How Can I Encourage Someone In Recovery?

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Most of us have a loved one who has struggled with alcoholism or addiction at some point in their lives, whether it’s a child, a significant other, a parent, or a friend. Much of our questions and concerns revolve around what to do to help them when they are in their active disease. We have discussed this previously, and there are many resources available.

If someone you love is struggling to achieve or maintain recovery, Jaywalker Lodge is a phone call away. But what if you’re one of the lucky ones whose loved one has found recovery, and now you have questions of a different nature? Now that they’re sober and working a program, what can you do to support and encourage them?

Actions Speak Louder Than Words — But Words Are Nice, Too

This may seem obvious, but for people who have never struggled with alcoholism or addiction, there can be a lot of little actions that get overlooked. For instance, if your loved one is a recovering alcoholic, it may be best to avoid being careless with alcohol when they’re around. Having beer in the fridge is a normal thing in many households, but in an alcoholic home it can be a reminder of bad times, or even a trigger.

Recovery means that they can travel freely throughout life, and those in recovery don’t make a habit of telling regular people how to relate to alcohol. Yet, if you’d like to be supportive of your loved one, keep how they may feel in mind, especially around the holidays or on festive occasions. Their disease is not your fault and their recovery is not your responsibility, but mindfulness and compassion are never bad ideas.

More importantly, you may find it useful to educate yourself about the program of recovery. It can require a lot of time and frequent commitments, often many days a week. It would be a sad irony to have wished and prayed for your loved one’s recovery, and then begrudge them the time required to get well. It can be emotionally taxing for people in recovery to receive mixed messages — often they only long for the ability to be good to those they love.

Once in recovery, they find it painful when the people who love them are upset about the time spent in recovery activities, as these are the only things that allow us to remain sober and able to lovingly participate in life with those we care for. The book of Alcoholics Anonymous contains much information, encouragement, and suggestions for people who love an alcoholic or addict.

Don’t be afraid to share encouraging words as well. Sometimes it can mean everything to someone new in recovery to hear how their loved ones feel about their commitment to this new way of life.

Take Care of Yourself

It is often said that alcoholism and addiction are family diseases, meaning that though one person suffers the addiction, all their loved ones suffer at its hands, too. Often the best thing you can do for someone in recovery is to tend to your own wounds, trauma, or emotional and mental health needs that were likely taxed by loving someone in active addiction.

Religious practices, therapy, fitness, or returning to a lost hobby can bolster and uplift people who were affected by another’s addiction. As your loved one seeks to get well and maintain their recovery, you can show support by embarking on a wellness journey of your own. This can produce positive feedback between the two of you, bringing exponential healing and happiness for you both.

Also, many, many people who love an alcoholic or addict find immense benefit and healing in undertaking their own 12-Step journey through Al-Anon. They are a group specially made to help the loved ones of alcoholics and addicts pick up the pieces and recover in their own way.

Al-Anon can be easily reached and found, and they are all over the world ready to help. Ultimately, seeking healing and taking care of yourself will improve your own quality of life after the wreckage of addiction. But in many ways, it can be incredibly encouraging and helpful to the recovering alcoholic and addict in your life as well.

Love Is Everything

For both yourself and the person in recovery, it all comes down to love. Addiction is a hellacious disease, and the wreckage and pain it leaves in its wake often lingers. Healing takes time, both for the alcoholic or addict and their loved ones. Have patience with the person in recovery and with yourself. We didn’t get here overnight, but thankfully we’re here now. Healing and returning to a new sense of healthy normalcy will take time, but it will come. If you find yourself struggling with how to be supportive or encouraging of someone in recovery, it may be helpful to think about what you would do for someone who was recovering from surgery or very sick — and then treat the recovering person in a similar way.

Alcoholism and addiction affect many more lives than the ones who suffer from them. If you or a loved one is struggling to achieve or maintain long-term sobriety, know you are not alone. At Jaywalker Lodge, we’ve been in your shoes and theirs. We are here to help you begin the journey of healing and recovery. To learn more, call us today at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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