WATCHING A LOVED ONE STRUGGLE
It’s hard enough to watch someone you love struggle through the regular ups and downs of life, but when they’re in the grips of a life-altering and potentially life-threatening addiction, it becomes almost unbearable. As caring human beings, a loved one’s first instinct is to think like a sober person and implore the person to “just quit.” It seems so simple. Unfortunately, addiction alters the way a potentially recovering addict thinks, and they’re no longer thinking like a sober person. They need the drug to function, think, feel, and avoid sickness.
The best thing you can do for a loved one who is struggling through addiction is to guide them, gently, to a point where they want to get help from professionals. If the addiction is severe enough, they may be losing friends, jobs, money, housing, and even life-sustaining food. It’s scary. As their caring friend, parent, or family member, you want to fix this. Just remember that it’s not going to be fixed overnight. Here are the things you can do to gently guide your loved one to a point where they’ll choose to fight for their life on their own accord.
THINGS YOU CAN DO
People are practical by nature. They see a problem, and they want clear ways to fix it. While it’s natural to want to fix problems, drug addiction is not a problem you can fix for someone. It’s a demon of its own making, and only the person who lives with it can fix it. Thankfully, there are things you can do to be supportive during the process.
LEARN ABOUT ADDICTION
The more you know about addiction in general, the better equipped you will be to discuss the issue with your family member or friend. The resources available to you are nearly endless, giving you a view of addiction that will make it easier for you to understand why your loved one is behaving the way they are, why their personality has changed, and why they’re struggling in their lives. By understanding the mechanisms behind addiction, and knowing that’s your loved one’s freedom of choice has been taken away by the addiction, can help you be more understanding as you discuss the issue.
COMMIT FOR THE LONG HAUL
It’s a common misconception that as soon as your loved one is sober, their lives will magically become better. To some degree, it’s true. Their lives will inevitably be better by being sober, but you can bet that the decisions they made during active addiction will still follow them for some time. If they’ve accumulated criminal charges, debts, lost housing, and lost employment, those problems aren’t going to go away magically, and they will likely still be hurting about many things when they get sober. Many addicts experience tremendous guilt in the early days. They want so badly to erase the past and start over, but it follows them. You can be a loving source of comfort during this initial stage, where your family member or friend is sober but still hurting.
CREATE A SOBER ENVIRONMENT
Many addicts struggle in the early days because they are still exposed to the substances they’re addicted to. You can be one of the loved ones that create a loving, sober environment for them, a place where they don’t have to cope with triggers to use.
- Remove alcohol and other substances from your home
- Invite your newly sober friend out for fun, non-substance activities
- Introduce them to new friends who are also sober
BE GOOD TO YOURSELF
It’s natural to be ecstatic that your loved one is finally sober, and you may want to throw more support at them than is healthy for you. You have your own life to take care of your individual needs. Know how to set healthy boundaries with your recovering friend. For example, if they want to go out seven days a week and seem to be relying solely on you for support, it’s time to introduce them to other people who can form a support group. You may suggest more meetings. Know when to say no and when to lend a hand. The more emotionally healthy and stable you are, the more your support will truly count. Know when to take a day or two off just for you.
NEW ACTIVITIES TO EXPLORE
The things that make a recovering addict feel better may also be a massive help to you. Reducing stress through things like yoga, journaling, and exercise can be beneficial to both you and the recovering person you love. Explore some of these things for yourself and then invite your recovering friend to do these things as well. Not only will it help them, but it will also help you.
No matter how much we all wish it weren’t so, a large part of the time, a recovering addict will relapse. It’s going to be very disappointing for a family member or friend to watch an addict slip back into old behaviors, but it’s still a part of recovery. If they’ve just recently relapsed, you can intervene and step in to suggest a group meeting, either together or just them. Offer to take them to one. Talk to other sober family and friends who can help you deal with the disappointment and fear of the relapse. Continue encouraging your recovering friend that relapse is just that, a relapse. It can last a day, and today can be the day they go back out to a group meeting or counseling session and live sober all over again.
RECOVERY AND HOPE
Loved ones of addicts sometimes feel like they’re the ones in active addiction. It can be exhausting when someone you love is suffering from a condition like addiction. The pressing issue at hand is to realize that hope is always just around the corner. You’re doing the best you can to help the person that you love to recover from what is a terrible, life-threatening disease. It’s never going to be easy, but it’s always going to be worth it. You can be a reliable source of support that encourages sober living and healthy outlets for their feelings, all without enabling them to continue using.
As you and your loved one go on this journey together, there will be ups and downs. Just remember there was a time when they weren’t in treatment at all, and in those dark days, there was no hope at all. Now that they’ve discovered recovery, they always have a safe haven to run back to and have acknowledged that they know they have a problem. That alone is a reason to celebrate. As long as they’re aware of the problem and have loving and supportive friends like you, there is always hope that they will one day recover in a way that makes relapse a thing of the past. Miracles in recovery happen every single day, and with caring people like you to help, they will continue to happen.
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