Addiction affects more than the individual who is struggling. Addiction affects friends and family members in the individual’s life as well. As a support for the person in active addiction or in early recovery, there can be a lot of unknowns, concerns, and anxiety. Here are helpful tips in how to support someone in your life who is struggling with alcohol and drug addiction:
1. Increase your understanding of the disease. Family members struggle with many emotional responses in their relationship with an individual struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. Family and friends may struggle in understanding the physical, emotional, mental, and social difficulties of being in recovery as well as in addiction. Below are some resources to better understand the physical and psychological affects that drugs and alcohol can have on an individual.
drugpubs.drugabuse.gov Information on drug and effects of drugs
niaaa.nih.gov Information on alcohol abuse
2. Set boundaries. “To set boundaries in relationships it is vital to recognize your feelings. We have to differentiate ourselves from the other person.” It is important to identify boundaries that you and the individual agree on. The goal of boundaries is to improve the health of the family system. Be careful not to not enable or provide excuses or cover up for the individual who is struggling. If you want to provide financial support, buy the goods and services the addict needs instead of giving them money that they might use to buy alcohol or drugs. Allow the individual to endure consequences for their actions. People’s internal motivation for change increases if they suffer negative consequences for their decisions.
3. Have resources in your toolbox to help them. It is important to recognize actions you can take when someone in your life is struggling with relapse, continued use, inability to maintain boundaries, or mental health issues. These resources can also be utilized as boundaries in order to maintain support for the individual. Resources listed below can help family members to feel empowered to make decisions and provide their loved one with help when they are struggling.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK
www.aa.org Alcoholics Anonymous directory
www.na.org Narcotics Anonymous directory
www.smartrecovery.org SMART Recovery directory
4. Engage in self-care for yourself. “You can’t pour coffee from an empty cup.” It is nearly impossible for us to empathize and feel content in our relationships when we are on empty. Self-care can include quality time with loved ones, massages, completing bills or tasks, bubble baths, museums, taking a class, working out, going for a walk, sporting event, or joining a book club. Many self-care options are inexpensive, readily available, and can fit many individual’s schedules.
www.nami.org National Alliance on Mental Illness
www.al-anon.alateen.orgAl-Anon Family Groups Directory
www.nar-anon.org Nar-Anon Family Groups Directory
Author: Stephanie Pruefer, MA, LPC, CADC – Footprints to Recovery, Counselor