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helping a friend stick with addiction treatment.
May 30, 2017

How to Encourage a Friend to Stick With Their Recovery When They Want to Quit

helping a friend stick with addiction treatment.Leaving drug or alcohol treatment prematurely is a common temptation in early recovery. So is the allure of relapse. Learn how to encourage your loved one not to give up when they are tempted to throw in the towel:

There is no easy path to recovery. When a friend who’s in recovery or going through rehab says he or she wants to quit, the best thing you can do is to be supportive and understanding, but firm. Recovery always involves demanding work and requires a commitment to sobriety to maximize the likelihood of effective recovery. This is not to say that there won’t be ups and downs for the friend in recovery, because everyone who goes through rehab and enters recovery experiences a seesaw of successes and missteps. While you want the best for your friend, you may be unsure what to do or say to convince him or her to stick with it, to remain in rehab or committed to their recovery. Here are some suggestions.

Reaffirm Your Support

What your friend really needs to hear is that you’re fully supportive of his or her previously stated goal to get and stay clean and sober. Depending on the timing of his or her saying they want to leave, whether it’s during drug or alcohol detox or the actual treatment that begins following the removal of toxins from the body, your words and actions may differ slightly. Yet they need to be clear to your friend, leaving no ambiguity as to your support for his or her long-term sobriety.

You can say things like, “You’ve made a lot of progress. Why jeopardize that now, when you’re doing so well?”

Or, “I know it’s tough, yet you’ve gotten past the hardest part. You chose to get sober. You need to stick with it. I support your efforts all the way.”

If your friend says loneliness is the issue, you can say, “I’m always a phone call or visit away. I think of you a lot, too. Know that I will always be here for you.”

Suppose your friend is uncomfortable with treatment, sharing private thoughts in a group setting, doesn’t like the food or the accommodations. You should know that these are common complaints among those in recovery, especially in the early phases of treatment. It’s best to allow your friend to get his or her feelings out, while not giving in to the suggestion of leaving treatment. Express your belief that things will get better, that maybe discussing his or her concerns with their treatment professional can alleviate or resolve the problem. In any case, be explicit in your recommendation that your friend should stay in treatment, working on his or her recovery, so that upon completion of rehab, he or she has a much better chance of remaining in effective sobriety.

Educate Yourself So You Can Speak With Conviction and Knowledge

A big part of rehab and recovery involves education, and not only on the part of your friend who’s in recovery. To truly help your friend stick with recovery, you should learn as much as you can about the disease of addiction, the several types of coping strategies, how to recognize and deal with triggers, what happens in relapse and how to prevent it.

There’s no doubt that this is a learning curve for all involved. Remember that your friend is going through tumultuous times. He or she may be scared, angry, confused, afraid, worried, anxious or depressed. Sometimes, there’s more than one emotion going on at the same time. At the root of it is the prevailing concern that this isn’t working, it’s too tough, or that your friend thinks he or she can go it alone and do just fine.

They can’t. While at some point, everyone in rehab thinks about leaving, there is a time when that’s optimum. It’s not at the beginning or during the first 30 days of treatment. For some who have been to rehab and are back again, it often takes several times before they’re adequately equipped to positively manage their recovery.

As a friend, you need to know this so you can continue to encourage and support your friend’s recovery. It won’t always be easy. You will need to be armed with as much knowledge as you can absorb about drug use and addiction and what recovery entails.

Talk About Things You’ll Do Together

One of the best things about good friendships is the opportunity to be with each other, explore new activities, and cherish the bond between them. Since your friend is in rehab or early recovery, one concern may be that your friendship is at risk. He or she may worry that you won’t have anything in common now that he or she will be clean and sober. Indeed, many people relapse when they return to the same people, places and things they associated with their addiction. To ward against this happening, talk about your plans to discover and participate in new activities together. The fact that you propose these pursuits and show your excitement about them will go a long way toward reassuring your friend of your ongoing friendship and commitment.

Keep in mind that recovery can seem foreign. After all, much of what your friend is going through is all new to him or her. Confronting fears and ferreting out the truth about long-held, mistaken beliefs is a challenge. That’s where your friendship becomes so valuable. Knowing you are there makes a profound statement and may mean the difference between your friend sticking with their recovery or quitting.

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