People in recovery need an extensive support network of friends, mentors, peers and family members to keep them on track with their sobriety. If your friend is entering rehab or has recently completed treatment then they will need lots of compassion and understanding throughout the process of learning to live sober. It can be confusing for friends who don’t know what to do or how to handle their friend’s recovery.
Here are 5 ways that you can be supportive of someone who has recently become sober:
1. Be Accepting and Avoid Judgement
If you have never had an addiction yourself then you might not fully understand all the shame, guilt and pain that this person is going through. If they make mistakes or are struggling in the beginning, try your best to reserve any judgement. They might be extra sensitive to criticism or negativity so make sure that you are positive and uplifting as much as possible.
The important thing is to show them that you accept their decision to quit and don’t judge their past issues with addiction. People in recovery don’t want to feel alienated or different from you and your group of friends. If you express love and understanding for their situation then they will feel much more comfortable in their sobriety.
2. Be a Good Listener
People in recovery are going through a lot of ups and downs and need someone there to talk to. If you can be a friend that they can rely on to call when they are going through a tough time then it will be a big help to them. Just listening to their problems and offering a sympathetic ear is a great way to stay supportive.
As they are learning how to handle their sobriety it can be helpful to make yourself as available as possible. Having someone available to help them can be a major factor in preventing relapse. As long as you actively listen, avoid judgement and let them work through their issues you can be a great friend to them.
3. Encourage Healthy Habits and Create a Sober Environment
If you yourself still drink or occasionally use drugs, try not to discuss these things or have bottles and paraphernalia around when they are in your home. Never bring your friend to a bar or a party that involves a lot of drinking. Although eventually they will be able to handle being in those environments, it is best for them to be in a substance-free environment in the early stages of recovery.
Make sure to encourage your friend to maintain their healthy habits by eating healthy meals with them or cooking together. You can go to the gym together, play sports or do something active that will keep their mind off of their problems. Think of fun activities you can do together that don’t involve alcohol and can help you stay connected and healthy.
4. Join a Support Group
It is likely that your friend is attending regular support group meetings where they can interact with other addicts and talk about their issues. There are also support groups that cater to the friends and loved ones of people in recovery so that they can talk to others and learn more about how to handle the situation. Support groups are a way to connect with others experiencing similar problems and gain helpful knowledge and advice so that you are better equipped to help your loved one.
There may be aspects of having a friend in recovery that can be stressful or difficult to deal with because it takes an emotional toll on you. Going to a support group gives you an opportunity to talk about these difficulties to people that understand and are going through many of the same feelings. You can meet other people and make friends that can help you with your role as the supporter of the addict.
5. Educate Yourself about Relapse Warning Signs
Even when friends and loved ones do everything they can to help someone in recovery, the reality is that addiction is a complicated disease. Relapse is a possibility that you must be prepared for in case you need to be available to help your friend. The more you learn about relapse the more you will be able to be of service to them if they should reach a point of crisis.
Make sure that you are familiar with all the warning signs associated with a relapse or an imminent relapse. You should also learn what actions you need to take in order to minimize the damage and get them back on track. Relapse can be devastating but it does not mean that they have to give up on being sober.
As you help your friend with their recovery, keep in mind that being supportive of their efforts and just being there for them can be the most beneficial way to help them stay sober.