Being a source of support to someone recovering from addiction is a tough job and one you should not take lightly. This list of dos and don’ts will help you help your loved one in their time of need.
DO give them credit.
It is imperative that a person in recovery receives recognition for their hard work, whether you understand how hard the process is or not, and whether this is their first or fifth time in recovery. Getting over an addiction is both physically and mentally challenging and is an accomplishment that should be applauded throughout the entire process.
DON’T count their times of weakness.
You may find yourself getting frustrated and impatient with your loved one, but do your best to refrain from saying anything out of anger, such as revisiting times when the individual was weak. They don’t need to be reminded of the bad things they had done during a very dark period of their lives and which they are now trying to seek redemption from and forgiveness for.
DO count their times of strength.
Rather than waiting for total recovery to celebrate the individual’s sobriety, celebrate the small steps they take. These small steps to you are actually giant leaps to someone in recovery.
DON’T treat them like a criminal.
Your loved one may have broken your trust by lying and stealing during the period of time they were using. In fact, most addicts will reach a point where they do something completely out of character like this in order to feed their addiction. But, because it is not something they would normally do, don’t let these acts define the individual as a criminal. Realize that desperation during addiction can lead otherwise good people to do bad things and that this is not behavior you should normally expect from them.
DO give them trust and freedom.
It may be difficult to overcome your trust issues but it’s important that you don’t let them take over. You need to give your loved one a chance to redeem themselves and to re-discover who they are without drugs. If you don’t show them any trust or allow them any freedom, they won’t be given the space they need to fully recover. Don’t set rules for them that mirror those of a prison inmate. Be flexible and fair, but remain firm.
DON’T remind them of the sacrifices you’ve made during their recovery.
The more you recount all the things you’ve done for them, the less they’ll feel they have accomplished on their own. Even though you may believe your sacrifices should be acknowledged more than they are, rest assured that your loved one is well aware of all that you have done for them and most likely carries some guilt for that.
DO show confidence in their ability to remain on the straight and narrow.
Basically, don’t bet they will fail whenever they take a step forward. Always show that you have confidence that they will succeed. In order to believe in themselves, a recovering addict will find a great deal of motivation in someone else believing in them as well.
DON’T bring up drugs unless you have cause for concern.
Try to steer clear from any discussion about drugs, even if the conversation isn’t about the person you’re caring for. Unnecessarily bringing up this topic can be difficult for them to listen to and awkward for them to be involved in. If you have good reason to believe your loved one is using again, however, speak up without being completely accusatory.
DO listen when they want to talk about it.
Try to only talk about drugs and drug addiction when your loved one asks you to discuss it with them. And when they do want to talk, don’t preach; listen and be a source of comfort instead.
DON’T think relapse means absolute failure.
Sadly, it is common for recovering addicts to relapse. If the person you’re helping suffers a moment of weakness, don’t think their recovery has ended and all time and effort has been wasted. Instead, remain supportive and optimistic that your loved one can get back on track and help them avoid whatever trigger caused their relapse.
DO understand that they will occasionally have cravings.
When a recovering addict suffers from cravings, this doesn’t mean they’re going backwards in their recovery. The important thing to realize is that a craving is just a speed bump, and every time your loved one gets over that bump, it should be celebrated as a big accomplishment. Try to get to the bottom of what triggered the craving and, for the future, remember what helped the person get over it.
DON’T see them only as a drug addict.
It’s not uncommon for a recovering addict to feel isolated from the world and inferior to those who haven’t fallen victim to addiction. This sort of insecurity has the potential to become a trigger for relapse. The key here is to involve your loved one in normal activities and conversations without making them feel as if the world only sees them as “the addict everyone has to walk on eggshells around”.
DO keep in mind that they have different needs.
While you don’t want to see your loved one strictly as an addict, it’s also important to remember that this person may be sensitive to certain things, such as conversations about drugs and being exposed to prescription drugs in your household. Be mindful of their struggle and try to keep your medications hidden to avoid temptation.