10 Tips to Help a Family Member or Friend Through Addiction Recovery

Take a balloon and try to keep it in the air without letting it hit the ground. Tough, right? It’s also a fairly accurate metaphor for dealing with someone who’s in the throes of a substance use disorder. Now shut yourself in a dark room that’s cut off from everything, and that’s the addict. These two considerably different sides to an addiction problem can be tough to navigate, but not impossible, and the effort is well worth the reward.

At our practice, Dr. Emmanuel Emenike and our team believe that education is extremely important in helping our Palmdale, California, area patients lead happy, healthy lives. To that end, if you’re faced with helping a family member of a friend through recovery, here are 10 tips that will help make life better for both you and your loved one.

1. It’s a disease

One of the most important things to understand is that a substance use disorder is a disease, much like any other illness, except this one hijacks a person mentally and emotionally, as well as physically.

2. But not an excuse

Although a substance use disorder is a disease, neither you nor your loved one should use that fact as an excuse in forgiving certain behaviors and actions. Just as a diabetic needs to stay on top of their health, so, too does the addict. You can be tough on this front if you’re met with, “I can’t help it. It’s a disease.”

3. Stay connected

Studies show that rats who are given the option to choose water or cocaine-laced water almost always end up choosing the drug. But these rats are in a cage by themselves. When researchers put the same rats into a community of rats with things to do and interaction, the rats didn’t go for the drugged water anymore. In other words, we know it’s been a difficult haul with your addicted loved one, but try not to shut off the person completely. Even a periodic phone call is helpful if you’re trying to maintain some distance.

4. Establish boundaries

You’ve likely been put through through the wringer if you’ve been by your loved one’s side during active addiction. During their recovery, it’s important that you establish boundaries — you’re there to help when you can, but you won’t do the work for them.

5. Be patient

Quitting anything addictive is difficult under the best of circumstances and often takes people several tries before it sticks. This is especially true of kicking drugs or alcohol. Try your best to be supportive if they relapse, encouraging them to get right back at it.

6. Be tough

At the same time that you show support if they relapse, you should also not enable or condone the slip. It’s OK to be disappointed and to let them know, which may provide them with a little extra motivation.

7. Find your own happiness

There’s no reason for your loved one’s journey to suck all of the joy out of your life. It’s terribly important that you take care of yourself — laugh, go out with friends, do the things you enjoy. When you’re healthy and happy, you’re better able to lend meaningful support to someone who isn’t.

8. Encourage accountability

One of the best things you can do to facilitate your loved one’s recovery is to hold them accountable. You don’t have to oversee every move, but have them explain their plan and follow up periodically with questions, such as, “How was that Friday NA meeting you said you were going to attend?” You don’t have to be a personal secretary, but a little firm accountability can go a long way.

9. Introduce them to clean fun and hobbies

In early recovery, your loved one has forgotten how to live without the aid of an outside substance, so doing anything you can to bring fun back into their lives is wonderful. A day at the beach, a camping trip, or simply going to the movies are great ways to show your loved one that there’s a wonderful sober life waiting for them.

10. Draw your line

If you’re frustrated by your loved one’s inability to stick to their recovery, you need to know when the addiction is well beyond your power to help. In these cases, you can have an honest talk with them and let them know that you feel like you’ve done everything, but you can’t devote more time to it unless they make the necessary steps on their own to meet you halfway.

Ultimately, helping someone through recovery is a balancing act, and you shouldn’t bear the entire burden. Seek help when you need to, and let your loved one know when things are over your head. We’re here to help, so please feel free to give us a call if you have any questions. You can also use the online booking tool to set up an appointment.

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