of life.
- Building relationships with sober friends.
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Self Help And Support Groups
Many find it helpful to join a self-help or support group for friends, families, and loved ones of individuals struggling with an addiction or in recovery. These mutual assistance groups are typically free and based on shared personal experiences rather than professional, fee-based services, like counselors or therapists.
Some notable mutual assistance groups are:
Alcohol and/or Narcotics
Compassion And Empathy Are Key
Throughout this process, they will be discarding old habits, toxic relationships and leaving behind things they may have known their entire life. The whole process is incredibly scary and troubling for addicts, as it would be for anyone. It is crucial to express compassion and empathy to keep addicts from feeling alone.
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Ways To Support A Loved One In Recovery
by Free by the Sea | Sep 11, 2020 | Addiction Treatment |
Going through addiction and drug abuse can be tough. It can be painful to see those close to you struggle with addiction. Sometimes, people may not know what to say to someone in recovery. Knowing how to help a recovering addict often proves to be challenging. But being a supportive shoulder to lean on is crucial.
When recovering from intense cases of drug addiction, it is important for individuals to have support. Its best to have people who are willing to help a friend or loved one. A person struggling with addiction shouldnt have to go through it alone. Luckily, there are a number of different ways you can help a loved one during recovery.
There are a lot of different factors that go into addiction recovery and its important to be aware of these before jumping to conclusions. Each persons recovery will look different. The time and intensity of recovery will depend on the type of addiction. Some addictions and mental illnesses may need more patience and time than others.
Why A Support System Is Important For Recovery
Looking at substance abuse treatment programs, it should come as no surprise that we tend to look at addiction recovery as a solo venture. After all, family and friends arent completing treatment programs alongside the actual patients.
However, there are, in fact, forms of recovery that are communal in nature, particularly the recovery fellowships and support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. Although drug rehabs and holistic treatment programs are widely considered to be a more effective form of recovery, countless people have experienced immense success in support groups, which is a clear sign that theres something about the support group model thats quite effective for recovery.
Why is it that support systems are so beneficial for addiction recovery?
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Here Is How To Help An Addict Recover
If you want to know how to help recovering addicts, learn to see their struggle as one against a real health condition. Some people believe that use of the word disease is not appropriate for addictions.
Yet, a disease is a disorder of structure or function, and addiction is a disorder of function as a result of changes in the structure of the brain. Hence, addiction to drugs or alcohol is as much of a disease as diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.
When considering how to support a recovering alcoholic, keep in mind that, like diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, there are complex genetic and environmental components involved. One person may drink alcohol and never become an alcoholic, while another person who drinks the same amount will develop alcohol use disorder.
We must remember that it is not a matter of simply being a strong-willed person. Just because one person can stop drinking easily does not make someone else a bad person because they are unable to stop.
While there are social consequences of drug use and abuse, the person who uses drugs or alcohol excessively due to an addiction is not acting out for attention. They are struggling with a real brain disorder that requires medical treatment.
Would we shake our heads in disapproval and condemnation if a person had a seizure or stroke? Those are also brain disorders that can affect behavior, and we are generally aware that they require immediate medical attention.
How Do People Change Their Behaviour
Reducing or stopping substance use isnt a straightforward process.
It involves different stages of change and its completely normal for people to jump back and forth between these different stages. For example, they might:
- feel ready to make a change
- then start making the change
- then decide they no longer want to make a change and lapse/relapse
- then jump back to making the change again.3
Read more about the Stages of Change Model.
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No Shame In Getting Help
Learning ways on how to help an addict is always the best thing a loved one can do. Sometimes those ways can be difficult for a loved one to actually put into practice. How to support an addict without enabling is really the initial starting point for a loved one. You should want the best for your loved one, and enabling is never whats best for them. It is important to know that the end goal for an addict to get better is with treatment. There is only so much you can do for them. It will be vital that you support them while they are going through treatment. Make sure you encourage them and never make them feel ashamed for getting help. There is never any shame in getting help. If you have set many boundaries that has put a strain on your relationship with the addict, try to reach back out to them as they are going through treatment. Make an effort to spend more time with them, and ask them how their treatment is going. If you have a loved one yourself who is going through an addiction, please call us at and learn what more you can do to get them into treatment.
Principle : They Must Learn From Their Mistakes
A tricky habit people fall into is becoming a bit of a coddler of their loved one, especially after the person completes their rehab treatment program. Remember that you are supportive, but you are not a safety net. Life is full of challenges, and you are not always going to be around to protect your loved one from making mistakesnor should you prevent them from doing so! Part of recovery is learning how to learn from your mistakes and finding solutions for your problems instead of using substances to cope. As much as it may pain you, you will have to know when its time to let go and let your loved one fend for themselves in the real world.
This also means refraining from making your loved ones recovery easier. Dont tell friends and family members to keep drinks and/or drugs away from the person to withhold from bringing it up in conversation. Allow the person to learn how to gracefully reject tempting offers and speak about their substance abuse without shame. Your role in their support circle is to help them if they slip and to continue giving them love and courage to get stronger. Its not about catching them when they fall. Rather, its about reaching a hand out to them so they can get back up.
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Discussions Can Be Healthy
In thinking about how to help an addict in recovery, be mindful that there is a lot, they are still processing. Addicts may want to discuss their previous drug use, which is a healthy thing to do. Analyze behaviors together and let them figure out where they feel everything went wrong. However, since you do not want them to stay too long in negative emotion, redirecting them to contact a new friend they made in rehab might be a way to alleviate the pain of losing old, toxic friendships.
Seeking Drug Addiction Help
If you have a loved one who is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, it can be difficult to watch them. You may be wondering how to help them with their substance abuse issues. They might be ready to quit and wondering where to get help for substance abuse. There are a number of ways to help a drug addict. Here, we will talk about the signs of drug and alcohol use disorders, what you can expect when your loved one is dealing with a substance use disorder, how to handle the difficulties of trying to help them and how having a loved one with a drug or alcohol addiction affects you.
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Recognize That Theres A Lot To Learn About Substance Use Disorder
Experiencing feelings of fear, worry and anger are understandable and normal for someone on the sidelines trying to support a loved one. As with any other chronic illness, the more informed you are the better you will be able to support them. You can help them, and yourself, by seeking more education.
Learn more about substance use disorder, interventions, treatment methods and recovery programs. And recognize that now is not the time to nag or lecture your loved one about what they should have done in the past or how things could have been better.
Seek professional help on how to approach your loved one about their substance use so they can get the proper treatment. Assistance in Recovery is one resource in our community that offers advocates who can help coach you on the best ways to do this. They can also explain the variety of treatment options out there for your loved one many of which include the involvement of family and other supporters.
Were here when you need us. HealthPartners has alcohol and substance use recovery treatment programs in Minnesota and Wisconsin:
Treatment And Supportive Recovery Services In Bc
Treatment and supportive recovery services are live-in or bed-based substance use services that offer a range of programs and supports to help people who are looking to reduce or abstain from substances, and/or reduce harms associated with substance use. Programs can vary both in length, types of services offered, model of care and intensity of supports available.
The following lists of services are made available by the BC Centre on Substance Use as an easily accessible tool for individuals to find service options available in their community.
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