Substance use disorders can be difficult to deal with no matter which side of them you are on. If you are someone who is watching their loved one fight disordered substance use, it can be challenging to determine how you can support them. However, receiving the right kind of support from a loved one can help make anyone’s road to recovery a bit easier.
Here’s everything that you might want to know about how to love and support someone in recovery to the best of your ability.
Steps to Support Someone Through Addiction Recovery
Every person’s journey of recovery is going to be unique to them and their individual obstacles. By understanding your role as a supporter on their journey, you can help empower your loved one as they overcome the different trials they may face along the way. Here are seven tips on how you can support your loved one as they recover:
Understand Your Role in Their Journey
One of the most important things that you can do to help both yourself and your loved one is to understand your role in their recovery. You do not have the power to “fix” anyone, despite how much you may love or care for them. Only they have the power to make a change in their life, but you can be there to support them along the way. Whether you’re a spouse, close friend, parent, or long-term partner, it’s imperative that you understand your role in your loved one’s battle and do not overestimate your ability to help.
Offer Compassionate, Non-Judgmental Support
Support from those who love you is one of the strongest tools that anyone can have when they’re actively trying to recover. In many cases, your loved one may be too nervous or embarrassed to admit they need help, especially if they’ve already begun trying to recover. By consistently vocalizing your support and creating a judgment-free environment, you can make your loved one feel comfortable enough to come to you for help and empower them to keep going.
Encourage Healthy Habits and Coping Mechanisms
Developing strong coping mechanisms and building healthy habits are critical aspects of recovery. Without the ability to seek serenity and calm without the use of substances in overwhelming situations, your loved one faces a higher risk of relapse in times of distress. Offering to work together to build coping mechanisms that they can fall back on and developing healthy habits to keep them busy and stable are two amazing ways to support your loved one through their journey without overstepping any boundaries.
Suggested Reading: Developing a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP)
Educate Yourself on Substance Use Disorders
The only way you can properly support your loved one is if you have a better understanding of what they are dealing with. Educating yourself on substance use disorders can be enlightening if you didn’t realize the power and impact a SUD may have. It can also help you learn to love and support the people you care about in the right ways. Look for reputable sources that can teach you about substance use and educate yourself and others on what you can do to help.
Be Prepared to Set Boundaries with Your Loved One
When supporting someone in their recovery, you must be prepared to set boundaries. While it may be difficult, setting boundaries is important to both you and your loved one during recovery. Unfortunately, the difficulties of recovering may push your loved one into feeling more intense emotions. Because of this, knowing when it’s time to set a boundary to keep you both safe and healthy is critical. Setting a boundary can be as simple as stating what you will do if the person relapses or as severe as cutting off communication until your loved one is in a more stable state of mind.
Don’t Accidentally Enable Them When You’re Trying to Help
Enabling is defined as a behavior that either accidentally or intentionally helps someone engage in poor behaviors or helps them to avoid the consequences of their actions. As your loved one’s supporter, it’s important that you know the difference between providing help and support and enabling their poor behaviors. For example, if you offer money as a form of help to your loved one but have a feeling it’s not being used for the proper reasons, you could make the decision to no longer enable these behaviors by not giving them money. While setting this boundary can feel hurtful for both of you, it is for the best in the long run.
Encourage Them to Get Treatment
If you haven’t already, encouraging your loved one to seek the treatment they need is especially important. While the conversation is not always easy, and your loved one may be hurt by the recommendation, expressing that you want them to get treatment because you care about their well being is more than valid. It’s important to try not to overstep any boundaries or consistently push for treatment your loved one isn’t ready to accept. Instead, gently remind them of treatment options and your love for them. This can be done in the form of an intervention, where the people closest to the individual with a SUD get together and encourage the person to get help. What’s most important is that you remind yourself that only they can make the decision to begin recovery
Suggested Reading: Can You Make Someone Go to Rehab?
Don’t Try to “Fix” Anyone
As mentioned before, it is not your job or responsibility to “fix” anyone. In fact, it’s impossible to do so. Your only duty while your loved one recovers is to provide them with compassionate support. By trying to take matters into your own hands and “fix” everything, you can ultimately end up enabling them and depriving them of their own opportunity to experience consequences and decide a change is needed.
Don’t Ignore Substance Misuse
Ignoring the issue does no one any good when it comes to substance use disorders. While you may not have the power to make a change in their life or cure their addiction, ignoring the problem can easily make things worse. It’s important to identify that your loved one is struggling and determine what the next best steps are for you and any children.
Don’t Sacrifice Your Own Wellbeing
It is crucial to remember to take care of yourself while actively trying to support someone through recovery. The journey can be tough for both of you, which is why making sure that you take the time to practice basic self-care and focus on yourself is essential. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to get caught up in the lives of the people you love and want to do everything you can to help. However, this can affect your health, whether you realize it or not. Make sure that you do not sacrifice your own life for your loved one and instead build healthy boundaries that allow you to support them.
How to Provide Role-Based Support
The kind of help and support you provide someone that has a SUD may change depending on your role in their life. It’s important to identify your role so that you can learn ways to be supportive within that role. Whether you are a friend, family member, partner, or spouse, take a look at how you can support your loved one in the best ways.
As a Friend:
As a close friend of someone dealing with an SUD, you may feel powerless when it comes to helping them recover. However, there are still multiple ways that you can support your friend, whether it be from afar or throughout the recovery process. Your most important methods of support as a friend include prioritizing healthy habits and substance-free activities, being a listening ear to your friend in need, and encouraging them during their journey of recovery. It is not your responsibility to be with them every step of the way through this journey, but you can support them as often as you wish.
As a Family Member:
Your role as a family member may change depending on how close you are to the individual who is struggling. Parents, for example, often take on a great deal of responsibility after learning that their child is struggling with an SUD. However, even parents do not have the power to “fix” the issues that their child is dealing with; they can only vocalize their compassionate support and emphasize their love for their child. Still, parents are often influential when it comes to encouraging their loved one to attend treatment.
Suggested Reading: How to Deal with an Addicted Family Member
As a Partner / Spouse:
If you notice that your partner is struggling with substance use disorder or they have recently begun their journey of recovery, it may feel like the weight of both worlds is on your shoulders. However, your first priority in this kind of situation is to make sure that you create healthy boundaries with your partner and take care of yourself and any children. From there, you can work to vocalize your support, encourage your partner, and even work to create a safe home space where they can recover comfortably.
How Do You Know Someone Needs Help?
Knowing when it’s time for your loved one to get help can be challenging. Not only is it difficult to identify when it’s the right time, but it can be even harder to bring it up with the person struggling.
If you’re worried about your loved one and believe they may be struggling with substance use disorder, these signs may mean it’s time for them to get help:
They Are Lying or Being Secretive
Substance use disorders can lead people to lie or keep secrets from those who are closest to them. Some lies may occur because they are embarrassed or ashamed, while others enable them to use substances without being detected. If you notice that your loved one has been sneaking out, spending money, or being secretive, they may need help.
Severe Mood and Energy Swings
Substance use can also drastically affect mood and energy levels. During times of day when the individual is using certain substances, you may notice that they are much happier, relaxed, or enthusiastic; times they are off substances, they may be irritable, angry, and prone to outbursts. An SUD can also severely affect energy levels, and using it can make a person lethargic or hyperactive, depending on the substance used.
Appearance and Attitude Change
Consistent substance use can also lead to changes in an individual’s attitude or appearance that occur quite quickly. Rapid weight loss, anger issues, loss of interest in their favorite activities, poor performance at work or school, and sunken eyes can all alert you that an individual’s SUD needs treatment. If you begin to notice drastic changes in your loved one’s attitude or appearance, consider discussing treatment options.
Family and Individual Resources for Recovery
Watching someone you love struggle with a substance use disorder can be heartbreaking, especially when you feel like you’ve done everything you can to help. At Addiction Freedom Now, we are dedicated to sharing resources that help people with SUD and their loved ones through the journey of recovery. Whether it’s intervention services, treatment center information, or even just encouragement and support, we are here for you.
We know that finding recovery is rarely an easy journey, which is why we decided to create a community devoted to sharing the different trials and triumphs of healing. Our hope is to inspire those who are dealing with substance use disorder and give all involved the resources they need to fight substance use disorders.
Contact me, Jim Haggerty, to learn more about what you can do for your loved one experiencing a substance use disorder or to inquire about family intervention services.