How to Support a Family Member or Friend in Addiction Recovery

If you have a family member or friend who is in addiction recovery, you’re probably wondering how you can best support him on the road to lasting sobriety. Indeed, you can do a great deal, since people living with substance abuse disorders greatly benefit from having a stable network of family and friends throughout each stage of the recovery process. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) lists community as one of the four factors necessary for long-term recovery and sobriety, and they define community as loving and caring family and friends who provide support and encouragement.

The Decision to Seek Help

It’s a tremendous step when a person struggling with a substance abuse disorder decides to enter rehab. As noted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the decision usually comes when one acknowledges one’s addiction has caused serious problems, whether with work, relationships, or other aspects of day-to-day life. When a person struggling with addiction decides to seek help, they are acknowledging that they want the dynamics of their relationships to change for the better which is a goal that family members and friends would certainly share. People entering rehab want to leave their addictions in the past so they can move toward self-actualization and fulfilling their potential. You can make it clear, both by your words and your actions, that you support your loved one wholeheartedly in their goals and that they won’t be going through the process alone.

Codependency Issues

If you have developed problems with enabling your loved one’s addiction such as making excuses for their behavior or helping them hide it, providing money that they use to support their habit, or ignoring funds that go missing, now is the time to learn about how to break those patterns of codependency and enabling so that you will both benefit from healthier boundaries in your relationship. A good treatment program will be able to help you and your loved one with these challenges.

During Rehab

When your loved one first enters a residential treatment program, contact with family and friends will be restricted to reduce external distractions from the treatment process and allow your loved one to focus on addressing the underlying causes of substance abuse. Regardless of what stage of the recovery process your loved one is in, though, let them know that you are there for them while also letting them proceed on the road to recovery at their own pace with guidance from their particular program. You can use the time your loved one is in rehab to learn more about how to practice effective self-care and how to work through the hurt you have experienced as a result of the addiction dynamic.

Following Rehab

After a person completes a treatment program, one of the key factors in preventing relapse is a supportive network of family and friends. Addiction recovery is never only about the person living with a substance abuse disorder. Rather, the scope of the recovery process must include the person’s important, day-to-day relationships with loved ones. People living with substance abuse disorders must walk the journey to recovery hand-in-hand with family and friends who care about them, taking each day as it comes while building and nurturing relationships that are anchored in healthy, stable, ongoing sobriety.


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