By Jennifer McGregor
When an addict decides to seek treatment, there are important roles for their friends, family and extended support network. Every member of a recovering addict’s support network should learn about alcoholism and drug dependence. Before a person can begin to help someone who is overcoming an addiction, they need to understand what they’re dealing with and what role they should take.
How Family and Friends Can Help Loved Ones Overcome an Addiction
As a person learns about addiction, they should look back and see if they enabled the addiction of their loved one at any point. Some examples of enabling include making excuses for an addict, taking responsibility for their behavior, or blaming others or themselves for a loved one’s addiction. It is crucial for friends and family members of recovering addicts to take care of themselves while an addict is in recovery.
Of course, involvement in a loved one’s recovery is important, but it’s also essential for friends and family members of a recovering addict to get help themselves. Coping with a loved one battling addiction can be a traumatic experience, and it’s not uncommon that close friends and family have some emotional consequences that can benefit greatly from therapy or support groups. This is also a great way to learn more about what their roles should be in the recovery process.
It’s also important to let the person battling addiction know that their addiction has an effect on the people who love them as well as themselves. Often, people with an active addiction have flawed thinking and convince themselves that using doesn’t affect anyone around them. If the addict is using, it is OK to refuse to be around them at that time, but it’s also good to let them know that you are worried about them and that you will help them seek assistance if they wish. Just like any other disease, the earlier addiction is treated, the better.
Remember to be realistic throughout the process. A person with an addiction needs to seek professional help to begin recovery. Don’t allow yourself to believe (or be convinced by the addict) that they can suddenly stop using on their own without professional help. Overcoming an addiction is a long, hard process that will not happen overnight, and self-recovery attempts are often unsuccessful.
What Not to Do
There are some things people definitely do not want to do when they’re supporting someone who is trying to overcome addiction:
- Preaching to the addict about their behavior
- Acting like a martyr
- Covering up for the addict’s continued use or behavior
- Making assumptions, either that they have quit using or are continuing to use
- Arguing with the person battling addiction
- Succumbing to the pressure to participate in using, either as a means to understand the appeal or simply due to peer pressure
Why the Strong Support Network?
Friends, family and an overall strong support network are invaluable to those battling addiction. There are three factors that have been found to be helpful for those in the recovery process:
- Cohesiveness: This motivates the addict to stay within their support group and comply with what is expected of them.
- Cognition: In learning through therapy and group sessions, the addict will start to see how harmful drug use is and will begin, slowly at first, to change their thought patterns.
- Coercion: Through their work in therapy, a recovering addict’s support network influences them in a positive way. As a group, the network feels more confident in expressing disapproval over bad behaviors the addict has shown.
Throughout the entire recovery process, from first seeking help to participating in therapy, friends, family and an extended support network have a great impact on the recovery process and can dramatically affect the long-term success of recovery.
Jennifer McGregor is the co-creator of PublicHealthLibrary.org, which was made for one of her pre-med classes as a project. With the site, she intends to provide various resources pertaining to medical inquiries and general health. When McGregor is not busy being a student, she enjoys walking her dog through the park.