Addiction is hard – it takes an unbelievable toll on those who struggle, but also presents difficulties for close friends and family members. If you know someone struggling with addiction, it can be tempting to want to just fix everything yourself, ease their suffering and handle it for them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way.
For those struggling with addiction, the desire to change can come only from within themselves, regardless of how many times they hear how bad the habit is. Does this mean you have no role to play in the recovery of a loved one? Not at all.
In fact, you have a very important role to play, because even though you can’t physically create a change, you can be present, supportive and encouraging throughout the entire process. Whether it’s before, during or after recovery, your presence and desire to see a friend or family member through recovery can do more for your loved one than you might believe.
All substance use habits are different. Each case of addiction varies in severity, depending on the substance used, substance quantity used, how long and in what amounts the substance was used, and personal history regarding issues like incidents of past trauma or abuse.
Take the time to learn about the specific substances being used, especially the effect they have on the mind and body. Many times, addictive substances cause a person to act subconsciously, so what you notice might not even be obvious to your family member.
Talk and ask questions
Bringing up a subject like this is tough. It can be awkward, uncomfortable and confusing. This is why it’s not only crucial to understand the substance itself, but to take the time to understand your loved one – their story, their motivations, their fears, their desires. Knowing that they are seen and loved by you can be a crucial first step towards recovery.
Admit to them that you’re not sure how to approach the topic. Attack the situation with humility, because you don’t know what’s going on inside their head. Ask them if and how you can help them. Let them teach you – their experience will be a learning lesson and hopefully will provide some answers to questions and some guidance on where to go next.
Know when to celebrate and when to sympathize
Sometimes setbacks happen on the road to recovery. During relapse or times of intense struggle, be a voice of encouragement, a force for positivity. Yes, battling an addiction is never easy, but remind them of how far they’ve come, how much better they feel when they stay on top of their medication, and how important their counseling sessions are for mental and physical health. When the voice of doubt and self-destruction creeps in, you can be the voice condemning the lies and reminding your loved one of not just past victories, but the future end goal.
And, of course, when milestones are reached, celebrate with them! No matter how small or how monumental the victory, speak to the successes.
Be present how you can
“Be present” can manifest in numerous ways. Perhaps it’s attending a family counseling session. Maybe it’s helping in the initial process of finding a rehab center or addiction therapist. Commonly, the first step towards recovery is the hardest, so your loved one is likely to find a ton of support simply by your help in the search for a good program. By walking with them through the initial stages of recovery, and by sticking around as recovery continues, you can show your continued support of their healthy life choices.
Set healthy boundaries
It can be very hard to separate your life from that of a family member struggling with addiction. However, one of the best things a person can learn in this life is taking responsibility for one’s own actions. You have no obligation to take on the responsibilities of substance use recovery, because it is not your struggle to overcome.
This does not mean leaving your loved one high and dry! It means setting clear boundaries of when you’re available to talk with them; if they ask you to attend a counseling session with them, schedule the appointment at a convenient time for both of you; if they need help with medication management, work alongside them to come up with a system and then let them take ownership.
Remember, you can’t recover for them – unfortunately, they need to do a lot of the hard work themselves. Don’t feel guilty about this, because the balance between being completely unattached and overly helicopter-ish is where they will receive the most support from you.
Reach out for help
If you don’t know how to best walk with your loved one through addiction toward recovery, know that Pyramid Walden can help. Call us today at (301) 997-1300, or reach out to schedule a visit for yourself or your loved one.