How to Help a Loved One Recover from Addiction

How to Help a Loved One Recover from Addiction

It’s terribly frustrating watching a loved one struggle with addiction. Not only is addiction painful for both you and your loved one but the person you love seems to disappear, replaced by someone who only cares about drugs or alcohol. You want to help them but it’s hard to know what to do and most of the time it seems like they don’t even want your help. As frustrating as the situation is, things can get better. Here’s how to help a loved one with a substance use disorder.

Avoid enabling.

The first thing to watch out for is enabling behavior. It’s not always easy to tell the difference between genuine helping and enabling. Generally speaking, enabling is anything that shields your loved one from the consequences of their addictive behavior. Obvious enabling includes giving them money, which most likely goes to buy drugs or alcohol even if they say it’s for something else, or paying their rent or buying their groceries, which frees up their money to buy drugs or alcohol. Other forms of enabling include lying for them to protect them from the consequences of their substance use or taking over their responsibilities, which they’ve neglected because of their addiction. Genuine helping might include giving them a place to say, assuming you set and enforce firm boundaries. The best kind of help is encouraging and supporting treatment.

Encourage treatment.

There’s a persistent myth that someone with a substance use disorder has to hit rock bottom before they can recover from addiction. However, more than 70,000 people died of overdoses in 2017 and more than 88,000 people die of alcohol-related causes every year. For those people, rock bottom is death. If you’re concerned about a loved one’s addiction, the best thing to do is encourage treatment. Start with a conversation about your concerns. Approach your loved one with an attitude of compassion and listen without judgment to what she has to say. If the situation gets really bad, you may have to consider staging an intervention. Interventions have a good record of getting people into treatment but it’s important to enlist the help of an experienced intervention specialist to coordinate and facilitate the intervention for the best results.

Participate in treatment.

Family participation is crucial for successful recovery. Many families have dysfunctional dynamics and poor communication. They may have created an unhealthy environment without being aware of it. Family therapy can help family members communicate better and set and respect boundaries. This creates a more positive family environment for the person in recovery and also for the whole family. In fact, even if the person with the substance use disorder doesn’t participate in family therapy, if other family members participate in therapy, it can improve the family dynamic and have a positive effect on the person with the addiction.

Learn about addiction.

Most people actually know very little about addiction. There are many persistent myths about addiction that can lead you to completely misunderstand your loved one’s behavior. We’ve learned a lot about addiction and treatment in recent years and it’s important to understand the basics in order to best help your loved one in recovery. Often, information about addiction will be included in family therapy or in classes for family members given as part of addiction treatment programs. Knowing how addiction works allows you to avoid mistakes and support your loved one more effectively.

Clean house.

It’s important that your loved one come home to a clean house. First and foremost, be sure any alcohol, drugs, or paraphernalia are out of the house before your loved one comes home. The last thing your loved one needs is temptation in their own home. It’s also a good idea to clean the house in general. A clean house is healthier and has a psychologically positive effect. They’ll feel welcome knowing you made an effort and a clean house is like a clean slate. 

Support their recovery plan.

Treatment is really only the beginning of recovery. Your loved one will learn new skills, participate in therapy, and start building some healthy habits but they have to keep practicing those after they leave treatment in order to build a strong recovery. They should leave treatment with a well defined recovery plan. Make sure to do what you can to help them stick to that plan, whether it’s driving them to 12-step meetings or therapist appointments, helping them eat healthy, exercising with them, or reminding them of what you learned in family therapy sessions. Recovery is a team effort and the more people close to your loved one are involved in keeping recovery on track, the more successful it will be.

Know the warning signs of relapse.

Along with knowing about addiction in general, it’s also important to know the warning signs of relapse. Relapse rarely happens spontaneously. Typically, relapse happens in stages–emotional, mental, and physical. In the emotional stage, your loved one really wants to stay sober because she remembers vividly all the pain addiction caused. However, she is troubled by negative emotions such as sadness, loneliness, negativity, anger, or depression. If this goes on long enough, they may begin to reminisce about drug or alcohol use, look for excuses to relapse, or even plan a relapse. By the time she gets to physical relapse, your loved one may have already been thinking about it for days or weeks. The earlier you notice the signs of relapse and intervene, the better your chances of saving her recovery.

Be patient.

Recovering from addiction is a long process, full of setbacks and disappointments. It usually takes about a year for recovery to be on solid footing and as long as five years for recovery to be secure. About 40 to 60 percent of people will relapse within the first year of treatment. However, even if your loved one does relapse, it doesn’t mean they’ve failed. Many people relapse multiple times before they are able to sustain long-term recovery.

At Patrick Hart Consultants, we provide a number of different services to fit the needs of each individual client. Among these, are helping you choose a treatment provider, helping you develop a treatment plan, helping you establish post-treatment support, and ensuring continuity among the different elements of treatment. Contact us today at 844-262-7970 or or explore our website for more information.

AUTHOR: Patrick Hart Consultants