6 Ways Family Support Increases Your Odds of Addiction Recovery
Published: 12/22/2017 | Author: John Trimble
Successful, long-term addiction recovery isn’t something that you can achieve on your own. You need support, whether it comes from blood relatives, close friends, addiction specialists, therapists, or fellow addicts in support groups or addiction recovery programs. Twenty-one and a half million people in the United States are currently struggling with addiction, and that struggle impacts everyone in those individual’s lives. Studies have shown that elements of your family and your environment can make you more vulnerable to substance abuse, but they can also become a priceless source of support to help you break free from substance abuse.
Why You Shouldn’t Try to Recover Alone
Forty to sixty percent of people in addiction recovery experience relapse at some point. This should not be regarded as a failure. Addiction is a chronic disease, with relapse rates similar to other chronic illnesses such as asthma and hypertension. Treating chronic diseases goes beyond medical intervention to lifestyle changes that require you to adjust deeply entrenched behaviors. These changes are not easy to make, no matter what disease you are dealing with. Relapsing and resuming substance abuse in addiction recovery means you need to return to treatment, adjust your treatment, and/or seek additional addiction recovery support.
Breaking free from substance abuse is ultimately up to you and the choices you make on your own, it’s true, but having positive relationships and emotional support can help with addiction recovery by encouraging healthy choices and reminding you of all the goodness you want to protect in your life.
6 Ways Family Helps with Addiction Recovery
Family can be blood relatives, a friend group, a spiritual community, or even online communities. If you consider someone to be as important to you as family, then they should be a part of your family support system. Here are six key ways that families of all kinds can help with your addiction recovery:
1. A healthy family provides a healthy environment.
No family, whether blood relatives or chosen family, is perfect, but you do need to make sure that whoever you choose as your support system are basically healthy people who completely support your addiction recovery and do not abuse drugs or alcohol. Having a healthy family to surround you will motivate you to stay on track, keep you focused on what’s important, and lift you up when you’re feeling low. Even being able to help them out in return sometimes can be good for your state of mind and self-esteem.
2. Challenges aren’t as challenging with family support.
When you have positive support from your loved ones, hard times aren’t nearly as difficult. Life has ups and downs, and everyone has times when they feel stressed and overwhelmed. Times of stress can often trigger relapse for someone in addiction recovery, but having a good support system to turn to for advice and assistance can lighten your load and help you cope with the situation in a healthier way.
3. They can help you help yourself.
While no one can force you to stay sober, having sober support to turn to can keep you from giving in when the temptation to drink or use gets strong. When you’re feeling your resolve weakening, spending time with loved ones can remind you of why you are in addiction recovery in the first place.
4. They can relieve social anxiety.
Many people start drinking or using drugs as a way to relieve social anxiety, and the thought of facing social gatherings without your primary substance of use can be frightening. Having a family member or friend come with you to a party, PTA meeting, potluck, or any other social setting, will ease your stress and keep you from feeling alone and out of place. As you grow stronger in your addiction recovery, you’ll start to gain confidence in your ability to handle social interactions without drugs or alcohol, and you’ll be able to start facing them alone, but having family support early on can help build that confidence up until you’re ready.
5. They can give you a reality check.
After you’ve been successful in addiction recovery for a while, and you’re feeling good about yourself, it can be tempting to believe that you can reconnect with old friends who abuse drugs or alcohol, or that you can safely hang out at the bar where you used to buy drugs, or that you can have just one drink and be fine. Having people who love you to speak up and voice concern when you’re putting yourself in danger of relapse can be enormously helpful. Just make sure that you listen to what they have to say.
6. They can cheer you on.
In addiction recovery, it’s easy to focus so much on the end goal that you lose sight of the milestones along the way. A supportive family can turn the challenge of your first sober holiday season into a celebration of your first sober holiday season. Their enthusiasm for your recovery can also create a kind of positive peer pressure that pushes you to make healthy choices over unhealthy ones. That kind of support can go a long way towards building up your self-esteem and self-confidence.
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SAMHSA’s Four Dimensions in Addiction Support
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration lists four major dimensions to addiction support, and these are:
Managing the disease of addiction by abstaining from substance abuse and making positive choices that promote your physical and emotional health.
Making sure that your home environment is safe and stable.
Engaging in meaningful activities every day, such as working, going to school, taking care of family, volunteering, and creative outlets; also, having the income, independence and resources to be a part of society.
Making and maintaining relationships and social networks for friendship, support, love, and hope.
Each one of these dimensions impacts the other. Strengthening one strengthens the others, and neglecting one will damage the whole. The great thing about number four, community, is that the relationships you make have the most impact on the other recovery dimensions. For example, if you haven’t yet determined what kinds of activities are going to give your life purpose, your loved ones can be a good sounding board for ideas and encourage you on your journey of self discovery—they can even give you a sense of purpose just by being a part of your life.
Community Support in Addiction Recovery
While the community dimension in SAMHSA’s four dimensions of addiction support can be family, it can also be support groups that you incorporate into your recovery. As you transition out of a treatment program, you will shift your focus to more community-based supports, such as 12-step meetings and other self-help groups. These groups are a wonderful resource that can be available to help your addiction recovery for the rest of your life. They can hold you accountable for your actions, they can be there for you when you’re vulnerable to relapse, they can listen to you when you need to vent, they can give you a feeling of connection and be a source of sober friends, and they can give you insight and advice based in their own experience with addiction recovery. These meetings are free and open to anyone, and you should always have a list of local meetings and meeting times on hand in case you need it.
Any time spent with supportive people is valuable, but it can be especially beneficial to spend time with other people in recovery who are further along in their journey than you are. Addiction recovery support groups are the perfect place to meet and interact with such people. They can teach you practical skills they’ve learned, they can share experiences that can help you feel less alone, and they are especially qualified to help you recognize and avoid problematic patterns of behavior that could lead to relapse. Even just getting to know these people will provide you with living proof of the fact that recovery is possible, which can motivate you to keep going and stay sober.
How to Help an Addict by Being Part of the Solution
Families can get drawn into addiction drama, but they can also help minimize it. Learning how to help an addict by playing a positive role in their recovery will help you be able to provide the kind of support that benefits everyone. Here’s how to do it:
Avoid drinking or using drugs around the person in recovery.
Don’t expose them to situations where substance abuse and relapse temptation will be around.
Be patient with your loved one and with yourself.
You may have wounds in your relationship that still need to be healed, and trust that needs to be rebuilt. Creating a new, healthier way of interacting with each other, especially within a family made up of several different personalities, will take some time.
Be a safe place for your loved one to go to when they’re feeling down or discouraged.
Make it okay for them to speak openly and honestly to you about what they’re experiencing. Understand that being tempted to use is not the same thing as relapsing, and sometimes just talking through an issue is enough to avoid a crisis.
Go to Nar-Anon or Al-Anon meetings to educate yourself about addiction recovery.
Learn how to help during addiction recovery, as well as to get support for your own emotional needs. You can’t adequately take care of someone else if you fail to take care of yourself, and people coping with a loved one’s substance abuse have special issues of concern that these groups can address.
Encourage your loved one to make healthy choices and establish healthy habits.
These habits could include getting exercise, good nutrition, and quality sleep; attending doctor’s appointments and support group meetings, taking prescribed medications, and engaging in positive, sober, social activities.
Show appreciation for your loved one’s progress and hard work.
Be sure to celebrate accomplishments, whether big or small, for your loved one.
Find out what your loved one’s relapse triggers are so you can offer support
Be understanding or offer a distraction when you see the need, and pay attention to early warning signs that your loved one needs to return to treatment.
Spend time doing the things you love.
When you’ve done whatever you can to be supportive of your loved one’s addiction recovery, take time to just be there for them, and take care of yourself. You can’t walk your loved one through every step of their addiction recovery. Just help however you can, make it clear that you will be there when they need you, and then attend to your own life and needs.
Forgive yourself for any negative part you may have played in your loved one’s addiction.
You didn’t intend to do it any more than they intended to become addicted. What’s important is to focus on the changes that you are both making now, and to continue being a positive part of their lives and their future.
No One Recovers Alone
Addiction recovery is not a DIY enterprise. Treatment providers, therapists, fellow addicts in recovery, and friends and family members all play a part in the process. Some people may start off in recovery feeling alone, but as they progress, they repair old relationships and form new ones until they have the strong, loving support system that they need.
Addiction recovery isn’t just about getting sober, it’s also about improving your quality of life and building a better, brighter future. Your loved ones can play a part in your recovery, and they can also play a part in finding the treatment you need for that recovery. As you look into treatment facilities, insurance coverage, and other practical concerns, ask for help from friends and family that you trust. Even if they don’t know much more about detox and rehab treatment than you do, having them around to help you make lists and discuss ideas can be an enormous help.
For more information on detox treatment and addiction rehab programs, call 800-483-2193(Who Answers?) today!