How Not to Treat Someone in Addiction Recovery
Going through recovery puts people in a delicate position. They need comfort and support, but without proper knowledge of addiction recovery, your good intentions to help a loved one through recovery could do the exact opposite.
Helping someone in recovery or just being there for them isn't always about what you do for them, but also what you don't do. There are some things you might think will help them, that in reality, can be triggering for their addiction.
Your role as a support person for someone in recovery is not to be in charge of them but to be involved and supportive as best you can.
Supporting Someone in Addiction Recovery
Supporting a loved one is not about parenting them or being on top of their every move. Those in recovery need to learn how to rebuild themselves and gain independence and confidence.
Too much hovering can hold them back from moving forward in recovery and living a fulfilling sober life. However, studies have shown how vital peer support is for those in recovery.
According to the Office of Addiction Service and Supports, "the support of peers and social networks can help keep individuals engaged in treatment, and committed to their recovery." Being involved in their treatment can help improve accountability and offer a source of support outside the medical field. When someone in recovery has the support of those who care, focusing on their sobriety and recovering seems more hopeful.
With this, supporting someone in recovery isn't as easy as kissing a child's hurt knee. Loving someone with an addiction is complicated.
All the stigma surrounding addiction, the misinformation, and pure lack of knowledge, can make enabling seem like support. Even the love you have for this person can prevent you from seeing things as they truly are.
If you want to know how to treat someone in recovery, you'll first need to avoid some things that could add stress instead of easing it.
How Not to Treat Someone in Addiction Recovery
There are some common mistakes people make when interacting with those in recovery that can be triggering or even increase the risk of relapse.
Whether or not you believe you play a significant role in someone's recovery, how you treat them can impact them more than you realize.
Saying or doing certain things when speaking with them, being around them, or even talking about them can be harmful. Try to avoid the following behaviors around someone in recovery, and focus on positive forms of support instead.
#1 Don't call them out: Just because you know about their addiction, it doesn't mean everyone does. It is their prerogative to share something so personal. If they aren't drinking at an event, you don't need to announce it. Let them take control and choose how and when they want to tell people.
Better yet, if they are new to recovery, ask them how they want you to handle it in public and follow their lead. If, for now, they want to say they just aren't drinking tonight, don't call them out or force them to share their addiction with others.
#2 Don't ask them to keep it a secret: The same goes for keeping their recovery or addiction a secret. Addiction has a lot of stigma behind it. You may not want others to know that your friend or child has an addiction, but that is just adding to the pressure they already feel.
If they are okay to tell people, don't ask them to hide it, and don't hide or make excuses yourself. If they want the truth out, it is good for their recovery.
#3 Don't treat them like they're broken: Don't handle them with kid gloves. Treat them like an independent person. You shouldn't focus on their addiction but them. Constantly asking them if they're okay or how you can help isn't actually helpful, but could intensify their cravings.
Also, don't feel sorry for them. If you apologize because they can't drink, it insinuates that they are missing out on something that actually makes their life worse, not better. Congratulate them on their recovery instead.
#4 Don't diminish their work: Someone in recovery may be taking small steps, but they can feel very big, and each one is important to their journey. If they are creating a routine for themselves but haven't gotten a job, don't shrink the importance of their accomplishments. Keep motivating them to move forward by celebrating their hard work.
#5 Don't press them to talk about it: It can be triggering to discuss their addiction, especially all the time. Whether they are in treatment, out of treatment, or further along in their recovery, pestering them with questions about how they became addicted or when they decided to get treatment is very intrusive.
If they want to talk about it, they will. Let them know you are there for them when they need to talk, but don't push them to talk about things they don't want to. And if they do want to talk, listen more than you talk.
#6 Don't pretend you know how they feel: Unless you've been in recovery yourself, you don't know how they feel. Even if you have, addiction and recovery are different experiences for everyone. Sure, you may have been through a rough time in your life, and their problems don't diminish that, but it isn't the same. Although you may relate, no experience is the same, so keep that in mind.
Recovery is never easy, but your behavior around those you love in recovery can make a big difference. You want your actions and words to help them, not hinder their recovery. Sometimes, your good intentions can have the opposite effect. Before you offer advice or even a supportive ear, learn the facts of addiction and recovery. Understanding what they are going through and what can be triggering will help you help them. By avoiding certain things, you can help make your loved one's recovery feel hopeful rather than shameful, and that can keep them committed to their sobriety. Being able to play a helpful role in your loved one's recovery will feel amazing for you and be such a means of support for them. To learn even more about addiction recovery, reach out to California Care Detox & Treatment today. We are here to help you and your family find the help you need. Call us at (949) 281-0632.