According to a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) report, over 60% of people surveyed in 2019 (aged 12 and older) had used some type of substance (alcohol, tobacco, or illegal/illicit) in the 30 days prior to the survey, yet only 1.5% had received substance use treatment in the 12 months immediately preceding the survey.
Addiction isn’t just a difficult process for the addict. It’s a process that affects the addict and everyone close to them. In early recovery, the effects of alcohol and substance abuse can sometimes be felt stronger than at any other time.
It’s during the early recovery process that it’s most important for you to be supportive. But the journey’s first step begins with recognizing the symptoms of addiction.
How Can You Tell If Your Loved One Is Suffering from an Addiction?
Being supportive during the recovery process requires a knowledge of addiction symptoms.
You may have experienced your loved one being:
- People suffering from addiction tend to exhibit defensive behaviors. For instance, if you’ve recently asked, “How come you don’t ever have any money?” or made a statement such as, “Wow, you’ve really lost weight recently!” it’s likely they’ll become upset and maybe even try to flip the script on you. Words said when an addict is suffering can hurt your feelings, but you must remember: This is their addiction speaking. They don’t mean to be malicious toward you.
- People don’t view substance use as a socially acceptable practice, and even in their addiction, addicts know this. An addicted person typically hides their substance use. They might hide drugs or other substances in places around their home where no one would look. They may hide substances or paraphernalia in their vehicle, garage, or outdoor shed. They may make up lies about this activity, like “I’m running out to my car to grab my CDs,” or something to that effect. An addict may also decline invitations for supper or just to hang out with family or friends because they want to drink or use a substance and get high instead.
- Any regular substance use can cause mood swings and other unstable behaviors. A stimulant abuser, for instance, might be happy one moment and then sad a minute later. An alcoholic might start their days feeling happy but become depressed as they drink throughout the day.
- Financially irresponsible. It matters not what your loved one’s substance of choice is — sustaining a substance use problem can get seriously expensive. Now, if a friend or family member asks you if they can borrow some money, it’s not a sure sign they’re an addict, but if you suspect any drug use, this can be a warning sign. And if you catch someone going through your personal items, especially a wallet or purse, they most likely are battling a substance abuse issue.
When Is the Right Time To Look for Help?
As soon as you suspect your loved one may be suffering from a substance use problem, it’s the right time to look for help. In fact, it’s not ever too soon. Addiction progresses.
The longer someone suffers, the worse the addiction can become. Plus, the closest friends and family can face collateral damage as an addict makes their way through the stages of addiction, abstinence, recovery, and sobriety.
If you’re ready to learn how to help someone in recovery, reach out to our specialists at Olympus Treatment Center. We can help, and we’re available right now at (888) 998-3319.
3 Ways How To Help Someone in Recovery
Everyone closest to the addicted individual needs to understand something — every single person involved (or close enough to the situation to know what’s happening) is on their own journey toward healing. How can you help your loved one in the earliest days of their recovery and, in turn, help yourself, too?
The three most important ways you can be there for a friend or family member in recovery are:
#1. Just Be Present
Your loved one might reach out directly to you for help. On the other hand, many addicts typically wrestle with shame, regret, or guilt over things that happened in the past, and this can cause a reluctance to reach out. When this is the case, it’s important that your loved one knows you’re there for them and they can openly communicate with you with no fear of judgment. We know — this can be easier said than done sometimes.
But just letting your friend or family member know you’re there, willing to talk about whatever they need to or just to eat a meal together or go on a walk through the neighborhood can go far in getting them to open up. It’s okay to make the first move. In fact, it’s encouraged. Just ask what they feel like doing. Many times, things that a recovering addict enjoyed while they were addicted can be triggering so what they enjoy doing now could be quite different.
Learning how to help someone in recovery involves making yourself available, but there’s a delicate balance. Don’t overextend yourself. You can end up feeling stressed out or worse, feel resentful toward your recovering loved one.
Additionally, if you check in more frequently than you would typically, it can cause the same reaction in the recovering individual. They may feel you’ve lost trust in them or that you think you need to monitor everything to ensure they don’t relapse. Both you and your loved one need support — but you both also need space. Remember: you are recovering, too.
Recommended Reading: 20 Essential Books for Those with an Addicted Loved One
#2. Learn What Recovery Is
For friends and family of individuals who’ve been addicted to any substance (such as individuals with a substance abuse disorder), learning about addiction occurs naturally over the course of time. What some friends and families don’t learn is what the recovery process looks like. For instance, recovery begins not when addiction ends but rather when abstinence begins.
Abstinence is a strong word, but for anyone who’s never been addicted, it’s impossible to know what the recovering person is going through once they cease taking a drug or drinking alcohol. For an addict, having that substance in their body becomes as natural — and sometimes, as necessary — as breathing oxygen. Once an addict stops putting that substance into their body, they experience many changes throughout all aspects of life.
Take the time to learn about the recovery process by attending family counseling groups or other programs designed to heal the family as well as the addicted person. Your support — and your own healing — are vital parts of the recovery process. Encouraging continued abstinence is important, as is balance, as mentioned above.
#3. Expect Emotional Moments
Recovery is especially emotional in its early stages. A person who has just recently stopped taking drugs or drinking alcohol may experience pain. This pain can be both physical and mental.
- Physical pain because they’ve just stopped taking a substance that their body has grown accustomed to having.
- Mental pain because, as the substance clears from their body, they regain clarity regarding what they’ve done and how their use has impacted their life and the lives of the people around them.
But not every emotion is negative. In fact, your loved one may experience a whole spectrum of emotions, such as:
In the earliest stages of recovery, the recovering individual (and even those closest to them) may feel like they’re on a rollercoaster of emotions. The recovering person is effectively learning how to do life again, substance-free. They’re literally learning how to live again. Active listening and honest compassion is the best way to help during this time.
That said, if you begin noticing your loved one’s emotions are tainting their recovery or otherwise impacting their life, don’t be afraid to bring it up. If necessary, bring your concerns to your loved one’s professional caregivers or an addiction support specialist.
How To Help Your Loved One Begin Healing
At first, you might feel at a loss. How do you help an addict when you have no idea what it’s like to be one? How do you help someone suffering from addiction’s many emotions when your own emotions are all over the map? And how do you help someone that you feel has harmed you personally in some way?
With caring compassion.
Addiction is a disease. Your loved one didn’t purposely hurt you, and what they need most right now is your understanding. If they don’t feel understood or “seen,” they could decline your assistance and the help they so desperately need.
Learning how to help someone in recovery begins with reserving judgment. You can help them by offering your shoulder.
Cry with them. Laugh with them. Learn with them.
Lead Your Loved One to Recovery with Olympus
Every person, situation, and family dynamic is unique. There isn’t a manual with cut-and-dried steps to heal a family with a recovering addict. But there is support.
Are you grappling with understanding the recovery process? Caring for yourself and supporting a recovering addict — these activities are not islands. Olympus Recovery understands, and we’re here to help. We’re all in this together — you, your loved one in early recovery, and the specialists here at Olympus. We’re here for your journey to healing. Reach out to us online or give us a call at (888) 998-3319.