I have a friend in recovery, what can I do to help? Congratulate yourself on standing your ground until your loved one has committed to and completed treatment. That was the first barrier to overcome, but there is so much more to be done if continued sobriety is to be obtained. Hopefully your loved one has agreed to attend aftercare meetings, and most likely will be given instructions to attend A.A. or other 12-step meetings. Some churches also offer abstinence follow up programs. Although insight gained during treatment gives an addict a head start and an overall understanding of his addiction, all can’t be learned at once. As he progresses through the different phases of recovery, new issues will continue to surface, and it will be the added support gained in those meetings that will show him the way other addicts have solved those problems.
Remember that addicts don’t become dysfunctional overnight, so learning a new way to process life’s issues won’t happen overnight, either. It is through the eyes of those already entrenched in recovery that he will be able to hear what he needs and can relate to. He knows those who haven’t lived in the dregs he came from can’t possibly understand the type of obstacles he faces. How can one who has never faced the denial, guilt, shame and powerlessness addiction creates truly know how to help? If you have never know what it’s like to – in spite of one’s best efforts – be absolutely helpless to stop the downward spiral, then how can you explain how to counteract that ? The addict has always known that what happens to him is very different than what happens to you. He really is baffled about why it all happened in the first place, because he used to have the same choices as you!Read more: Recovery Help
It happens sometimes that family members want the whole ordeal to be over, so they wonder why when the addict leaves rehab he’s still not “cured.” Just like athletes who need to continually practice and work out to maintain what they’ve gained and keep their skills sharp, so it its with the addict. He must stay entrenched in the new principles to really assimilate them and make them part of his lifestyle. And a new outlook is absolutely necessary if he is to be happy and successful. The addict’s viewpoint has been so skewed for so long that repetition and support are key to maintaining what he has gained. Without that, he most likely will fall back into old patterns, old patterns will feed the dysfunction, the the dysfunction will feed the negativity until “what’s the use” becomes the springboard sending the addict back to his substance of choice. The downward spiral then begins again.
So even though you wish you had your loved one “back” the way he was before the addiction, realize that just like you can’t “un-pour” water, and addict will never be the same as before he was addicted. Losing a few hours per week with your spouse or child is a small price to pay in return for the relapse prevention and practical skills gained during his time with other recovering addicts. Providing support to go to meetings can be invaluable when the addict is balking at the time commitment or wishing he could just hang out rather than suit up and show up. Remember that the more emotionally mature the addict becomes, the less he will struggle with the everyday obstacles that always come up. A bonus is that as he grows healthier, the whole family unit grows healthier. Remember this disease, cunning and powerful, will always lie dormant in the addict, waiting to be re-awakened at any time.
In addition to supporting the addict in his continuing with aftercare and attending meetings, there are other small things you can do. If you’re using illegal drugs yourself, you know what to do – stop. Get help if you need to, but stop. If the drugs are prescribed, keep them out of the addict’s grasp. If you are a social drinker but don’t have a problem, it still may be best to abstain in the home for awhile – perhaps rethink recreational activities. It may take awhile to discover sober recreational activities, so be patient. Offer suggestions but don’t push. If your lifestyle is one that revolves around cocktail hours, you’re inadvertently setting the stage for relapse. Clear the house of booze for awhile. Once the alcoholic has a solid recovery foundation, he won’t be so easily tempted, but while he is learning to navigate life on life’s terms (rather that on his old distorted terms) perhaps it’s best to remove the temptation. There will be times when the addict feels so beside himself that he may look for the old release again. Better safe than sorry..
Another important avenue of support is learning about the disease of addiction. This will arm you with some insight into the inner demons your loved one may be battling, and ways you can help disarm them. Alanon has been around many, many years, helping family members to cope with the addict in their lives with the added bonus of learning how to “let go with love,” so as not to become ruled by the addict’s behaviors. It so often happens that well-meaning family members inadvertently enable their loved ones to continue their addiction and distorted thinking under the guise of “helping.” Nothing could be more opposite of the truth. Alateen is available for the children of addicts, and if need be, therapy or counseling may be options. Remember that the disease of addiction is a family disease. The addiction makes the addict sicker and sicker, and family members get addicted to trying to change or cope with the addict. Recovery is not just for the addict, but for the whole family!
Pampering and coddling are not what’s needed, but understanding and support are. Expect that your loved one, to stay healthy and sober, may attend meetings for the rest of his life. Again, it’s a small price for a big pay off. Encourage exercise (great foil for depression), proper eating habits, and hold the addict accountable for his responsibilities. Remember negativity begets negativity, so do your best to provide positive feedback and avoid shaming. You may want to take control of the addict’s recovery, but that’s his responsibility, so resist the urge. Remember it’s the disease you detest, not the addict, so if a slip does happen, respond by encouraging your loved one to get right back to recovery, rather than with anger. Remember we all respond better to someone being nice. Blaming and hurling insults only encourages defensiveness. The extra patience required will be well worth it.
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