How to support a friend who’s overcoming addiction

Knowing what to say or do can be tough, but your help can make a huge difference

Helping a friend or family member through an alcohol or drug addiction is by no means easy, but with the right help and knowledge it can be incredibly successful (and rewarding). First things first, there’s no perfect way to behave and it’s rare that the recovery process is understood by anyone except for the individual, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Ian Young founder of Sober Services says,

“When someone begins (or even continues or returns to) their addiction recovery journey, the love and support of friends and family is often crucial to their success. This begins with their acceptance of the addictive illness and then continues with sensitivity around the recovery seeking addict’s requirements, such as not visiting bars initially and not socialising with friends who are still using.”

So here are some of the most helpful things you can do to help a loved one tackle addiction…

1. Speak up and offer support

Just the act of offering support alone goes a long way towards helping recovery (whether it’s taken up or not), says Deirdre Boyd, founder of DB Recovery Resources. And to know that people have offered it means a lot. There’s a few different ways you can do this, for example:

“If they attend Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, ask them if they would like you to accompany them to an ‘open’ meeting.”

2. Focus on the replacement rather than sacrifice

Remember that recovery is not about sacrificing something but about replacing it with something healthier (and happier), advises Deirdre. Suggest meeting friends in a coffee bar or even a recovery café instead of the pub, or in a restaurant instead of a night club. There’s now a growing trend of recovery cafes and dry bars, with more people trying to curb their drinking completely. If you’re going out, arrange to meet in the company of ‘safe’ friends instead of old drinking companions, advises Deirdre.

“Don’t replace drinks only with water but with sparkling flavoured waters offered by many supermarkets and interesting drinks, such as those from Schloer. This is especially important on celebratory occasions where others might use champagne to toast, so that they don’t miss out on the ‘ritual’ and sense of belonging.”

You could also suggest a physical activity: perhaps go for a walk. The combination of the natural environment acts as a calming backdrop to any issues up for discussion. Events are also a good option.

“Music and comedy are also often the best anchors for this as they naturally offer a good time to the recovering addict without the requirement for alcohol or drugs, though maybe avoid rave parties or rock concerts,” advises Ian.

3. Be sure they know you’re not judging

Deirdre says:

“People that are in their active addiction can be ashamed of themselves, and they feel that everyone else feels that way. But it is not always the case. A lot of times, good friends and healthy friends are just worried about the person and want them to be the best they can be.”

Understand that an addict is not responsible for their addiction, but when they learn about recovery, they are accountable for their actions.

4. Listen

If you’re helping a friend, listening is the best thing you can do. Deirdre says,

“You can’t always fix someone but you can always say, ‘Have you gone to your meeting?’, ‘Have you spoken to your sponsor?’.”

5. Educate yourself on addiction

There are plenty of resources available for those that want to learn about addiction. The most important part of the family or friends role in the addict’s early recovery will be their own education to what’s appropriate and what isn’t, says Ian.

“For instance, the addict will know it’s not a good idea to visit a pub where their friends may be drinking. But if the family or friend is unaware of this then the simple invitation could be enough to trigger their obsession to drink. Or maybe the suggestion that the recovering addict visits an ex-girlfriend whom the family/friend thinks is a safe person for them to be around, could be bringing up deep emotions that could destabilise the newly recovering addict.”

7. Know that it’s not your job to ‘fix them’

If you notice that your friend is struggling or they tell you that they are, Deirdre says to listen and ‘echo’ what they have said – you don’t have to fix them, just be there for them and advise them to share also at an AA or NA meeting.

In most cases, if the recovering addict is serious about their recovery, they’ll inform the family and friends of their boundaries, but they may not think to speak of everything, or they may be more introverted or shy about specifics, and so sensitivity is encouraged here by the loved ones, says Ian.

Source:   17th June 2016

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