Many who find themselves trying to cope with a loved one’s addiction agonize over how to help them. In these circumstances, getting the addicted individual the help they need to sober up is as far as the planning goes. However, this is only the beginning. Helping your loved one to get sober can be a long and stressful process. Most people don’t think about what happens next. Therefore, learning some tips for supporting your loved one in recovery can help. This can ensure they have a loving and stable network behind them as they start their journey in recovery
Educate Yourself About What It Means to Be in Recovery
Making the decision to get and stay sober means committing to make a lot of significant changes. Your loved one is preparing to make an entire lifestyle change. Take some time to learn about what that may entail. This will allow you to be there for them in ways that are significant to their journey.
For example, record amounts of young people are ending up in treatment facilities due to the Opioid Epidemic. These young adults often know that they have a problem with Opioids. However, they may not be convinced that they wouldn’t be able to drink safely once they leave treatment. This is contrary to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health which states that:
“Clinically, individuals considering non-abstinent goals should be aware that abstinence may be best for optimal [for Recovery] in the long run.”
This demonstrates one example of how being educated can empower you to help your loved one. You can support them in making the best decisions for their life and health as they navigate sobriety.
Additionally, most treatment methods will include some form of therapy. This can help the individual to alter behaviors that have led them to using drugs or alcohol. This is a positive change for the individual, and yet, this can have lasting effects on the way they act. Knowing that your loved one will most likely be adopting new thought and behavior patterns can be helpful to support them. They are becoming happier, healthier members of recovery.
Know When and How You Can Be Supportive
In their addiction, your significant other may have been dependent on you for some form of support. Now that they are getting sober, this could change. While some people will still rely on family and friends for some form of help, others may become more independent. Getting healthy, gaining employment, having a source of income, meeting new friends- all of these things become possible once an individual has entered recovery.
Additionally, for all of these reasons and more, your loved one may be coming to you as often for support. Considering this change, it may be difficult to see how you can support you loved one in recovery. Especially compared to how you may have supported them while in their addiction. One way that you can navigate this new dynamic is by simply asking them how you can be helpful. This shows that you are both supportive of their recovery and understand that they are going through changes.
Perhaps now your loved one will want to rely on you more emotionally. In this case, offer to go with them to a meeting. Perhaps you can set a day to have a family dinner. Even just talking to them and showing interest in their new way of life can be incredibly beneficial.
In some cases, your loved one may need support financially, or with tasks such as resume writing, getting to their outpatient treatment, or navigating a legal battle. Getting sober often involves setting straight a backlog of problems that piled up while the person was using. If you feel comfortable, any of these examples can also be a great way to support their new needs.
Set Boundaries and Keep Them
Not every person who seeks help for an addiction changes their ways right away. In their addiction, your loved on may have lied and manipulated to support their habit. These behaviors can take some work and time to change. For this reason, sometimes the best way to support a loved on in recovery is simply not to enable their bad behaviors.
For example, your loved one may choose not to go to recommended classes or appointments. However, they may continue to ask you for financial support. In this case, you are allowed to say no. This can be incredibly difficult. Many fall into the trap of succumbing to the persons every request simply because they stopped using drugs or alcohol. However, this can be a slippery slope right back into addiction. It is truly better for the person to learn that their old behaviors need to be replaced with new ones.
If you find yourself in this position, set boundaries. This may sound hard or scary at first. With some practice and time, you will likely find that it becomes easier. Some tips for setting healthy boundaries include:
· Take It Slow:
One of the most important parts of setting boundaries is not allowing people to cross them. This will show that you are serious and mean what you say. When you first start setting boundaries, this can be difficult. For this reason, pick a small boundary that you know you can keep. For example, if you dedicated a night to self-care, let them know that you are off limits for that night. This will help you practice boundaries for just a few hours at a time.
· Be Self-Aware:
You may have spent a long time worrying about the addicted individual in your life, and may have lost touch with how you feel. That’s okay. Learning to pay attention to how a situation or person is making you feel is a great first step to setting a boundary. This is because it is a guidepost for whether you are truly okay with what you are being asked for.
· Be Direct and Assertive:
When setting a boundary, there should be no confusion. Therefore, when you decide what your boundary will be, let the person know in a clear manner. This does not mean you have to be aggressive- it simply means that you should state your boundary in a way that it cannot be misunderstood or manipulated.
· Ask for Help:
Having support is going to be a major help as you learn to set boundaries. Knowing that you are not alone will help you to stand firm in your limits. Family, friends, support groups, community or religious groups, or even a therapist can be a great help if you find yourself struggling with feelings of fear or guilt.
While it may be difficult and scary, having healthy boundaries will have a positive impact on your loved one’s recovery.
Talk to a Therapist
Addiction can have significant negative impacts on every relationship. When your loved one gets sober, you may not know how to react to them. You may struggle with how to heal the wounds that were inflicted while they were using. That’s okay. It is okay to admit that you don’t know how to repair the relationship yourself.
If this is the case for you, you may consider seeing a therapist or counselor. Having an unbiased third part present while talking over the pain your loved one has caused you- or pain that they feel you’ve caused them- can be very helpful. Additionally, there are therapists and counselors that are specifically qualified to handle family and relationship conflict. These therapists can guide you as you heal your relationship and help both parties to set healthy boundaries and expectations going forward.
Don’t Overthink It
There may be a lot to consider but be patient with yourself. You don’t need to have everything figured out right away. In many instances, your loved one will also have questions on how to move forward. Remember, you are only human, and you are dealing with a complex situation. The most important thing to remember is that they are trying. Getting sober from a drug or alcohol addiction is a huge step forward. In time, many questions you may have will sort themselves out.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, you are not alone. Talk to a trusted adviser, doctor, or therapist to learn more about how to begin the process of recovery.