Whether you’ve known for some time that your friend is struggling with a substance use disorder or you only recently became aware of the problem, it’s wonderful that you want to show your support for their desire to seek treatment. Worrying about saying—or doing—the wrong thing is understandable, but to ease your concerns the team at St. Joseph Institute for Addiction‘s Pennsylvania drug and alcohol addiction residential treatment center has provided this list of ways you can help a friend in rehab.
Help Them Make Preliminary Arrangements
Making the arrangements to check into rehab can be overwhelming for someone who is experiencing a severe addiction. Offering to help with research or attending appointments with your friend can ease any anxiety they might be feeling.
Reviewing the following articles can help you be better informed about what happens when someone enters rehab:
- Choosing a Treatment Program
- Don’t Put Off Rehab Over COVID-19 Fears
- Taking Time Off Work to Attend Rehab
- Does Your Insurance Cover Rehab?
Maintain Things at Home While They Are Away
Often, people who are planning to enter rehab are worried about what happens to their home life while they are away. Depending on your friend’s specific concerns and your ability to help, you might:
- Offer to provide backup childcare
- Handle pet-sitting duties
- Water plants
- Pick up mail or packages
- Tidy up so they can return home to a clean and peaceful environment
Keep in Touch
While rehab is a time to focus on self-improvement, your friend can use your support. Contact the rehab center to learn what their policies are regarding visits, phone calls, and/or letters.
Messages of support you can relay to your friend include:
- I’m so proud of you.
- I’m here for you.
- I have faith in you.
- I believe in you.
- You are stronger than you realize.
- You’re being brave by getting the help you need.
- I know this is hard, but we’ll get through it together.
What you want to avoid is making comparisons to others who’ve battled addiction. Even if you’re trying to be helpful, comparisons to celebrities or mutual acquaintances can make your friend feel like there is a “right” and “wrong” way to go about recovery. Your friend’s experience is unique, and however they’re feeling in the moment is valid.
Offer Forgiveness for Past Mistakes
Without drugs or alcohol to cloud their judgment, your friend is likely feeling a great deal of shame and remorse for past addiction-related behavior. Being willing to forgive your friend for previous arguments or missing important events is one of the greatest gifts you can provide during this time.
Forgiving isn’t the same as forgetting. It’s OK if you’re still feeling hurt, but forgiving means you’re making a choice to accept that everyone makes mistakes sometimes and that dwelling on the past keeps you from moving forward in your relationship.
Focus on the Future
Having something to look forward to can help keep your friend’s spirits high while they’re dealing with uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. For example, you might suggest buying tickets to a concert by a band you both love, taking a weekend road trip, or checking out a restaurant that recently opened.
Trying something new together, such as a painting class or learning how to play the guitar, might also be an option to consider. Brainstorming ideas with your friend can give you something to talk about and help you better understand what they want their post-rehab life to look like.
The recovery journey is notoriously unpredictable. Making major life changes is never easy, and getting sober requires changing nearly every aspect of a person’s life. It is perfectly normal for your friend to have good days and bad days. Try your best to be patient with them during this difficult time.
Take Care of Yourself
Self-care is not selfish. Addiction affects everyone a person is close to, so it’s understandable if you’re having your own emotional difficulties during this time. Part of being a good friend is taking care of yourself, so you’re better able to provide the support your friend needs as they continue through their recovery journey.
Writing about your feelings in a journal, talking to a spiritual leader, or seeing a counselor can help you process the conflicting emotions you may be feeling about your friend’s substance use disorder. We also encourage you to investigate support groups such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon that can connect you with others who’ve gone through similar experiences.