How to Give a Loved One Support in Recovery

Young adults standing together in field

Dane O'Leary March 18, 2020

According to recent estimates, there are 19.7 million Americans, aged 12 or older, suffering from a substance abuse problem. With a population of over 327 million, it stands to reason that a significant percentage of those people have a loved one who suffers from addiction. Fortunately, there are plenty of options available when it comes to addiction recovery. However, this often leaves those individuals’ loved ones wondering how to support someone in recovery.

Since family support is a crucial ingredient for successful recovery, we’ve put together a list of some of the best ways you can give an addicted loved one support in recovery.

The Importance of Support in Recovery

To better understand the importance of loved ones’ support during recovery, you should know what someone in the early stages of recovery is up against after completing a treatment program. 

There’s no overstating the importance of having the support of family members and close friends during recovery. In some cases, support — and, even more so, a lack thereof — can make or break someone’s success in recovery.

As a neurological disease, addiction causes profound changes in the brain, both functional and structural. This makes regaining and sustaining one’s sobriety after an extended period of substance abuse a difficult process with many ups and downs.

When someone begins recovery, the odds of staying sober are pretty low, especially in the period immediately following treatment. Because he or she will likely re-encounter people, things, and situations that may have contributed to the addiction (“triggers”) during this time. When you also factor in the neurological changes associated with the disease, relapse can (and often does) happen.

Having the support of family members and close friends is often a deciding factor when it comes to the longevity of someone’s sobriety. Early recovery is very much a sink-or-swim situation because it’s a time when people who have just finished their treatment programs are turned loose and become fully responsible for maintaining their sobriety. But when someone has support, it helps to alleviate some of that pressure. Basically, the support serves as a buffer between the person in recovery and many of the things that would threaten his or her recovery.

5 Ways to Support a Loved One in Recovery

The situation isn’t nearly as bleak as I may have made it sound. Now that you recognize the role that support can play in someone’s recover, let’s go over some ways that you can support your addicted loved one through his or her recovery.

1. Listen

Before doing anything else, you should listen to your addicted loved one. Listening is the most important and fundamental support strategy because it’s how you gain a better understanding of what your loved one is experiencing. Even though you may not always be able to help or make a certain situation better, there will certainly be many occasions where listening, in and of itself, will help immensely.

Additionally, listening is an important form of support because it gives you insights you may not have had previously. Without some basis of knowledge, your loved one may not feel comfortable talking openly about his or her struggles. But when you’re a good listener, your loved one will be more comfortable and willing to open up to you. By extension, you may learn about certain situations and threats to his or her recovery before they lead to relapse.

2. Be Available

Not to be confused with listening, being available is crucial to supporting someone through recovery. Basically, your loved one needs to know he or she can count on you when support is needed the most.

It’s similar to being your loved one’s sponsor, providing advice or even just an ear whenever it’s needed. But you have to be available to provide support at times of need. Obviously, nobody expects you to be waiting by the phone every moment of every day. However, moments of dire need when the risk of relapse is greatest are when support is needed the most.

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Photo: Kinga Cichewicz

3. Learn About Addiction and Recovery

Whether from insufficient resources or pervading stereotypes, the general public actually knows relatively little about addiction and recovery. And many misconceptions about addiction influence how people interact with those struggling or recovering from addiction. In fact, the court of public opinion often victimizes these people, even after they’ve gone to rehab to get sober.

By learning about addiction and recovery, you’ll better understand what your loved one is going through. After all, counselors are only able to help the people they counsel because they have a deep understanding of their patients’ illnesses. So by learning about addiction and recovery, it follows that you’ll be better able to provide emotional support.

4. Promote Healthy Choices

Recovery is a long and difficult journey. Between the neurological changes and years of reinforced behaviors, recovery takes immense effort, conviction, and, of course, support. People in recovery regularly confront their substance abuse triggers and encounter stress-inducing scenarios. These situations commonly result in slip-ups and relapses.

To minimize the likelihood that your loved one will relapse, you should be promoting healthy choices and lifestyle. So when your loved one is n the face of stress, recommend some stress management techniques that aren’t harmful or dangerous. Even something as simple as encouraging a healthy diet can have positive implications for recovery.

5. Manage Your Expectations

Your loved one will have learned a lot about addiction and recovery while in treatment, which helps to manage his or her own expectations. However, people who haven’t personally experienced addiction or recovery often have unrealistically high expectations. Although it’s more like implied support than direct support, managing your expectations is essential.

When your expectations are too high, you could end up chastising your loved one for something that’s actually a natural part of the recovery process. Generally, high expectations lead to negative reinforcement. However, positive reinforcement is key to a great support system for your addicted loved one. So projecting your high expectations onto your addicted loved one is one of the worst things you could do. 

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Photo: Nathan Dumlao

Need a Los Angeles Rehab? Make Silicon Beach Treatment Center Your Destination for Recovery

Although recovery support is certainly important, substance abuse treatment is the foundation of a successful recovery. That’s where Silicon Beach Treatment Center comes in.

Located in sunny Los Angeles, we offer several outpatient programs, including partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient. Additionally, you can take advantage of our Silicon Beach sober living, men’s sober living, and women’s sober living in addition to treatment options for a range of mental and emotional disorders.

To learn more about Silicon Beach Treatment Center’s program, or if you’d like more information about supporting a loved one through recovery, contact us today. In the meantime, make sure to visit our Silicon Beach Blog where you’ll find tons of useful information published regularly.

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