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How Can I Support a Loved One in Recovery?

Addiction is a disease that also affects the family and friends of the sufferer. Anger, blaming, and denial can dangerous when living with or maintaining a relationship with someone in addiction. However, we can also go too far in the other direction and be overly supportive, leading to enabling behaviors that exacerbate our loved one’s addiction.

Finding a healthy balance of supportive but non-enabling behaviors can be difficult. One of the best ways we can learn about what we should and should not do is by educating ourselves about the disease of addiction. Al-Anon is a 12-Step fellowship for people who have a loved one suffering from addiction and alcoholism, or are worried that a loved one may have a problem with substances. Al-Anon explains, “Al-Anon and Alateen members are people just like you and me–people who have been affected by someone else’s drinking. They are parents, children, spouses, partners, brothers, sisters, other family members, friends, employers, employees, and coworkers of alcoholics. No matter what our specific experience has been we share a common bond: we feel our lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking.” Through programs like Al-Anon, loved ones can communicate with and benefit from the experience, strength, and hope of other members in a similar position.

Being overly supportive of a loved one’s addiction can exacerbate their addiction. An individual suffering from addiction cannot be shielded by the consequences of their substance use. Financial support, for example, can keep someone with an addiction from recognizing that they have a problem because they are not experiencing the stark reality of their actions, such as poverty and homelessness that tend to result from drug abuse. Enabling behaviors tend to prolong addiction past the point when an individual should recognize that their drug abuse has become a major problem, and that they must seek help.

We must remember that their recovery is theirs alone. Dr. David Susman, in a 2017 Psychology Today article entitled A Dozen Ways You Can Support Someone in Recovery, explains, “Remember that you can’t recover for someone else. While you can offer support, education, and advice, they retain the primary responsibility for their own recovery and for working toward their identified goals. It’s sometimes a delicate balance, but don’t rescue or enable the person by taking on things they should be handling for themselves. Keep offering gentle reminders that they (and not you) are ultimately in charge of their life.” By being honest and direct about the problem of addiction, we can make healthy decisions when it comes to supporting their recovery.

Your loved one’s life doesn’t have to be controlled by addiction. Recovery is possible for anyone, regardless of the severity of their problem. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, offers a residential treatment program that includes medically-supported detoxification, maintenance care, individual therapies, counseling (including family therapy), and plans to help clients build life skills that will help them after discharge. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or alcoholism, please call today: (833) 242-6431