How Family Members & Friends Can Support Addiction Recovery

This article was written by James Malervy and published by RCA.


Addiction recovery is a long and arduous journey, filled with ups and downs, successes and setbacks. Recovery from addiction requires great strength, resilience, and even support from your loved ones. Addiction is not an individual struggle; it’s a family disease. That’s why the support and understanding of friends and family can provide the encouragement and motivation needed to achieve long-term sobriety.

This article will discuss how family members and friends can support their loved ones in addiction treatment and recovery.

Understanding Addiction

Addiction is a chronic disease involving continued substance use despite severe health and social consequences. It interferes with brain parts responsible for reward, memory, judgment, learning, and motivation.

When someone develops a substance use disorder, they no longer choose to use; they are now dependent on substances. Contrary to what some believe, addiction is not a sign of weakness or moral failure. It can be caused by genetics, trauma, and untreated mental health disorders.

Knowing this will help you avoid blaming or shaming the person for their addiction, which can be counterproductive to recovery efforts. Instead, it can help you approach the patient with empathy and compassion and, as a result, build trust and create a supportive environment. Recognizing that an alcohol, cocaine, or opioid use disorder rewires the brain’s reward system can also help you understand why your loved one may struggle to quit using drugs or engage in harmful behaviors.

Ways Family Members and Friends Can Support Addiction Recovery

As a friend, family or colleague of someone in addiction recovery, you probably understand that you have an essential role in their recovery. However, knowing how to support them without unintentionally hindering their progress towards staying sober can be challenging. So, here are some tips to get you started:

Offer Emotional Support

Recovery can be challenging and emotionally draining, and having a solid support system can make all the difference. Let your loved one know that you are there for them and that you believe in their ability to overcome their addiction. Encourage them to share their feelings with you and listen actively without judgment or criticism. You can also offer practical support, like driving them to support group meetings or helping them find the right health professionals or treatment centers.

Stop Enabling

Enabling is where you shield your loved one in recovery from the consequences of their addiction or harmful behaviors. While enabling may stem from a place of love and concern, it can ultimately prolong the addiction and hinder your loved one’s recovery. Therefore, you must stop enabling and instead encourage your loved one to take responsibility for their actions.

This can involve setting healthy boundaries and holding the individual accountable for their behavior. For example, if they ask for money to buy drugs, you can refuse to give them money and instead offer to help them find professional support. Similarly, if they repeatedly fail to follow through with their commitments, you can hold them accountable and set consequences if they continue to engage in such behavior.

Get Help for Yourself

Addiction doesn’t just affect the individual struggling with it, but also their loved ones. It’s essential to prioritize your well-being and seek support for yourself. Consider joining a support group for family members or seeking therapy to process your emotions and experiences related to your loved one’s addiction.

By caring for your mental and emotional health, you’ll be better equipped to support your loved one in their recovery journey. It’s also important to educate yourself about addiction and learn healthy ways to communicate and support your loved one without enabling or harming them unintentionally.

Attend Family Therapy

Addiction can strain relationships, and it’s not uncommon to feel hurt or resentful due to the impact of addiction on their lives. Family therapy can effectively repair damaged relationships and work through the emotional issues resulting from addiction. Treatment centers like RCA often offer family therapy as part of their programs, so consider attending these family counseling sessions with your loved one. These centers also offer mental health services to support you and your loved one in recovery.

Encourage Healthy Habits and Lifestyle

Encouraging healthy habits can involve helping your loved one find new hobbies or activities that promote a healthy lifestyle, such as exercise or meditation. It can also mean helping them eat nutritious meals, get enough sleep, and avoid substances that may trigger a relapse. If you notice any negative behavior patterns or triggers, gently suggest alternative behaviors or activities to replace them. Sometimes, you can offer to participate in healthy activities like walking or trying a new hobby together.

Be Available

Nowadays, when everyone is busy, it can be hard to find time to spare. But being available in this situation can make a huge difference in the recovery journey of a loved one. Try to check in with them regularly and be available to talk or spend time together.

It’s important to listen actively and offer support without judgment or criticism.
If your loved one is experiencing a difficult time or feeling triggered, be there to offer a listening ear and support them in finding healthy coping mechanisms. It is also a good idea to ensure they know they can reach out to you anytime for support and guidance.

Encourage Them to Attend a 12-Step Program

Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) provide a supportive community of peers who have gone through addiction. They offer a structured approach to recovery and a safe space for your loved one to share their experiences, connect with others, and receive guidance and support from a sponsor or mentor. Attending 12-Step meetings can help your loved one build a sense of accountability and responsibility for their actions and learn coping mechanisms for dealing with triggers and cravings.

Recovery Centers of America Supports Families through the Recovery Process

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the components of comprehensive treatment for addiction consist of a continuum of professional addiction and mental health services. These are evaluation, detox, rehab, therapy or counseling, continuing care, monitoring, medications, case management, and mutual support programs. There’s also a need for family care, education, and treatment to support loved ones.

At RCA, we provide a range of evidence-based addiction treatment services that align with the components of comprehensive treatment for addiction. We also support families through therapy and educational workshops to help them learn healthy communication and coping strategies, repair damaged relationships, and better understand addiction and its impact on the family.

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