If you have a family member in recovery, you may have some questions about how you can best help them succeed. Early recovery is an exciting time for your loved one, but it’s a challenging time as well. Here are a few things you should know about addiction and recovery so that you can support your recovering loved one in truly helpful, meaningful ways.
Understanding addiction is crucial for supporting your family member in recovery.
Understanding how addiction develops, how it changes brain function and how it affects thought and behavior patterns helps you better support your family member in recovery. It leads to a better understanding of the specific challenges your loved one faces.
There are many pathways to recovery, and it’s important to understand that recovery is ultimately a process of change that involves improving overall health and wellness, finding purpose and meaning in life and striving to reach one’s full potential. Recovery is about far more than simply abstaining from drug and alcohol use. It’s about improving all areas of life.
Addiction is a family disease, and you may benefit from professional help, too.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence stresses that addiction is a family disease.1 It leads to dysfunction in the family system as stressful events and upsetting experiences cause family members to develop unhealthy coping skills. When a close family member enters recovery, the whole family enters recovery. Engaging in individual therapy and joining a support group can make an enormous difference in the quality of everyone’s lives. It can also help you better support your family member in recovery.
Set-backs and slip-ups are a normal part of the recovery process.
Just as it takes time to develop an addiction and the unhealthy thought and behaviors that come with it, it takes time to develop the skills, strategies and healthy ways of thinking and behaving that lead to successful long-term recovery. Rather than viewing a slip-up or relapse as a failure, it’s important to see these as an opportunity to evaluate what went wrong and develop the missing skills that will help prevent another similar event in the future.
Understanding relapse and how it occurs in three predictable stages can help you recognize the signs of an imminent relapse. Patience and a positive attitude are crucial for helping your family member in recovery in the event a relapse occurs.
Hope is the foundation of recovery.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration cites hope as the foundation of recovery.2 Hope is the belief that a better future is possible. Holding on to hope for long-term successful recovery—and helping to instill that hope in your loved one—is one of the best ways you can support your family member in recovery. Recovering from addiction takes time, and it’s not always easy. Challenges are par for the course, and navigating them with a positive attitude and from a place of hope will go a long way toward helping your loved one over hurdles.
Addiction is Complex, but It’s Highly Treatable
Treating an addiction is a matter of addressing the complex underlying issues that led to the substance abuse in the first place. It requires identifying unhealthy patterns of thinking and behaving that are sometimes years in the making. All of this takes time, and supporting your family member during treatment and in the early weeks and months of recovery can make an enormous difference in the ultimate outcome.