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How to Help Someone Recovering from Alcohol and Drug Addiction

In 2012, Oklahoma ranked second in the nation for substance abuse disorders, with more than 290,000 adults suffering from substance abuse. Furthermore, excessive drinking is responsible for nearly 88,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

These statistics, however, don’t account for the actual number of people affected by substance abuse. While recovery is the sole responsibility of the addict, often the burden of recovery affects family members and friends as well.

When you love someone who is recovering from addiction, it can be challenging to be a support system while remembering to take care of yourself. It’s important to understand your limitations throughout the recovery process and be aware of the most beneficial ways you can help your loved one.  

What you can’t do

When helping someone recover from addiction, you may want to do everything in your power to help. However, much of the recovery process is out of your control.

You can’t understand everything. Unless you’ve been through recovery yourself, and even then, it’s impossible to understand exactly what your loved one is going through emotionally and physically. Avoid phrases like, “I know how you feel.” Instead, ask questions to better understand, and know that you can support your loved one without understanding exactly how he or she feels.

You can’t force or guilt someone into quitting. The first step of recovery is deciding to make a change, and only the addict can make that decision. While encouragement and support can help, you can’t force an addict to want to recover. Don’t put that burden on yourself.

You can’t fix an addiction overnight. Most recovery programs range from 28 to 90 days. However, full recovery lasts much longer. Simply going to rehab, or deciding to quit, does not mean the addiction will go away immediately. Avoid putting a time-frame on recovery or pressuring your loved one to speed up the process. Instead, celebrate the progress he or she has made, and confirm you’ll be there every step of the way.

You can’t undo the past. Unfortunately, addiction affects more than just the addict. The road to recovery can pave hope for the future, but it can’t undo wrongs of the past. If there is underlying resentment from past struggles, seek out professional family or relationship counseling to address those issues.

What you can do

Although there are many things out of your control throughout the recovery process, there are a variety of ways you can offer support to your loved one who is recovering from addiction. A strong support system can make a big difference, especially when experiencing hardships or bumps in the road.

You can create a substance-free environment. One of the most difficult struggles recovering addicts face is acclimating to normal life after rehabilitation, without being tempted by old habits. To support your loved one through recovery, create an environment that is completely substance-free. Don’t keep any drug or alcohol paraphernalia in the house and abstain from all activities involving substance use or abuse.

You can encourage sober activities. Opt for activities where substance use will not be present. Rather than going to a bar or restaurant, try picnicking in the park, hiking, going out for coffee or joining a gym together. Since addicts typically have more energy after quitting the addiction, active alternatives are a great option to burn that energy in a productive and healthy way. Any positive activity that you can do together will encourage the adoption of new habits that don’t revolve around substance abuse or bad influences.

You can reduce stress. Stress is a common trigger of relapse. Try to reduce significant stress when possible. If your loved one is under financial stress, help find a financial advisor or budgeting program to get back on track. If there is conflict among family or friends, seek out family counseling to work to resolve issues. Anything that can help lower stress will help support your loved one’s success throughout recovery.

You can educate yourself on addiction recovery. Addiction and recovery are complicated, and they can be difficult to understand if you haven’t experienced them firsthand. Seek out educational opportunities through your loved one’s therapy or rehabilitation facility. Learn about the science of recovery, the typical timeline and warning signs of relapse.

You can join a support group. While support groups can be helpful for recovering addicts, it’s also important to take care of yourself. It can be emotionally taxing to constantly worry about someone you love going into relapse. On top of that, people who don’t understand your situation may stigmatize addiction or offer little support for you. Joining a support group with people who are going through the same thing can help you to not feel so alone. For example, Al-Anon offers meetings and resources for family members of alcoholics.

INTEGRIS is dedicated to helping Oklahomans who are struggling with addiction. Construction has just begun for the INTEGRIS Arcadia Trails Center for Addiction Recovery, which will open in early 2019. This is the first rehabilitation center of its kind in Oklahoma, and INTEGRIS is proud to provide Oklahomans with support throughout recovery.

The new center is a mission-oriented venture that will depend on support from the community in order to serve recovering addicts and their families. For more information or to make a donation, visit the INTEGRIS Foundation.

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