People recovering from substance abuse are more common than you think. It's estimated that "23 million Americans are recovering from drug addiction", which means you likely know someone in recovery, and maybe you don't know how to support them.
Let's say the person you know in recovery lives with you or you have a close relationship with them.
In this article, I'll name a few ways to support your family member or friend in recovery.
1) Make life easier on them by removing the alcohol and other substances from the house.
Chances are, they have tempting thoughts about using substances every day. They are flooded with alcohol commercials, stores selling alcohol, songs about getting high, and, depending on where you live, an ABC store within driving distance.
It will be difficult for the family member to avoid substances with drugs and alcohol in the home.
Suppose you are a parent of a child using substances in the home; you could have a loving and compassionate talk about creating a drug-free environment that supports abstinence, and the same could be said of a roommate or spouse.
2) Don't tell the family member or hint that the drug use is "bad," even if it's true.
Hear me out, and I'll explain with an example.
In high school, I had a friend that was a girl who dated a guy everyone considered to be "no good."
Her friends said he was no good. Her parents said he isn't the "one for you." Their feedback did not make the girl stay away from the "bad boy"; it brought her closer to him.
Each time her family or friends pointed out how bad this guy was, she'd say, "he's not that bad," and defended him. To keep the long story short, she continued to date him.
This phenomenon happens with some people in recovery.
Telling your loved one, in so many words, "drugs are bad" will influence the person to say, "well, they aren't that bad."
And that rationalization may encourage them to use drugs.
You could be indirectly contributing to them using alcohol or other drugs without knowing it.
Talk to the person about why they are using drugs, why they like it, and how it helps them.
Understanding why your family member uses drugs and not judging them because of their drug use is critical.
3) Don't push the person to do 12-step meetings or speak to a therapist.
Some people are turned off by recovery meetings or talking to a mental health professional about their substance use and mental health concerns.
You can talk to them about resources but allow them to decide whether to seek help or not.
Do you remember the example above with my friend from high school? In so many words, her parents said, "go left," and she said, "I think I'm going to go right."
The same could happen if you push or threaten your husband, wife, brother, or friend to seek help. Many clients have told me that feeling pressure from family members to get support for their substance use and/or mental health caused them not to do it. Some said the pressure, threats, and constant nagging influenced them to suffer in silence.
You must be compassionate, understanding, but neutral, which is hard to do when you see your loved one suffering from addiction. You want to help, and if you could, you would drag them to a clinic, hospital, therapist or twelve-step meeting.
You want to stop the bleeding before things get worse, and as a therapist, so do I.
Please email me at email@example.com if you have concerns about a loved one's substance use or mental health; or if you would like to speak to a therapist about reducing your temptation to engage in drug use.