SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, defines recovery as “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives and strive to reach their full potential.”
Today, when individuals with substance use disorders seek help, they are met with the knowledge and confidence that anyone can recover successfully. According to SAMHSA, “Hope, the belief that the challenges and conditions of alcohol and drug dependency can be overcome, is the foundation of recovery. A person’s recovery,” they say, “is built on their strengths, talents, coping abilities, resources, and innate values. It is holistic, addresses the whole person and their community and is supported by peers, friends and family members.”
Addiction Support is So Important – Especially in Early Recovery
Peer support is available through sober organizations, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Regular attendance at group meetings reinforces the recovering addict’s resolve to live a sober life. If the recovering individual has received addiction treatment through an outpatient or inpatient residential program, such as The Discovery House, they will greatly benefit from participation in the center’s alumni program for further peer support.
Some addicts find the type of support they can get in very specific 12-step groups is more beneficial whereas other addicts gain the help they need from more general groups. It is also valuable for family members and friends of alcoholics and drug addicts to join Al-Anon and Nar-Anon to find understanding and support for themselves.
Minimizing Temptation in Addiction Recovery
One of the most important things that a family needs to be aware of when living with a recovering addict or alcoholic is the importance of family members maintaining an alcohol- or drug-free and sober lifestyle. Any individual in recovery would find it difficult to remain sober and clean if family members keep drugs or alcohol around the home. For recovery to work, the entire family must be committed to it. Ideally, a home should be completely emptied of any substances that could be intoxicating. If the family has always kept alcohol or other substances on hand for social events or special occasions, it is important to keep in mind that it may be necessary for everyone to institute a lifestyle change to support a loved one during recovery.
NCADD, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has developed a list of things one doesn’t want to do when a friend or family member is struggling to maintain their sobriety:
• Don’t lecture, threaten, bribe, preach or moralize.
• Avoid emotional appeals that may only increase feelings of guilt and the compulsion to drink or use other drugs.
• Don’t cover up, lie or make excuses for them and their behavior.
• Don’t assume their responsibilities. Taking over their responsibilities protects them from the consequences of their behavior.
• Don’t feel guilty or responsible for their behavior.
NCADD also compiled a list of some positive suggestions for helping a loved one in their recovery:
• Learn as much as possible about alcoholism and drug dependence.
• Speak up and offer support.
• Express love and concern.
• Don’t expect the person to stop permanently without help.
• Support recovery as an ongoing process. When a friend or family member is in recovery, their loved ones must remain involved and support their participation in continuing care, meetings, and recovery support groups.
What To Do When a Relapse Happens
Seeing a loved one return to drugs or alcohol during or after addiction treatment can be devastating to family and friends. Naturally, they want to help support the family member or friend with the addiction so they can regain their health and get back to life as it once was. Friends may feel like they would do anything to help their loved one get back on their feet, but experts say that’s not what’s best for addicts.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug addiction is, in many ways, like other chronic illnesses that often require more than one round of therapy. Just because addicts relapse and may need another course of treatment doesn’t mean that their treatment has been unsuccessful or that they won’t be able to stay clean in the long run.
Making the relapsed addict feel guilty is not helpful. It’s important to have a positive outlook, for both the family member’s sake and the sake of their loved one. Even though a relapse is not the outcome everyone was hoping for, a return to addiction treatment can be very helpful for the relapsed individual who could, eventually, live a drug-free life.