How to Support Someone in Addiction Recovery
A person’s commitment to living sober involves a willingness to re-interpret and re-construct many areas of their life and relationships. New boundaries, changed roles, and enhanced insight about the cycle of addiction enter the landscape. Even the vocabulary is different, often peppered with words and phrases from 12-step programs or therapy. The challenge for the person is to maintain sobriety. The challenge for friends and family is figuring out how to support their loved one rather than monitor or attempt to control their sobriety. Like they say in Al-Anon (the 12-Step program for family and friends of alcoholics), “It’s simple, but it’s not easy”.
It is not uncommon for friends and family members to find the early days of their loved one’s recovery confusing and uncomfortable. Some individuals actually report that they miss the drama and rituals that accompanied addiction. For others, fears about everything and anything that might ‘trigger’ a relapse distract them from moving forward in their own lives.
Well-intended family and friends who believe they can protect their loved one from addiction by creating a ‘relapse-free’ environment could benefit from some insight on better ways to show support.
Professionals in the addiction community as well as members of Al-Anon suggest that the more effective support begins when loved ones step aside, work on their own recovery from the effects of addiction, and allow their loved one “to discover the joy and self-confidence that can accompany personal achievements” (Courage to Change: One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II, 1992) . The concept of ‘staying in your own square’ is the most difficult and counter-intuitive action to take. It requires finding or rediscovering one’s own interests and allowing the recovering person to do likewise.
Ultimately, the greatest gift to your loved one in recovery is to detach with love and to encourage and allow the person to figure out their own life in sobriety. Loved ones who want to kick-start their own recovery from the family disease of addiction can find support in Al-Anon. As each family member and friend recognizes and accepts their part in the disease, everyone has a shot at a more fulfilling and purposeful life.
“What you have to do is work with the raw material you have–namely you–and never let up.”
~Helen Gurley Brown~
Courage to change: One day at a time in Al-Anon II. (p. 124). (1992). New York: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters.
If you or someone you love is struggling, please contact us at (337) 456-9111 anytime.
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