Drug and alcohol addiction can be incredibly challenging to overcome. So, if you’re a friend or family member of someone who is in active recovery – you’re likely feeling very proud of what they have achieved so far.
However, if you’re worried about them slipping back into alcohol misuse or staying sober, please know that this is a natural and normal response, especially if they’re in the early stages of recovery.
In this article, we provide advice and tips on how to help a recovering addict stay sober.
How Drug or Alcohol Addiction Affects Family and Friends
Addiction is a disease that impacts entire family units, workplaces, social circles and even communities, creating a ripple effect of challenges and requiring a comprehensive approach to treatment and support.
It goes without saying, but watching a loved one struggle with addiction is incredibly heart-wrenching and stressful for everyone involved. In fact, family and friends may experience their own health issues due to stress, depression and anxiety.
Addiction can also lead to financial difficulties, not just for the individual but for their family or partner as well. Money may be spent on sustaining the addiction, and the individual battling addiction may lose their job as a direct result of their dependency on drinking alcohol. Family members and friends might also (unintentionally) enable the addiction by covering up for the addicted individual or providing financial support. This can delay the person’s realisation of a drinking problem and the need for help.
So, in other words – addiction is a disease that can devastate the lives of not just those who are addicted but also those around them. However, if you’re at a point where your loved one is sober and embracing recovery, rest assured that there are many ways to support them and help them stay on the right track.
How to Help a Recovering Addict Stay Sober
See below for our advice on how to help a recovering addict stay sober.
Accept What Can’t Be Changed
This can be difficult to do, but accepting what can’t be undone is the best way forward for both you and your loved one.
Accepting what can’t be changed is not only about coming to terms with the past but also about embracing the present and future with a new perspective. It’s about understanding that while we cannot rewrite history, we can shape what’s to come.
Encourage your loved one to see this acceptance as a starting point for growth and healing for both of you. By accepting what cannot be changed, your loved one can open themselves to a world of new opportunities, finding peace and happiness in the journey ahead.
Make It Comfortable to Talk About Their Drug or Alcohol Use Disorder
Active listening is incredibly powerful. So, if they do feel comfortable enough to talk honestly about their past with alcohol, substance abuse, or drug addiction, be there to listen. You don’t need to focus too much on finding the right words or saying the right thing – just try not to pass negative judgment when it comes to their experience.
Here are some ways to help you navigate these types of situations:
- Start by ensuring the environment is calm and private. A safe, non-judgmental space encourages openness.
- Turn off distractions, such as the TV or phones, to show that your full attention is on them.
- You might not be able to understand from a first-hand perspective, but you’ll likely be able to empathise. Phrases like “I can see why that would be hard for you” can make a big difference.
- It’s natural to want to offer solutions, but sometimes all they need is to be heard. Avoid interrupting their stories with your own experiences or quick-fix solutions unless they ask for advice.
Practice Healthy Living Together
Healthy habits can be contagious! So, whether it’s a friend, family member, or your partner, it’s great to practice adopting healthy lifestyle choices together.
For example, exercise can do wonders for boosting mood and reducing stress. Consider activities like walking, cycling, or yoga, which can be therapeutic as well as physically beneficial. In fact, engaging in any activities that promote mental health, such as mindfulness meditation or attending therapy sessions together, could be a good idea.
Cooking together can also be a fun, rewarding way to ensure a healthy diet. So, why not try new recipes or plan meals that are both nutritious and delicious?
Focus on Helping Them Rebuild
Whether it’s job searching or giving them advice on how to work towards mending severed bonds with family members, helping them rebuild aspects of their lives that have broken down due to alcohol addiction or drug use disorder can be invaluable.
Here are some tips when it comes to areas of priority to focus on:
- Assist them in updating their resume, practising for interviews, or even looking for courses that could enhance their skills. Celebrate small victories in their job search to keep them motivated.
- Support them in reestablishing lost connections that matter to them. Be there to talk through and prepare for these interactions, which can be emotionally challenging.
- Help them create a budget, manage debts, or save for future goals. This kind of support can be really life-changing in the sense of rebuilding control and independence.
Stay Sober Together
When someone is in recovery from addiction, it can be challenging to navigate certain social groups and activities while newly sober. If you don’t personally struggle with addiction, you might not feel the need to abstain completely. However, you might consider limiting your own consumption in their presence. Not forever, just for a little while whilst they adjust to life in recovery.
For example, if your loved one has battled with alcohol abuse, it could be quite tough for them to sit at dinner while others are drinking. You choosing not to drink in such situations can show solidarity and understanding. It’s not just about the physical avoidance of the substance but also about creating an environment where they feel supported and not isolated in their journey.
Find Fun Sober Activities To Do Together
Finding fun and sober activities to do together is important. It’s a chance to rediscover joy in things that don’t involve substances.
Try engaging in hobbies like hiking, brunch dates, going to the cinema, painting, attending concerts, or cooking classes. These activities not only provide a safe space for your loved one but also help reinforce the idea that fun and relaxation can be achieved without the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Be Patient With Their Progress
Recovery is rarely a straight path. It comes with its highs and lows. Being patient and understanding during this time (within reason) is really important.
Remember, overcoming alcohol or drug addiction is often very difficult, and setbacks may just be part of that process for your loved one. Offer a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on, and words of encouragement. Celebrate their milestones (no matter how small they are) and remind them of their strength and resilience.
Encourage Support Groups
These groups provide a sense of community and understanding from others who have walked a similar path. If you haven’t experienced addiction yourself, helping your loved one find and attend support group meetings can be invaluable.
These groups offer a safe space for sharing experiences, struggles, and successes. They also provide an opportunity to learn coping strategies and to gain inspiration from others’ recovery stories.
Remembering to Take Care of Yourself
Caring for a loved one with an addiction is a challenging journey, and it’s essential to remember the importance of looking after your own well-being during this time.
It might be worth seeking professional help to process your own experience. Many therapists or counsellors specialising in addiction issues provide not only support and intensive treatment for the individual with addiction but also invaluable guidance for their families and friends.
Participation in support groups might also be highly beneficial, even if it’s just in the short term. These groups offer a platform to share experiences and learn from others facing similar challenges, fostering a sense of community and understanding. It’s also essential to establish and maintain personal boundaries. Setting limits for yourself and communicating them clearly to your loved one can safeguard your mental and emotional health.
Engaging in self-care activities is equally as important. Activities that promote relaxation and stress relief, such as exercise, hobbies, or simply taking time for yourself, can significantly contribute to your overall well-being.
Additionally, don’t forget to maintain connections with friends and family outside of your immediate situation for a sense of normalcy and a break from the stresses associated with addiction. It’s also important to not neglect your physical health. Regular medical check-ups, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep, are essential for maintaining strength and resilience.
Reach Out for Support Today
We hope you’ve found our article on how to help a recovering addict stay sober useful. If you need help or suspect your loved one might be heading towards a relapse, get in touch with us today.
Our team will be able to help by providing free support, advice, and resources for families and friends. We can also organise fast admission into a residential clinic should they require professional treatment. Call us today for more information on all the ways we can help.