How to Support Someone with Addiction

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Knowing someone with addiction, whether a friend or loved one, can create a swirl of emotions and you may feel confused on how to best support them. You may notice subtle or drastic changes in their behavior. One day they can grab the world by the horns and the next may appear as withdrawn, lash out, or sad.

Symptoms of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

When someone we know struggles with addiction, they can develop a number symptoms in response to drug use and say and do very different things while under the influence versus sober. Some symptoms might include:

  • Sleeping less or more
  • Change in appetite
  • Neglected personal appearance or hygiene
  • Missed school or work
  • Slower reaction time
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Paranoia
  • Lack of coordination
  • Lowered inhibitions

By no means is this list exhaustive nor can it indicate drug or alcohol addiction for every person, but it can offer some red flags to look for if you are concerned about a family member or friend.

5 ways you can help someone who is sober

It’s natural to want to help a loved one in recovery. You may worry how to act or even what to say. Just be yourself and offer support and encourage their steps of action. This can help you and your loved one and help to remove any awkward tension.

If at a loss, you’re not alone. There are many ways you can express support and encouragement. And while these may seem simple, they can mean a lot to someone in recovery.

Accept without judgement

Avoid criticism and embrace optimism as much as possible. Addiction is already filled and fueled with shame and judgement. Threats and criticism rarely, if ever, help the process of recovery.

You can practice active listening and show strength for your loved one. The United States Institute of Peace describes active listening as a way of improving mutual understanding and can help reduce tense situations and improve ways we can develop solutions to problems. We can practice active listening when we listen and let the other person speak without interrupting. You can then reflect to make sure you understand and ask open-ended questions that invite the person to speak freely.

Set an example of healthy living

Part of any healthy lifestyle are healthy choices that feed the body and mind. This can run the gamut of getting a good night’s sleep, exercise, and a balanced diet of healthful foods. When you make these choices for yourself, it can persuade others to follow.

Reclaiming health after drug and alcohol use is an essential component of recovery but not one people necessarily look forward to. Even a quick walk or job around the block can help. If your loved one needs extra help in this area, a workout buddy may be just what he or she needs. This can help improve strength, stamina, and overall health during their journey.

Encourage responsibility

Recovery is an individual journey, and you cannot do it for someone. While you can offer support and encouragement in a genuine way, you cannot rescue someone from personal obligations.

Personal accountability is a step stone of recovery. Acceptance of one’s actions and consequences help those in recovery make responsible decisions that can lead to a life of sobriety.

Practice self-care

While concern and care for others is a compassionate thing to do, remember to look after your needs as well. Recovery can prove an overwhelming experience. You may find it helpful to set boundaries. This can protect your personal space while still making yourself available. When communicating boundaries, use “I” statements. This can help you avoid judgement statements.

When feeling overwhelmed, angry, or frustrated, it is okay to say so and step back. Communicate your needs directly and encourage your friend to do the same.

Learn signs of relapse

Relapse is not something anyone wants but can happen to anyone. Familiarizing yourself with the signs of relapse can help. Some signs that may indicate relapse include changed mood or behavior, hanging out with friends from the ‘old crowd’, and renewed romanticized view of past drug and alcohol use.

If your gut feels like something is wrong, speak up. This does not have to be confrontational in tone. Let them know your concerns and suggest they touch base with a support group or counselor.

Pura Vida Outpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Program

Pura Vida in Santa Rose provides affordable outpatient drug and alcohol treatment. We help people rekindle the joy for living. Pura Vida offers effective, evidence-based substance abuse treatment as well as family support.

Family support can play a significant role during recovery. At Pura Vida, we provide family counseling, weekly individual or group support sessions and can untangle the complexity of enabling and co-dependency.

If you would like to learn more about our approach to cultivating a Joy of Living, please reach out. We can offer a confidential screening at (707) 879-8432.