10 percent of Americans are in recovery, according to a 2012 survey by The Partnership at Drugfree.org and the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.
7 Tips to Help a Loved One Recover
If one of those people is your loved one, they need your compassion, support, patience and love. While I want to remind you alone cannot shoulder the weight of their recovery, you can consider these seven tips to help a loved one recover.
1. Do Not Drink Around Them
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 87.6 percent of adults drink at least once a year. Many recovering alcoholics I’ve talked with have expressed that exposure to drinking within their social circles is a difficult trigger to overcome. Imagine the pressure of such scenarios. It can be overwhelming to “keep up” with the uninhibited behavior of someone else who is intoxicated while you’re strictly sober. Volunteer to give up drinking as you support your loved one on their recovery journey. This will benefit both your loved one and yourself, so gently remind them of all that will be gained together through sobriety.
2. Be a Workout Buddy
Exercise lifts moods and fills free time. It also strengthens your loved one’s body and boosts their energy and health. Toxins are purged and the mind finds calm in often rocky waters of recovery. All of this is so valuable to someone pushing through a dramatic life change. Commit to being a workout buddy for your loved one, even if that means waking up early to run before work or driving to a neighboring town to join their basketball league. Not only will this do wonders for your loved one, you’ll reap the rewards of exercise as well!
3. Take up a Hobby
Free time is often an Achilles’ heel for many recovering addicts. A hobby offers the right amount of entertainment and gives your loved one an opportunity to pursue their passions and build self-worth. A cherished pastime will also give the recovering addict a comforting place to fall back on if they are confronted with the temptation to use. Take initiative and:
- Enroll in scuba-diving classes
- Register for a painting class as the local rec center
- Buy colorful yarn and a beginner knitting book
- Set up a table and scrapbook family photos
- Book a rock-climbing adventure
Discovering activities together will help your loved one feel less alone in their struggles. When they feel more like a wholesome, living human being with goals than an addict, they will be empowered to recover.
4. Drive Them to Recovery Meetings
A sobriety recovery group is a wonderful lifeline to a person in recovery. I always encourage recovering addicts to stay connected to a group of people who have been through it or are going through it. I cannot express enough how revolutionary the empathy and fellowship of a recovery union can be. Your loved one may need you to drive them to these meetings, especially if the person has lost their license due to their addiction. Commit to serving them in this way. Alternatively, provide child care if that challenge holds your friend or family member back from getting the help they need.
5. Improve Communication Skills
Addiction often leaves many broken families and relationships in its wake. It is so crucial to try to communicate with patience, compassion and understanding. Help your loved one improve their communication skills. As they learn to talk about their feelings, commit to honesty and make time to work through conflicts, their relationships can be healed. Additionally, I encourage you to urge your loved one to seek professional counseling to handle deep-seated communication challenges and emotional wounds. Addiction rarely rears its ugly head without trauma and pain fueling it, so it essential to dig up those roots.
6. Do Not Compare Them to Others
There is so magical, cure-all blueprint that maps out the perfect path to recovery. Just like every life, every recovery experience is unique in pace, practice and emotions along the way. Recovery groups are successful for this very reason; there are so many different perspectives to draw inspiration from. Therefore, it is so important to never compare your loved one’s recovery journey to another’s. Respect the steps they’re taking as long as they are going forward. Applaud them for unfolding with yoga, writing in a journal, or attending daily meetings. Admire their ingenuity as they try an exotic (hopefully edible?) juice cleanse. There is no right way as long as its healthy and proactive! Recognize that your loved one is on a unique journey, and give them the gift of encouragement and unconditional support.
7. Talk Them Through a Potential Relapse
Many addicts go through initial withdrawal at rehab, but for some, cravings never totally go away. I encourage you to learn to recognize the signs of relapse and be available to talk when your loved one suffers through urges to use. Never criticize them for having such thoughts and respond with compassion. If you think they need more assistance than you can offer, reach out to their recovery network.
Addiction recovery can be a daunting journey, so your loved one needs all the support they can get. Be their advocate. Treat your loved one like a cherished human being rather than an addict, and I guarantee they’ll be stronger because you’re walking together.