How to Support Friends in RecoveryAnna Ciulla
Going through recovery isn’t an easy process. As a friend, you can help. While addicts can easily give into isolationism or feel that they’re a burden on those that love them—they’ve never been in a time of more need.
Education is key in this instance, as some forms of support professionals will actually label as ‘enabling.’ That’s why it’s important that you read up on their specific addiction, the right ways to help, and always lead with love.
Show You Care
Simply making an effort to be there can have a profound effect on your friend’s confidence. You are showing them you’re in their corner and ready to stand beside them during this difficult time. You’re essentially saying it’s okay and that statement comes with love, forgiveness, and support (even if it’s not explicitly stated).
If you’re not sure what your friend wants your role to be, allow them to create one for you. Express your motivation clearly and establish that you want to help in any way you can. This might take the form of rides to meetings or setting reminders for them to take their prescribed medication. By establishing your role and other parameters, you begin to hold accountability. This also proves to them how serious your support is.
Understand the Addiction
You’ve heard it before: addiction is a disease. Like any other disease, understand that your friend cannot simply will away their addiction. They are not living with a flaw they can simply correct on their own.
Addiction is a medical and a psychological affliction which has a chemical effect on an addict’s brain. Therefore, bouts of outbursts, lack of impulse control, emotional meltdowns and other behaviors related to recovery are to be expected.
Frustration or anger directed towards the recovering addict is not helpful and potentially damaging, as it could weaken the trust the two of you share. There is nothing to blame but the disease itself, and together you must fight it.
A Complicated Friendship
There can be awkward moments in a recovery-supporting friendship but know that things don’t have to change much. You obviously share a connection, or you wouldn’t have become friends in the first place. Do things you used to do together without the influence of triggers. Replace the outing to the local bar with a trip to the beach.
If an unexpected situation arises where alcohol or drugs are around, don’t overreact. You are there for support. Try to let your friend work it out on his own before you jump in, just be ready if you must.
Is your friend battling addiction? Call: (855) 935-2871
Be Prepared to Back Off
The most well-intentioned friend can impair the relationship when pushing too hard. Even just checking in can send warning signs to the one recovering. Stay intuitive. If you are worried and feel your friendship is strong enough to pry, ask reasonable questions. But realize you cannot control someone else’s choices. Your friend must learn how to handle challenges on his own without using drugs or alcohol. You’re in the passenger seat. Forcing the issue could cause unwanted stress.
Listen and Talk Equally
It is obvious that you should have a ready ear when your friend opens up to you. In which case, you’re going to have to put your judgments on hold for a bit. Meet them in this vulnerability and open up yourself. Share your stories. Talk about your problems. This creates balance and equality between your newfound relationship.
Brave the Storm
Don’t get discouraged if relapses occur. Be sure to keep tabs on changes in behavior, if your friend is reconnecting with those from his previous lifestyle, and if they’re suddenly isolating themselves. Don’t be afraid to speak up—especially if you sense something is wrong. It’s part of your job. Show your friend that they can lean on you for support through thick and thin. Make time to be with them, talk on the phone, and show up to meetings if they ask.
Don’t underestimate the importance of the trust you share.
The Addiction Does Not Define Them
They were the same person before the addiction took over. Help them remember their strengths, capabilities, and goals they used to have or that they may have always had. If art is their hidden talent, encourage them to draw. Work to identify what you love about them most (something that could’ve suffocated beneath the addiction) and bring it to light. Remind them of certain things they love, encourage them to try again (if this is the case), and join them in the process if they want your company.
Befriending or sponsoring a friend struggling with addiction is a serious commitment. Even if it comes from love. There might be turbulent ups-and-downs that you’ll have to be there for. That’s why if you’re not the best you then you can’t be the best support for them.
Ensure that you’re taking care of yourself, too. Exercise, seek emotional balance and ensure to create healthy boundaries between you and your friend in recovery. They need you during this time but you must be sure that you’re taking care of yourself simultaneously.
If you have a friend currently struggling in recovery, reach out. Any bit of support will help. If they decide to let you in, come equipped with the proper tools (research) to truly be the friend they need.