According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, about 46 percent of Americans have a close friend or family member who has struggled with addiction. If you’ve found yourself in the same boat as half of the United States population, know that you are not helpless. There are concrete ways for you to show support and encourage change.
Here are the top seven ways to support a family member in addiction treatment.
1. Suggest professional treatment
If a friend or a family member struggles with a drug or alcohol addiction, the first step you’ll want to take is suggesting professional help. Whether your friend’s addiction requires counseling, partial hospitalization or detox programming, isn’t your responsibility to decide. The important thing is getting connected, and professionals will be able to guide your loved one to the appropriate level of treatment. Offer to sit with them as they make the call.
2. Encourage continuing treatment
If your loved one has already initiated or begun receiving services, your primary role is to support the decision. According to the journal Substance Use and Misuse, lack of social support was the number one reason clients self-reported for early termination of treatment.
Thus, encouragement from family and friends is a critical piece in starting and staying in treatment, and you can make that difference.
3. Keep talking about recovery
One of the most difficult tasks in helping a family member with addiction is continuing the conversation. Your loved one may feel shame when talking about a substance use problem and conversations may become hostile when relapse happens.
A compassionate conversation can go a long one in helping someone who struggles with addiction. Although you will never agree with all the decisions your loved one has made, honest chats about treatment and recovery can bolster your relationship and aid the healing process.
Pro-tip for helping a loved one with an addiction: don’t just be open to conversations, start them. Try asking “how is treatment going?” or “what’s the biggest barrier to recovery right now?”
Once you’ve established trust with your family member and he or she feels comfortable in conversation with you, your next role is to be a good listener. Some individuals find it helpful to externally process their recovery journey, and although therapy is the best place for this, you can supplement that support.
After all, friends and family provide a different type of support than therapy or counseling. You should never feel responsible to “fix” your loved one’s problems, whereas therapy is designed to reduce symptoms and end substance use habits.
When you listen, simply try to understand without offering advice or solutions to issues. Listening alone will work wonders.
5. Encourage a healthy lifestyle
There are dozens of ancillary supports that promote recovery from addiction. Exercise, healthy eating, natural supplements, adequate sleep and more can all assist in sobriety. Who better than a friend to encourage lifestyle changes, and to do them together.
This step can be simple and easy to multitask. Try a weekly walk where you chat about recovery progress or making a healthy meal together to celebrate sobriety milestones. The opportunities to support good lifestyle habits are endless, and a major perk is that you’ll benefit, too.
6. Pay attention to changes
When a close family member or friend is in addiction treatment it can be useful to know signs that substance use is decreasing or increasing. Your loved one may require more intense intervention at times, and need a nudge to take that step.
Depending on the severity of the addiction, it may also be helpful to know emergency procedures, like what to do in case of an overdose.
7. Anticipate bumps in the road
Addiction recovery is rarely a smooth journey. The journal Addiction estimates that relapse rates are as high as 80 percent for those attempting to achieve sobriety. Some schools of thought even consider relapse a part of the recovery process. While returning to substance abuse is definitely not inevitable, there will surely be other stressors and setbacks in life. At these times, your support is as important as ever.
Get help for yourself
Helping family members through addiction treatment is no easy ride. People often feel overwhelming responsibility for the wellbeing of their loved ones, and can feel guilty in the event that relapse happens.
If the pressure of helping a family member or friend in addiction has taken a toll on you, don’t be afraid to start services for yourself or take a step back. Have a conversation with your loved one about managing stress in your life and set an example by getting the help you need.
Show your support today
Real Recovery Clinical Services can help your family members with addiction treatment. With partial hospitalization and outpatient options, you’re sure to find a level of care that supports your loved one’s needs. Family services are also available for you to take advantage of. Make the call together at 855-363-7325.