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5 Tips to Help a Family Member or Friend Through Addiction Recovery

If you’ve had a front-row seat to a family member’s or friend’s struggle with a substance use disorder, your role in recovery will be different. And switching gears can be difficult, as you may be dealing with your own emotions and concerns.

At Northshore Family Practice, Dr. Barbara Mendrey and our team of addiction medicine specialists understands how difficult a substance use disorder can be on those around the patient. To help you better negotiate the path forward during recovery, both for yourself and your friend or loved one, here are 5 tips that will serve you well.

1. Be understanding

When the substance fog clears, your loved one is dealing with a wide array of emotions that were previously tamped down by the substance. This means you’ll likely face their happiness, tears, anxiety, fear, and a host of other emotions, which can change from one moment to the next.

It’s this aspect that you should be aware of — your loved one’s emotions are raw in early recovery, so be patient and understanding as they find their emotional footing. If they stay the course, their emotions will regulate with time.

2. Be available

All too often, a person with a substance use disorder feels uncomfortable about asking for help after they break free of their addiction, especially if they were a burden. You can let them know that you’re available to help by simply stating as much. You may have to check in and repeat this message several times before they take you up on it, if they accept the help at all. But by letting them know you’re available, you’re already helping, as they don’t feel so alone.

3. Offer distraction

Getting clean and early recovery are intensive, and your loved one likely spends hours each day dealing with the aftermath. A great way to help is to provide distraction, which can also help them feel more “normal” again. Suggest going to a movie or for a walk — places that aren’t triggers for substance use.

You can double up on this support by offering healthy suggestions. Physical exercise is one of the best ways to combat anxiety, and it will also help your loved one regain their health.

4. Support, don’t enable

While you want to applaud every tiny step that your loved one makes in early recovery, you want to stop short of enabling. If they make a mistake, they should be held accountable for their actions and be put on firm notice. By all means, express your disappointment, but try to steer clear of anger — there’s likely been too much of that already.

5. Keep your boundaries in place

If you’ve been down the addiction road with your loved one, you know how all-encompassing it can be. To best support your friend or loved one in recovery, establish firm boundaries and let them know that you’re there for support, but that you also have your own life to deal with. In other words, it’s perfectly OK to say “No” sometimes and place your interests ahead of theirs.

In maintaining your boundaries, you also demonstrate to your friend or loved one the importance of self-care.

If you have more questions about how to best support your friend or loved one during recovery, please contact our office in Bothell, Washington, to arrange a consultation.

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