How to help an addict in recovery is the topmost concern of friends and family. We all want to see our loved ones be healthy, happy and successful in their recovery. But what does that look like? Let’s take a moment to consider what it does not look like.
Your loved one may have graduated from a rehab program, but that doesn’t mean he or she is “cured.” Recovery takes time! In fact, it is a lifelong journey. Memories can trigger cravings long after someone quits drugs or alcohol, and it takes strength and determination to power through.
In the meantime, your loved one has to rebuild his or her life. Everything suffers when one is addicted: careers, finances, relationships, emotional health and physical health, just to name a few. If you’re wondering how to help an addict in recovery, being patient and ready to listen is the foundation to all other support.
Living in the Past
It is normal to be angry about the things your loved one did while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But it’s important to look to the future instead of staying in the past. Your loved one will make reparations when he or she is ready. In the meantime, if you need to get something off your chest, consider going to counseling or attending a support group that caters to the friends and families of addicts. Constantly reminding your loved one of the mistakes he made or the awful things he said won’t accomplish anything; it will only further strain your relationship. Judgment and criticism have no place in recovery.
Taking a Hands-Off Approach
You might think that it’s best to just stay out of your loved one’s way and let him get his life back in order the way he wants it. This hands-off approach may seem like an act of love that encourages independence, but from your loved one’s point of view, it comes across as very unsupportive. And your support is vital! Offer to cook a healthy meal, to be an exercise buddy, to play board games or video games or to try something new together. Include your loved one as much as possible to help him stay busy, mentally and physically, and to help him create a healthy social life that does not revolve around drug or alcohol use. Even checking in on the phone on a regular basis is an excellent gesture of support. Recovery simply isn’t possible without a support network. The role you play in your loved one’s recovery is important, but if you find it emotionally taxing, don’t forget to take care of yourself too.