For family members and friends of those in drug and alcohol recovery, it can be easy to forget that the recovery process is a lifelong commitment. Learning to encourage someone in recovery doesn’t end when they leave a California rehabilitation center. It’s important to commit yourself to understand the daily struggles of a recovering individual and help them heal without slipping into an enabling role.
A federal report released in late 2016 reveals one in seven Americans will face substance addiction challenges. Alarmingly, only 10 percent of these individuals will receive the help needed to break the substance abuse. Research also shows support, not enabling, has a positive effect on one’s recovery. In fact, a lack of support from family has been directly linked to one’s frequency of a relapse. As a loved one of a recovering individual, you can take the necessary step to educate yourself on how to be the model of support your family member or friend needs.
Tips to Encourage Someone in Recovery
Emerging from recovery can make an someone feel very vulnerable and isolated – a duo that can quickly lead to relapse without the support of family and friends. As you strive to show your support, use these tips:
Be inclusive: Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin performed an isolation study with rats. The researchers concluded humans are similar to the rats in that “social isolation leads to addiction more quickly, and it’s harder to extinguish.” While encouraging someone in recovery, it’s important to physically be around them. Invite them to events, include them in outings, and don’t allow them to fall into a pattern of isolation.
Create an environment for success: Create a living environment that promotes sobriety and healthy recovery. Remove all drugs, alcohol, and paraphernalia from your home or your loved one’s home. Think beyond the obvious. Even empty wine bottles or photos can act as a trigger, so removing these items will allow the individual in recovery to focus on the future, not the scarred past.
Find new adventures: Build a healthy future by enjoying new adventures together. Find a hobby that neither of you has tried. From painting to kayaking, keeping your loved one engaged and physically active will help ward off boredom, which breeds temptation. Ask them for recommendations and commit to building those experiences.
Explore family therapy: Engaging with your loved one in regular family therapy sessions is much more supportive than constantly reminding them to find a support group. Play an active role in the ongoing journey of sobriety. Perhaps your friend or family member is more likely to take part in a support group or speak with a counselor if you tag along. Offer your support through your time.
Practice self-care: Supporting and encouraging someone in recovery is a major responsibility. While you want to offer your time and emotional strength, you must remember to take time to refuel. Explore support groups for family members of addicts or specifically schedule time frequently to make yourself a priority. If you’re not at your best mentally and physically, you can’t possible offer your best to someone else.
Supporting and Encouraging Someone Is Not the Same as Enabling them
As you explore the journey of recovery with your family member or friend, remember that your goal is to offer support, not enable them. It’s never easy to see a loved one struggle, but constantly pulling them out of bad situations – paying their bills, bailing them out of jail, or allowing behavior that violates your boundaries – is not a form of support.
If you need guidance or education on addiction, the Ocean Hills Recovery treatment center is happy to connect with families. Our drug and alcohol treatment center in Dana Point, CA offers personalized recovery plans for each patient. Explore our treatment options today and be prepared to confidently encourage someone in recovery.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.