Addiction is a very difficult, destructive disease no matter if you’re the addict or one of the addict’s loved ones. Often called the “family disease”, this is a disorder of both mind and body that causes catastrophic deterioration of a person’s health, their relationships, and can even result in death.
There’s often a focus on treatment of addiction, finding ways for addicts to get sober; however, there are other aspects of the addiction problem that are at least as important as rehabilitation. For instance, prevention is extremely important because it often focuses on adolescents and teens who are arguably most at risk for inadvertently becoming addicts. On the other hand, the period of time following an addict’s treatment and rehabilitation is extremely important, too. This is a time when the individual’s sobriety is still new and unfamiliar; meanwhile, they are trying to adjust and reacclimate to being abstinent in the community. For these individuals, there are things that can be done to help them be more successful in their recoveries. Here are some tips to help an addict or alcoholic who may be trying to get sober.
Be an Understanding, Nonjudgmental Ear
It’s easy to judge someone suffering from addiction based on their actions, but the reality is that those who haven’t personally experienced addiction can’t relate to how thoroughly the disease alters one’s mood, personality, and behavior. This can make it difficult for you to be understanding and accepting, especially when your addicted friend or family member has done some regrettable things. However, it’s important to be as understanding as you possibly can be rather than judging them for the ways they have behaved while in the throes of active addiction.
Alcohol or drugs become the center of an addict’s life, forcing them to do anything and everything to get their next fix; this results in extremely skewed judgements and decision-making that wouldn’t occur if the individual wasn’t addicted. So try to understand that the way the addict or alcoholic was while in active addiction doesn’t reflect the person they truly are. Don’t judge the individual or try to make them feel guilt for past behaviors. Instead, be understanding and empathetic. Encourage him or her to talk openly with you so that you’ll know if or when the individual is having difficulties. This might even put you in a position to help that individual during times of need and, therefore, contribute to the longevity of their recovery.
Be Aware of Their Limitations
There’s a misconception that many people have about addiction. Many people assume that addicts should be able to return home from rehab with their newfound sobriety and never touch alcohol or drugs ever again. However, going to rehab isn’t a cure for addiction; in fact, addiction is a chronic, incurable disease. Recovery isn’t a task that gets checked off of a to-do list, but rather a state of mind and a lifestyle. It’s important to be aware of this and to have an understanding of the individual’s limitations. For instance, you shouldn’t expect your addicted friend to be comfortable and be able to resist temptation while being around people drinking alcohol. In early recovery, a person has achieved sobriety but is still learning how to remain abstinent. Be aware that relapse is most likely during this initial period following addiction treatment and make sure that you’re not putting the individual in situations where their sobriety is tested.
Participate in Their Recovery
One of the best things you can do for your addicted family member or friend is to participate in their recovery. Not only is this a show of support, but it provides you with a means of learning more about addiction, recovery, and your addicted loved one’s recovery needs. In essence, it allows you to being more involved in his or her recovery efforts, which puts you in a position where you’re best able to deter potential relapses and generally help the individual to remain sober. This also shows the addict that you truly care about his or her wellbeing.
Have Realistic Expectations
Similar to understanding the individual’s limitations, you need to have realistic expectations of your addicted family member or friend when it comes to recovery. For instance, be aware that most recovering addicts will have a few “slips” as part of their recovery processes. Just because a recovering addict makes a mistake and drinks alcohol or uses drugs in a single isolated incident doesn’t mean that he or she has completely thrown away his or her hard work in recovery. There’s a major difference between a slip and a relapse; if you treat an addict who has slipped as though he or she has reverted back to active addiction, the individual will begin feeling that way as well, making the individual more likely to just continue abusing alcohol or drugs after a slip. So tell your addicted family member or friend that slips and minor relapses are an expected part of the process and that they can tell you when they happen so that you can work together to find the most appropriate and effective prevention plan.
Make Sure You’re Not an Enabler
One of the most important tips to help an addict or alcoholic is knowing if you are enabling. Most addicts will have enablers in their lives that either knowingly or unknowingly help the individual abuse alcohol or use drugs. This often happens when an addict’s loved one gives them money, pays for their bills, makes excuses to keep their loved one out of trouble, and so on. However, this essentially prevents the addict from having to deal with any of the consequences of their substance abuse, making it more likely that they will remain in active addiction or make it more likely for a relapse to occur. Therefore, make sure that you’re supporting and encouraging the addict without enabling.
Need More Tips to Help an Addict or Alcoholic You Love?
If you or a loved one need help to overcome addiction, treatment is a proven effective option. If you are a woman looking for treatment, Wayside House can help you. A woman’s treatment center offers a safe, supportive environment and our programs are developed specifically to address the unique needs of women. Call us today at 800-655-0817, our trained specialists are standing by to help you or your loved one.