Studies show that people who receive support from family and friends are more likely to beat their addictions. However, it isn’t always easy and sometimes the line between helping and enabling can blur. If you’d like to support someone with a drug addiction, use the evidence-based tips below.
1. Communicate with Care and Compassion
Research indicates the brain changes with addiction, particularly in relation to activity in the frontal cortex. This is the area responsible for things like judgment, problem solving, and emotional expression.
Once this area is stunted by drugs, people respond in ways they otherwise would not. For example, they may have heightened emotions or feel more anxious and stressed. They may behave in strange ways to protect their addiction or ensure they don’t have to go without their drug of choice. Just stopping is not a simple task, as it’s not a matter of moral or will. Their brain is functioning differently.
Restoring normal brain function takes time and abstinence from drugs. Even though this person may be behaving in destructive or hurtful ways, it’s important to approach them with care and compassion. This will set the stage for trust, openness, and recovery.
2. Set Boundaries
Boundaries should be set even before treatment is sought. Some boundaries may be obvious, such as refusing to remain in a violent or abusive situation. Others can be more challenging, such as deciding when to provide financial help and how to do it.
Evaluate your personal reasons for setting each boundary and focus on setting boundaries that contribute to creating a safe, healthy, and respectful environment. When you’ve decided on specific boundaries, communicate them in a logic-based and compassionate way.
3. Take Care of Yourself First
Think of the recovery process as a marathon rather than a sprint. The only way marathoners can continue pressing on is through pacing themselves.
Engaging in self-care is the most important thing you can do. Be sure you’re getting adequate sleep and eating. Find ways to add joy to your life and stay socially active. The better you feel, the easier it will be for you to support your loved one. Many people also benefit from beginning counseling on their own or joining a support group.
4. Become Familiar with the Treatment Process
Understanding the mechanisms behind addiction as well as the treatment process will help prepare you for the journey ahead and will allow you to provide better support. However, remember that although your support is beneficial to the recovery process, you’re neither responsible for the addiction nor the recovery.
5. Encourage Treatment
It’s virtually impossible to beat addiction alone or without the tools and support professionals provide. Keep pushing for treatment and find programs that suit the person’s needs. Whenever possible, let the person choose from a list of options you’ve collected. Giving them a sense of control over the situation can increase buy-in.
6. Dispel Myths and Break Down Barriers
People often have unfounded worries. For example, some have concerns about being forcibly committed. Others are afraid they’ll lose things that matter to them. Armed with the information you’ve learned about treatment, dispel any myths that might hold the person back. If there are barriers you can address, such as pet care or child care, offer to take care of those things temporarily while the person recovers.
7. Expect Challenges
There is no cure for addiction. However, it can be treated and managed. A blip in the road to recovery does not mean the person failed or will not maintain sobriety. It generally means they need more help or that a component of their current program is not working.
8. Let Go of Judgments
Most people don’t begin treatment until they’ve faced serious consequences over their addiction. Furthermore, shame can be detrimental to addicts. When they feel ashamed, they may use more. This makes them feel more ashamed, so they use even more. The cycle continues. As they go through treatment, they’ll learn how to overcome shame, but it’s essential for friends and family to create a judgement-free zone.
9. Be Involved in the Recovery Process
With the person’s permission, connect with their care team and find out how you can stay involved. Talk to your friend or family member in the recovery process. Find out how things are going and ask what you can do to help.
10. Be the Calm in the Storm
Another huge component in the addiction cycle is stress. Do what you can to give the person the time and space they need to recover.
11. Let Them Help You
People in recovery have an intense need to help others and feel useful. Those who find an outlet boost self-esteem and have more successful outcomes. When they’re ready, find ways to help them give back.
12. Create a Clean Environment
People in recovery thrive when they have good social support, but they also shouldn’t be around people they used with before or substances that might trigger relapse. Give them a clean environment to return to and opportunities to engage in socially.
13. Support Healthy Choices and Celebrate Wins
Especially in the early days of recovery, each step is difficult. Whether the person you’re supporting hit an important milestone or is signing up for a fitness program, give them accolades. It will boost their spirit, self-esteem, and motivation.
14. Avoid Enabling
Family and friends often want to help and that’s a wonderful thing. However, it’s important to let the individual do the things he or she can. This will increase self-sufficiency and help ensure you don’t get burned out.
15. Watch for Warning Signs of Relapse
Generally speaking, relapse is a gradual process that can take weeks or months. It includes an emotional relapse, which might involve things like isolating oneself or skipping therapy and groups. There’s a mental relapse stage in which the person starts having nostalgia or begins planning a way to use. The physical relapse comes last. Keep an eye out for the signs beforehand and let the person know you’re concerned, and why, if you see them.
Explore Treatment Options
If you’re ready to help someone you care about begin the recovery journey, contact Recovering Champions today to find out which treatment options are a good fit.