I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: addiction impacts not only the individual, but also their support system. That includes family, friends and loved ones. People naturally want to support their loved ones, and the most frequent message I receive is something along the lines of, “how can I support my addict friend/partner/family member?”.
I thought I’d share my thoughts today and answer just that. Having been in both the position of the addict and the support system, these are just a few things that have helped me along my journey, and tips that may not be so obvious. (p.s. usage applies to both alcohol and substance use as all notes are applicable to both)
Taking a night, week, or even a month off of usage in support of your loved one is what I’d call walking the walk. It’s a great way to do versus just say. I always think it’s a funny thing when an individual tries to support an addict in abstaining from substances, while still using themselves (especially around them!). It may make it difficult for an addict to see others using and it’s also much easier for you to come from a place of understanding when you’ve put yourself in the shoes of an addict. I’d argue that drinking in particular is really the norm, so in addition to battling a physical and psychological addiction, recovering addicts also experience the challenge of feeling like the odd one out in most social situations. Grabbing a mocktail and committing to substance free for a night is a great way to show your support, and also means they won’t be the only sober one at the table.
Speaking of social situations, a great way to support your loved one is to switch up the environment. If all social environments are alcohol and substance saturated environments, opt for new activities that don’t involve using. Maybe it’s a new hobby, a daytime activity, or another fun way to spend your time. In addition to proving that using isn’t necessary in order to have fun, you might also discover a new hobby or two while you’re at it! I personally rediscovered my love for art and photography, and also started to enjoy writing more once I stopped spending the majority of my time at clubs.
Whether your loved one attends regular AA or NA meetings, or works with a therapist, offering to attend a meeting or session with them is a great way to show your support. I remember attending my first meeting and chickening out because I had some preconceived notion of what it would be like (and I was genuinely scared), but bringing a friend with me held me accountable (she forced me to go since she had taken off early from work to come with me). In addition to that, my friend was also able to learn a lot more about what addiction is like, which helped her to empathize with me and support me more effectively. Similarly, going to a see a therapist can be extremely nerve wracking for many, so being available for moral support may be really helpful to your loved one. Additionally, it gives you the opportunity to ask a professional any questions you may have, and also learn more about addiction from an expert.
This one is a tough, but essential to recovery. If you give your loved one any guidelines or hard boundaries, make sure you not only hold them accountable to them, but that you also stand by the consequences if they are broken. For example, if you make any deals or set rules, make sure that you don’t let things slide if they aren’t followed. You need your loved one to know that you’re serious so that they don’t take any boundaries lightly. I had a friend of mine who let me know that if I didn’t completely stop using a particular substance, she would no longer talk to me. She really did hold up her end of the deal, and didn’t speak to me for over a month when I broke that rule, and after that, I knew I would never push the boundaries again.
Along the same vein, make sure you give your loved one a little tough love. It’s easy to want to swoop in and step in as they go through something challenging, but in order to reach successful and long lasting recovery, it’s important that they can achieve this independently too. You don’t want their recovery to be built on dependency, or it may fall apart in the event that they don’t have someone else to lean on.
Accidents are inevitable along the recovery journey, whether that means manipulation attempts, or actual slip ups (or should we call them sip ups?). When they do, make sure you approach the situation with acceptance rather than anger. I can guarantee you your loved one is feeling guilt, shame and anger towards themselves because there’s nothing more frustrating than feeling helpless and prey to addiction. There’s no need to contribute to these negative feelings, so instead, try to approach the situation with acceptance in mind. Accept that this is a disease, accept what has happened, and focus on next steps.
This may be the single most important thing you can do to support your loved one. In order to put your energy into supporting an addict (which, admittedly can be really exhausting), make sure you take care of yourself first. Taking care of yourself is not selfish, it just ensures you’re in the best position possible to support an individual on a challenging journey. Its also completely okay to take a step back as needed, because the journey is… a lot. You know how before a plane takes off, they tell you to put your mask on first before assisting others in the event of an emergency? It’s kind of like that.
If tips 1 or 2 seem impossible for you to implement, you might consider temporarily removing yourself from the situation. Perhaps your lifestyle involves substance use or environments in which they are accessible, and perhaps that’s out of your control. If so, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s okay to step away. In fact, it might be the best thing to do in some cases. Often, addicts are friends with individuals who use, because well, friends share hobbies and interests right? If you can identify yourself as a not-so-positive influence on your loved one’s recovery journey, you might consider removing yourself from the equation for the moment.
So there you have it–a list of my best tips! I’d love to hear your thoughts and any of your own tips. Until next week, I’ll leave you with this quote: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Love & light,
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Hi there, I’m Remy! Welcome to Veggiekins Blog, home to nourishing vegan + gluten-free recipes and tips to live your best balanced and holistic life. I’m a human on a mission to empower you to be well and be kind to your mind, body and soul with the healing power of plants.
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