10 Ways to Support a Loved One in Recovery
When it comes to helping our loved ones through mental illness or addiction recovery, we always want to help. Knowing the best way to help, however, can be unclear. Even the best intentions can lead to counterproductive results in your friend or family member’s journey.
At Victor, we help others soar through behavior and mental health treatment and community services. Our services are for individuals, but we believe in the power of Wraparound services and the positive effect community has on us for long term and sustainable healing.
We’ve been highlighting the power resiliency in recovery in our latest blog series. We’ve explored what these two themes mean for those in recovery, the mental health professionals guiding treatment, and finally we will be talking about friends and family of those recovering.
If you have ever been or currently are in relationship with someone in recovery for addiction or mental health issues, you know it’s a long-term journey filled with ups and downs. We want to help by giving you tools and perspective for you to keep hope alive. That’s why we are giving you 10 tips to supporting a loved one in their mental health or addiction recovery.
1) Be Prepared for Extended Problems
A recovery journey usually means rebuilding one’s life. Addiction and mental illness can cause us to make poor choices resulting in long term consequences. It can also hold us back from working, taking care of ourselves, and progressing through life in a healthy manner.
Recovery may mean someone has to make practical steps to reestablish their credit, find new housing, and take care of any other financial or legal ramifications of their actions. There is also emotional healing that may have to take place between you and them. Addiction specifically can cause trust to be broken and you can’t rush or fake rebuilding it. This extended time can be a special opportunity to redefine and reset your relationship as you support your loved one in recovery. This brings us to our next tip.
2) Keep Reasonable Expectations
It’s great to be excited for your loved one’s recovery. Who doesn’t want to see the people you care about heal and start a new chapter in their life? Addiction at the surface may seem like the root of all the turmoil and problems, however, it is only a symptom of something deeper or past trauma.
Be aware that even though someone may be getting treatment or be on a path of sobriety, they can still have other behavioral habits that aren’t healthy. Changes will take time. Keep your expectations based on where your friend or family member is currently at and don’t expect them to change overnight.
3) Make Changes to Help Support Recovery
These are simple changes you can make to help someone in recovery. In cases related to addiction, you can remove temptations from view such as alcohol or prescription pills from view when the person is visiting. In some cases, you can even put them in a secure location that is locked or unknown to your friend or family member. It sounds extreme but doing this sets your loved one up for success by removing temptation and access to substances. You can also come up with new sober activities to do together.
If you know someone is going through behavioral therapy and recovery, adjust what habits you can to reduce the chance of triggering them. This can be updating your language or avoiding certain topics. Of course, you can’t control everything, but you can make a good effort to show your support and care for them.
4) Practice Your Own Self Care
Though it is another person recovering, you will need to practice self-care as well. How close you are to the person will affect how much you are impacted. Journaling, yoga, and meditative practices are all great options to help center yourself as you stay in relationship with a person recovering. We mentioned before that there will be ups and downs along the way and that this is a long-term journey.
There may be some hard moments through the journey of recovery that cause you to reflect on your relationship with the person - the good and the not so good. This type of relational introspection is important and can lead to meaningful revelations. Make sure you’re balancing the deep and stressful conversations with fun to help rejuvenate you and your relationships afterwards. Be aware of your emotional needs so you can put yourself in the best place mentally for you to support your recovering loved one while staying healthy.
5) Set and Keep Boundaries
This is a big one. Recovery is an opportunity for relearning behavior and relationships. Often those with addictions test and break boundaries with others. It’s up to you to set and maintain your boundaries. Action, not words, is what clearly reinforces acceptable behavior in your relationship with this person. Boundaries are not easy to enforce if you aren’t used to them, but once you commit, you’ll see your life and relationships improve.
6) Be Consistent in Availability
Whenever you say you’ll be available, follow through. It is good to want to help your loved one on their journey of recovery, but it’s important to be realistic and consistent with what support you’re able to give.
Having regular weekly check-ins is an accessible option for most. Whatever time works for you and them, stick to it. Remember, another person’s recovery is never your responsibility. So don’t feel the need to take on more than what you can give. Find out what you are able to do and consistently show up. It is consistency over quantity that matters and is what builds trust and stability in the relationship.
7) Encourage Responsibility
While you aren’t ultimately responsible, you can still encourage them to be responsible for themselves. Affirm they are in control of their choices, and they have the power to change their circumstances. If they have communicated to you the changes they want to make, you can be a cheerleader and source of accountability.
8) Support Other Means of Therapy and Recovery
Your friend or family member is probably going to individual therapy, group classes, and has other resources they are supposed to be utilizing for their recovery. You can help them by affirming their attendance and healthy practices. Find out if there is a specific way you can directly support the work they are doing in their treatment.
CBT Therapy is a good opportunity for this as you’ll be able to reinforce and affirm new thinking patterns they are learning. Keep in mind, this is only if you are invited to do so. No one is obligated to share about what they are learning in therapy
9) Focus on the Person Not the Illness
People can start to identify with their illness or addiction, but we know they are much more unique and complex than that. You can help in their healing by affirming the many parts of their identity that aren’t a diagnosis or addiction. Maybe they are creative, funny, smart – help them rediscover who they truly are by refocusing them on who they are and not what they have thought or done.
10) Ask Them How They’d Like to be Supported
It really is as simple as that. If you want to help them on their recovery journey, the best way to find out how is to ask. By doing this you’re respecting their autonomy and ability to make decisions about their care. You’ll be able to learn more about what they are experiencing and help them in a way that makes a positive and effective impact.
If at any point you start to feel like recovery for your loved one is an uphill battle that is never going to end, we want to remind you to take a pause and look back on how far they have come. Recovery isn’t a destination, it’s a journey and being a part of it is hard but worth it. Your friends and family are deserving of a good and full life. Both of those things are possible even with a mental health diagnosis or addiction.
We know this and believe it because we practice it every day. Our expert staff provides a wide variety of techniques and programs all across California. To learn more about how we help people soar at Victor through our services CLICK HERE.