After your loved one or friend gets out of treatment, you’ll likely want to support him or her as much as possible. While there are many things you can do to ensure that you are not enabling your loved one, there are also more simple actions you can take to empower your friend and make their recovery walk just a little bit easier. So whether you’re an ally to coworkers, acquaintances, friends or family, follow these recommendations in order to best support people in recovery who are getting used to a new lifestyle in an often unfamiliar and challenging environment.
1. Dispel myths. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to hear many misconceptions about people in recovery. Although almost every American is impacted by addiction in some way, we tend to act like it is something that only happens to other people. If you hear a falsehood about addiction or recovery, speak up! Some of the most common myths are: people in recovery don’t have fun, people in recovery cannot be trusted, addicted people cannot recover, people in recovery can relapse at any moment, and you can spot someone with an addiction just by looking at them.
2. Speak respectfully and with compassion about people with substance use concerns. Remember, they are people first. When we casually call someone a drunkard, junkie, alkie, stoner, cokehead, boozer etc., we can trivialize the seriousness of the situation and shame people at the same time.
3. Be open to doing activities with your loved one that don’t revolve around substance use. What can you both do together where alcohol is not the main focus? Having fun in early recovery is important for your loved one, and they need to know you support them. One great way to do that is to engage in healthy and fun recreational activities together.
4. Discuss drinking and using around them beforehand so they can make an informed choice. If you’re best friend is newly sober, be understanding if they opt out of attending your birthday party at a bar. They may just not feel comfortable doing so, and having your support will mean a lot. If you discuss a potentially risky event beforehand, they’ll be less likely to feel pressured and they’ll be able to clearly think through things and make a wise choice.
5. Don’t “out” them. Do not ever share your friend’s story without their permission. Addiction and recovery are very personal matters for many people, and it is up to them how they decide to disclose these things to outsiders. It is not your responsibility to do it for them.
6. If you don’t know, ASK! Everyone in recovery is unique and has their own preferences, desires and dislikes. Your loved one is not suddenly an alien just because they get sober! Ask them how they would like you to handle things in order to best support them, and just do the best you can.
In summary, there is a lot you can do to be helpful to your newly sober loved one. While it is true that people in recovery are responsible for their own choices, and in the end what they decide to do is outside of your control, you can still make their journey just a little bit easier by being a supportive force in their life. Remember, AToN is here to answer any questions you may have and we can connect you with support networks. Thankfully, you don’t have to figure it out alone.
AToN Psychologist 888-535-1516