How to Help a Loved One During Recovery
Loving an addict is difficult. It’s never easy to watch someone you care for as their choices turn their life upside down time and time again. It goes from bad to worse, and you want to help. It’s a natural feeling, and it’s admirable you want to do something proactive rather than looking the other direction in hopes your loved one will eventually figure it out. However, your help is unwanted in the eyes of an addict. Fixing problems comes naturally to many people, and an addict has a problem. All you have to do is figure out what you can do to help your loved one, and the problem will right itself. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The best way you can help an addict you love is to stay out of their personal business.
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s often what works. Addicts aren’t a problem. They are people with a problem, and most people don’t care to have someone over their shoulder at all times telling them what to do, judging them, and running their life for them. The best way you can help someone you love as they go through the recovery process is to stay out of the way. Resist the urge to help them, and focus your energy on enjoying them instead. There are various stages of recovery, and it’s your job to be there for the person you love through every stage without micromanaging them. You can’t help them, but you can be there for them. There’s a difference.
Admitting There’s a Problem
Most addicts have to realize there’s a problem, and many of them need to figure this out on their own. Denial plays a significant role in addiction, and it’s one of the least appealing aspects of the problem. When someone you love is addicted to substance abuse, you have to wait for them to see the problem. The worst thing you can do is tell them there is a problem and urge them to seek treatment. People with an issue don’t want you to see them in a bad light. They want you to think they’re amazing, and pointing out they’re not, makes the more combative. The denial doesn’t stop there. The addiction becomes worse because they’re looking to self-medicate feelings of sadness and anger that someone they love things they’re imperfect or a failure.
During this time, most addicts continue to ignore their loved ones. You can’t change their mind, but you can be there. Many users are forced to hit rock bottom before they can admit they have a problem. The best help you can offer at this point is your support. When your loved one tells you they might have a problem and they want help, ask what you can do and follow their lead.
Now that your loved one is going through rehab, your job is to support him or her. This means being there when they call, being there when they need someone, and listening. Your job isn’t to lecture or judge. It’s to be the ear they require, the shoulder to cry on, and the person who makes them laugh when the moment is sad. It’s not always easy to tell what they need at a particular time, but you know your loved one. Follow their lead and offer what they seem to need most. Sometimes all they need is someone to listen without offering an opinion.
Get to Know the Treatment Team
You can support your loved one through this process by getting to know the treatment team. Get to know the doctors, the nurses, the people who are there to support your loved ones. Maintain a good professional relationship with them. There are times you might need their help when your loved one seems out of reach to you, and these relationships are some of the most important. Don’t make a big deal of it to your loved one, but do make an effort.
Keep Stress to a Minimum
You can’t possibly remove all the stress from someone’s life, but you can minimize it. Now is a good time to help your loved one get rid of people in his or her life who don’t support them. This might mean deleting the phone numbers of friends who are still using. It might mean changing your loved one’s phone number so the bad influences in their life can’t find them. It might suggest keeping some of the small family drama from their lives, and just being there for them when things are out of control.
If your loved one is an alcoholic, consider getting rid of the need to drink in his or her presence. This isn’t to say you can’t enjoy a glass of champagne on your anniversary or a holiday, but perhaps you might wait until your loved one has had more time to recover. For instance, wait until your loved one has been clean and sober for a year or so before you break out the champagne for yourself. It’s the little things like this that show support for your loved one in their time of need.
One thing that helps addicts with their recovery is a loved one who is present. Put down the phone when you’re together. Talk to him or her. Listen to him or her for the sole purpose of actually hearing what is being said rather than to reply. The most important thing you can remember in this period is to keep your judgment to yourself. Negative feelings aren’t productive in recovery, but someone who shows support without judgment is supportive.
Loving an addict is the hardest thing you can go through for many, but it’s not something you should attempt to handle on your own. Let your job be that of a supportive friend or family member rather than another person standing around waiting to point out you were right, and they failed once again.