If you are a parent, sibling, spouse, or child of someone who is in recovery, likely you experienced what it was like when they were struggling with addiction. You’ve been through the trials that the illness brings to a person as well as their family. Now that you’re loved one is in recovery, you probably want to support their sobriety knowing that by doing so you also support your relationship and the well-being of the entire family.
If you want to help your loved one stay sober, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Use active listening with your loved one. You probably spent a good amount of time listening to challenges your friend or family member went through while they were still struggling with addiction. However, there is a way of listening that you might not have used before – it’s called active listening. This is a technique of listening deeply and with intention to a person’s story or problem. Instead of responding in the usual casual way, active listening invites you to respond with a gentle reflection of what your loved one said. For instance, if your loved one said “I’m having a hard time with someone in my support. They are really getting under my skin.” You might say in response, “Sounds like someone is triggering you.” In other words, you respond with a reflection. Try to avoid offering solutions because it can undermine your loved one’s ability to solve the problem on their own. You should also avoiding feeding into any judgment or complaints. Simply listen and reflect back what you heard in your own words. Doing this can help build trust in your relationship and, over time, your loved one will feel safe coming to you to talk about a problem or concern.
Attend a 12-step program with your loved one. If your loved one is brand new to recovery, accompanying them to an AA or NA meeting could be a great support. It shows that you’re willing to be there for your loved one as they continue to progress through their recovery. Going to a meeting might also help you learn more about the 12-step program so that then you can encourage your loved one to work each step. By attending a meeting you might also have the opportunity to meet potential sober friends your loved one can meet and later spend time with. Also, keep in mind that your friend or family member may not want your company. Meetings can sometimes put a person in a vulnerable place. For that reason, depending upon your relationship, your loved one might ask that you stay home. But offer anyway, it shows you care.
Create a support network together. You don’t have to go out and make friends for your loved one. But the two of you might sit down and think of all the friends, family, and professionals that are available to be a support. One of the key ingredients for recovery (regardless of whether it’s mental illness, disease, or addiction) is connection to others. Help your loved one form new friendships, connections, and contacts with sober men and women. In fact, you can keep a running list and little by little add someone’s name whom your loved one has met and whom may be available for assistance.
Stay out of your loved one’s recovery entirely. Unlike the suggestions above, you might find that the best way to be supportive is to avoid getting involved. Recovery is an opportunity for a recovering addict to figure life out on their own. It’s a chance for your loved one to learn new tools for solving problems. By staying out of their recovery, you actually empower them to figure out how to heal their life on their own. Most recovering addicts have lived with codependency, which often involves having others do for them what they can do on their own. But when you leave the steering to your loved one, you give them the power to figure it out.
Stay positive. Whether you’re involved or not, it’s important that you remain positive and hold the hope for success. Whenever you’re interacting with your loved one, praise them on how well they are doing. Compliment them on their decision to get sober. Encourage them by letting them know you see the changes they are making and you are proud of them! When you stay positive, you help your loved one know that they are making healthy and positive choices. You also help keep the light of hope lit for them.
These are suggestions for supporting a loved one in recovery. You might have to find a balance between supporting your loved one and keeping your distance. As mentioned above, in some cases, your best support is no support. And at other times, your presence, love, hope, and commitment to your loved one is the best gift to give them.