For those reading this article who have a loved one or friend who is in the early stages of recovery, stop for a few moments and give yourself an emotional gut check. As these people you know and love work to address and overcome their substance abuse issues in drug treatment, how do you really feel? As someone who had a front row seat to the physical, emotional and spiritual devastation that addiction brings, you more than likely feel a wide range of emotions.
You may feel a great sense of relief that your loved ones finally have seen the light and are getting the help they desperately need. You also may feel a substantial amount of anger because of their lies, manipulation and betrayal while under the influence. Additionally, you may also be somewhat wary of their efforts to get clean and sober because you have seen them try and fail numerous times and this latest attempt may lead to the same result. It’s understandable that you may feel many conflicting emotions because addiction is a complex disease that has many facets.
Even though you may be torn at times, you want the best for your family and friends in recovery and would do anything to help them stay the course and stay sober this time around. One of the best way you can help is by being an effective recovery ally and providing a sense of meaningful support and encouragement. The following tips will help you become an effective recovery ally for those you love most in your life.
Tip #1: Feed Your Head
The first and most important tip in being an effective recovery ally is to learn as much as you can about addiction. You need to be able to understand as much of the complexities of the disease of addiction–and especially your loved one’s addiction–as you can. Take the time to read books and research online sources that are credible. Talk to other addicts who are actively working their recovery and talk to their family members. Drop in on a 12-step meeting or attend an Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meeting. Be a sponge and absorb all that you can.
Take the time to read books and research online sources that are credible. Talk to other addicts who are actively working their recovery and talk to their family members. Drop in on a 12-step meeting or attend an Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meeting. Be a sponge and absorb all that you can.
Tip #2: Speak Out
Another tip for being an effective recovery ally is to let the addict in your life know that you are in their corner and are willing to lend whatever support you can as they continue their recovery journey. As stated in the first tip, offer to attend a 12-step meeting, or you can offer to take them to their aftercare programming once they leave treatment. It is important to understand that you are there to be supportive and you are not helping work their program for them. Not knowing the appropriate boundaries when you give support can lead to
It is important to understand that you are there to be supportive and you are not helping work their program for them. Not knowing the appropriate boundaries when you give support can lead to enabling behaviors which can complicate the recovery process.
Tip #3: Be the Voice of Reason
The road to recovery is full of formidable obstacles, and a loved one who is sober can find themselves stuck and displaying behaviors and attitudes that can lead them down the wrong path and inevitably to relapse. More often that not the addict is the last person to see they are slipping, and they may need a gentle yet firm reminder they need to reassess and regroup. Being a recovery ally also involves being the voice of reason and being able to tell your loved ones your concern. You want to frame that concern from a place of love, but you want to be honest and not sugarcoat their actions.
Tip#4: Listen… Truly Listen
If a loved one who is in recovery is struggling, they need to have a safe outlet to turn to in order to vent what is building up inside. To be an effective ally in their recovery, you must also have the ability to actively listen to them and allow them to speak in full without interruption. Listening is one of most important skills we can have, and with all the listening we do we should be pretty good with this skill.
Unfortunately, we only remember between 25 percent and 50 percent of what we hear. As recovery allies, we need to be more in tune with what our recovering friends and family are telling us. To engage in active listening, we must maintain eye contact, be attentive and open-minded, and if you need clarification wait until they are done speaking. It is important not to interrupt and impose your solutions; those who are in recovery have to do the heavy lifting when it comes to working their program.
Tip #5: Support Their Hobbies and Passions
When a loved one is in recovery, they are encouraged to explore their passions and find hobbies and past times that help strengthen their recovery. A great way to be ally in your loved one’s recovery is to fully support and participate in those recovery-friendly hobbies. Having someone supportive sharing in these activities can alleviate boredom, keep those in recovery motivated and above all it can be a lot of fun.
Tip #6: Stay in for the Long Haul
Recovery isn’t an event that can be framed in a specific time period; recovery is a lifetime process that will evolve and take its share of twists and turns. It is important that you understand that recovery is often measured in gradual small steps and that positive changes are often subtle. Take time to celebrate the small victories and milestones that come with success, and be a source of strength in the event that a loved one slips. Being an effective recovery ally means that you are a constant presence through thick and thin.
A recovering person can have all the tools at their disposal in order to achieve and maintain sobriety that can last a lifetime. However, those tools can be for naught if they don’t have people in their corner to support and encourage them as they live day to day. If a family member or friend is being earnest and working hard to stay sober, lend a hand and be their ally.