Supporting someone during addiction treatment is a unique challenge. Many people facing addiction have damaged their relationships with friends and family members. As a support person, you’re faced with balancing your own emotions about the addiction while creating an environment that promotes recovery.
Fortunately, it’s not a process you’ll have to endure alone. Here are some practical tips and resources for supporting someone during addiction treatment.
Educate Yourself on the Process
First, educate yourself on the nuances of addiction and the treatment process. While you can’t force someone into recovery, you can help by researching and providing resources for them to use. For example, you can research MAT doctors and search for a “suboxone doctor near me” to help your loved one find a treatment plan that works.
This experience will also help you learn more about the world of addiction. It’s important to keep an open mind when reading about addiction and treatment protocols. You may not understand or agree with the information you discover, and that’s ok. However, conducting yourself from a place of compassion and empathy is essential during this challenging time.
Understand the Relapse Signs and Plan
Understanding the signs of an impending relapse and knowing the steps of a relapse response plan is another effective way to support someone in addiction treatment. Your loved one’s treatment provider will help outline a relapse response plan, which should be communicated with friends and family members.
Some of the common signs of a prelapse (a term used to indicate a potential relapse situation) include:
- Behavioral changes – irritability, mood swings, anger
- Routine changes – sleeping more, less interest in things
- Disengagement – attending meetings less, deprioritizing self-care
If you notice these signs, follow the steps in your response plan and reach out to a professional for help.
Eliminate Enabling Behaviors
Many caregivers and support people misunderstand what constitutes “enabling” someone with an addiction. Enabling behaviors go beyond providing money to purchase drugs. It could also include looking the other way or ignoring the addiction, lying or covering for the individual, or allowing their addiction to override the health and safety of yourself and your household.
Finding a balance between supporting and not enabling can be challenging. It starts with setting and communicating clear boundaries about what will and will not be tolerated during and after recovery.
Practice Effective Communication
Practicing effective communication is essential for navigating a relationship with someone in addiction treatment. Recall that communication refers to both speaking and listening; it’s not just about what you say. It’s how you receive information and respond.
Try to keep resentment and blame out of your words when interacting with your loved one. Use “I feel” statements and focus on how a situation is impacting you and what a solution would look like. Practice active listening and take time to process and understand what your loved one is saying. Show empathy, even when you can’t relate to their experience.
Learning how to communicate effectively takes practice, but it’s an important aspect of establishing trust. This process will also help you learn how to express your feelings more effectively and advocate for yourself during this process.
One of the big challenges friends, spouses, and caregivers face during a relationship with someone in addiction treatment is respecting boundaries and privacy. After periods of active addiction, it’s normal to feel like the individual no longer has a right to privacy and trust. This feeling is normal. However, an integral part of the recovery process is re-establishing trust, and boundaries and privacy are a part of that.
Respect that your loved one may have things they aren’t willing to discuss with you or that they might not want you to share things about them. Know that you can also set boundaries with your loved one during this process. Mutual respect is the key to success.
Being a support person is hard. It’s essential to take care of yourself and use resources to support people during this period. Don’t hesitate to contact a professional for counseling or join a support group. Take some time away from your role as a support person and engage in activities that bring you joy.
The addiction treatment process is difficult but worth it. While recovery is an ongoing journey, it gets easier over time. Use the resources available to you and create a safe environment for you and your friend or loved one.