Loving someone suffering from drug or alcohol addiction isn’t easy, but as a family member you’ll play a vital role in helping your loved one on the path to recovery. Multiple studies have shown that people with substance problems who have caring and supportive family members are less likely to relapse than those without strong social networks.
Make Time for Yourself
When you’re flying on an airplane, the flight attendant will instruct you to always put your own oxygen mask on before trying to help others in an emergency situation. This advice also applies to helping a loved one recovering from substance abuse. If you’re exhausted and stressed out, you won’t be able to provide the support your loved one needs.
Tending to your own needs isn’t selfish. It’s the best way to make sure you’re ready for the responsibility of being a supportive caregiver. Consider the following suggestions:
- Find a support group and/or therapist for yourself so you have a safe place to discuss how addiction has impacted your life.
- Make a conscious effort to eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep to give your body the energy you need to be a source of support for your loved one.
- Take time to engage in stress relieving hobbies such as painting, writing in a journal, or listening to music.
Focus on the Positive
People suffering from addiction often do terrible things to the ones they love the most. They may steal to support their habit, become physically aggressive, or lash out at those who are urging them to seek help. Forgiving your family member for these bad behaviors will be a challenge, but it’s best to avoid bringing up past mistakes while your loved one is in recovery. He or she probably already feels intense guilt and shame.
It’s much better to focus on the progress your loved one is making towards a clean and sober life. Verbal praise and physical signs of affection can be an invaluable source of support for the addict who is working to master healthy behaviors.
Strive to be respectful and treat your loved one with dignity throughout the recovery process. Remember that addiction isn’t a simple lack of willpower. It’s a complex disease that requires time and comprehensive treatment to overcome.
Create a Supportive Environment
When your family member is ready to come home, try to create an environment that sets the stage for success. Here are some tips:
- Purchase a large calendar to add reminders for doctors’ appointments and support group meetings. Ask other family members to help make sure your loved one sticks to the schedule and has the necessary transportation.
- Consider attending worship services as a family. Prayer and an exploration of spirituality often play a key role in helping addicts manage their condition. You may also find that turning to God provides you with a source of strength during this challenging time.
- Know the HALT symptoms. This acronym stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. These conditions are well known to trigger the urge to use, so you can be supportive by creating a family schedule with regular times for meals, stress-relieving hobbies, socialization, and sleep.
- Be a good listener. Although you can find lots of information about addiction online, it’s important to keep in mind that no two people in recovery are like. Sit down with your loved one for an open and honest conversation about what you can do to be supportive. Do your best to take this feedback to heart, even if some of the requests weren’t what you were expecting.
Don’t Lose Hope
Change is possible as long as you have hope. No matter what struggles your family has endured in the past, you can move forward on the path to a brighter future. The journey won’t be easy, but there are no limits to what a loving family can accomplish together.