Families of Recovering Addicts
5 Tips for How to Help a Recovering Addict
Sydney Retemyer, RAS II, MSc, Primary Addiction Therapist
Addiction is a traumatic experience. Patterns of substance misuse usually demonstrates how friends and family members experiences negative responses to the addict when in active addiction. Moreover, addiction can be also defined as a type of family suffering whereby symptoms such as anxiety, depression, anger, and other emotional disturbances can occur. When an individual embraces recovery the question of how a loved ones could help usually arises. The balance between helping the recovering person and maintaining one’s psychological health can at times be misunderstood.
Listed are 5 ways loved ones can help the recovering addict/alcoholics
1. Beware of volatile arguments and tension.
Depression or anxiety can contribute to drug or alcohol relapse. Family stresses can exacerbate an ultimately trigger for underlying mental health issues for the recovering person. Support for the recovering addict/alcoholics usually can be of great help when there is the development of healthy communication which promotes constructive support for recovering individuals. Quality time together with the absence of unwanted topics are usually beneficial for all parties involved and bring about better relationships. Within the first few months after returning from treatment tension is not an unusual occurrence; however, additional support from counselors and clergy is recommended.
2. Mindful listening and checking in.
Be sure to be mindfully engaged when a loved one is sharing. A clear demonstration of concern and reflecting to them what is heard, allows individual to feel heard. There are times where the recovering individual will experience lows such as loneliness, anger, fatigue, and the like. It becomes necessary at these times to check in and support the individual by validating those feelings until they pass, along with encouraging the individual to call their sponsor.
3. Set healthy boundaries.
Recovering addicts/ alcoholics are familiar with having poor boundaries during their active addiction. Helping a recovering addict effectively is to abstain from all enabling and codependent behaviors towards the recovering individual. Family members should take regular inventory to eliminate unhealthy enabling behaviors, this would benefit the individual in recovery as well as themselves.
4. Practice being non-judgmental remember this is a process.
Persons in recovery may experience relapse or another setback within their journey. Knowing that people do not change overnight, be aware that unhealthy behaviors tend to surface at times. Ongoing support through love, patience and concern normally goes a long way in helping the recovering addict. Guilt and shame of the past can revisit the addict mentally and emotionally. This can at times plunge the recovering addict in emotional states whereby self judgement can be his/her struggle for periods of time. It is important for the individual to practice self-care. Instead of judging, it is healing to love, accept and appreciate the individual for who they are.
5. Addiction and recovery education.
Addiction is not a matter of moral failing or willpower. Substance misuse is a disease which psychologically hijacks the reward pathways and derails the addict’s impulse and control. Along with its ability to impair impulses, there are strong associations with the memory and addictive behaviors. The understanding that persons in recovery is not cured but must rather undergo a process of recovery rather than an event. Psychoeducation helps family members to understand the addict in recovery better and can best benefit by helping them along with themselves. It was St. Francis of Assisi who said, “better to understand than be understood” To understand addiction is to help individuals in recovery. ALANON groups tend to be a very powerful avenue whereby family members and friends can learn how to treat persons who have the disease of addiction.