Family members play a crucial role in helping a loved one with an alcohol or substance use disorder get on the road to recovery. But where do you begin? How can you really help? When do you back-off? How do you prevent enabling? What tools are effective in keeping your loved one focused and positive during one of the most difficult times of their life? Here are seven productive strategies families can use to help their loved ones during the addiction treatment and recovery process.
Work With Your Loved One In Building Coping Skills
According to an article excerpt in the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH, 2009) by Rajita Sinha, Ph.D., Professor at the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, stress is a well-known risk factor in addiction relapse vulnerability. Helping your loved one find ways to cope with everyday pressures as well as major stressors such as the ending of a relationship, moving, illness, or beginning a new job, will ensure his/her ability to focus on recovery. You can work with him/her to navigate these pressures while setting firm, healthy boundaries by:
- Being there to talk, listen, and process the event.
- Reminding them of the tools and coping skills they learned through a program or rehab center without doing the work for them.
- Encouraging them in making healthier lifestyle changes, such as a change of diet or exercise to help reduce stress and develop a routine.
- Volunteering to take some of the pressures from them like taking their children to school or working with them to re-establish new routines. But remember to set clear boundaries in what you’re willing and not willing to do – do not allow him/her to take advantage or pawn off their responsibilities.
Support Purposeful Activities
Finding a purpose, whether it be parenting, community involvement, a career, or participating in a cause can provide meaning and structure for a recovering addict. Support your loved ones who need to develop or re-establish these important activities as it will motivate them to stay sober. Remind them that even though they may have set-backs, working towards these activities now will help them realize how achievable their goals are now and in the future.
Encourage Total Abstinence
Continually support the idea that abstinence of all forms of drugs and alcohol is crucial in recovery. There may be times when your loved one is minimizing the use of another drug to help cope with their main addiction. For example, he/she may think smoking marijuana will relieve anxiety and help in their journey to quit drinking. Supporting total abstinence of all drugs and alcohol as well as helping to avoid exposure to social situations where substance use is common can be effective while helping them on their road to recovery. But remember, you are not responsible for their addiction or their abstinence.
Offer Social Support
Stress within families can also contribute to a relapse. Social support, on the other hand, can reduce stress and facilitate coping. Reduce tension by:
- Work on communication skills that reduce tension.
- Spend positive time together to maximize support.
- Being flexible and resourceful when issues arise.
- Using verbal affirmations to show how much you care.
Encourage Peer Support Groups
Urging a loved one to get involved in a local support group such as AA or NA or another certified recovery program (typically both inpatient and outpatient rehab programs require this) is an important step in supporting his or her sobriety. Mention that you’d like to help them find a peer support group and attend meetings with them until they find one that suits them. Show them you are invested in their sobriety by learning about the group so you both can discuss what appeals/doesn’t appeal to both of you (or other members of your family.) You’ll want to understand the group or organization’s mission to decide if it’s something you and your family feel comfortable incorporating into your everyday lives.
Help Create A Sober Community
Major lifestyle changes need to happen during addiction recovery in order for your loved one to stay sober. These changes including choosing a support system and friends that are in alignment with their new life and goals. Maintaining abstinence means letting go of friends who don’t support their sobriety. This is a very difficult time during the recovery process but you can help by encouraging your loved one to:
- Reconnect with friends who are sober.
- Go to substance-free social or outdoor recreational events where he/she can meet others living a sober/healthy lifestyle.
- Take up a hobby/sport that involves a community of like-minded people.
Learn About The Disease and Signs of Relapse
Educating yourself, and other family members, about how substances affect your loved one can help you understand their thought processes as well as potential triggers and how to recognize relapse warning signs. Organizing a family plan, together with a loved one and their rehab providers, to deal with a potential or real relapse is also an effective tool in managing any crisis that may occur. However, if a relapse happens try to refrain from judgment and criticism. Remember, the threat relapse is part of the recovery process.
Supporting a loved one during their addiction recovery can feel rewarding at times and incredibly draining at times, so make sure to take time to be kind to yourself. Finding time to step away from the process to recharge your batteries. Don’t feel guilty about needing time for yourself or disconnecting from everything to find your center – this will only help you remain strong for your loved one. Attending individual and/or family support groups that deal with the same issues you are facing can also help during this difficult transition.
Supporting A Loved One During Treatment for Addiction
Finally, remember to always share the message to your loved one that change is possible and utilizing your support can be an effective tool during their recovery process. Offering hope can be powerful medicine. If you or a loved one is suffering from a substance use disorder or addiction, get help now. Treatment is tailored to each individual’s unique needs and reintegrating clients back into society is paramount in our process. While there is no cure for addiction, it is treatable and recovery is possible.
Recovering from substance abuse isn’t easy. It’s a life-long process of turning away from dangerous behaviors and turning to yourself to find peace. Call Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center now if you or an adolescent you know is in need of support. Our residential treatment program can help you get clean and put you on the path to trusting your angel, rerouting your internal GPS to health, happiness, and self-love. Listen to that quiet voice and get help today: (662) 478-9463