How to Support Someone in Recovery 

The number of adults estimated to be in recovery from alcohol, opioid or other drug addiction right now equals about 9% of the adult population in the United States. This adds up to about 22 million people, according to a study that tracked addiction types and was published in scientific journals. It’s difficult to put an exact figure on this recovery crowd because federal health officials don’t track the number of these individuals in the same way they tally overdoses or addiction rates. But with millions of people known to be on the recovery path, it’s likely someone in your family or among your friends has battled substance abuse. While there is no cookie-cutter way to approach someone who has struggled with addiction, there are many ways to support friends and family who are in recovery.  

Be a champion. Whether a person left behind a life marked by alcoholism or a dependence on narcotics or other drugs, they all have one thing in common: In their recovery, they need people to champion their efforts. Family, friends, peers and co-workers all make up a support network for a person in recovery, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Here are four key areas that will support their recovery: 

  • Health: They should make healthy choices to support their mental and physical well-being 
  • Home: Their living situation should be a safe and stable environment 
  • Purpose: What they do each day should have meaning, and they need to be able to participate in society 
  • Community: Love, hope and friendship can be bolstered by relationships with family and friends

There are lots of ways you can support someone during their recovery journey. It starts with being caring, non-judgmental – and flexible. Each person has their own kind of support structure that works best for them. Remember, you are there to support your friend or loved one’s new lifestyle – not police or criticize their illness. Here are some ways you can offer solid support, according to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing: 

Focus on healthy habits. Healthy eating and exercise are good priorities for people in recovery. Offer to grill out, cook with them, or invite them to a restaurant known for flavorful, from-scratch meals. The same goes for exercise. Offer to be a workout buddy, or just make plans to meet and go for a walk.  

Be a good listener. Some days they may want to talk about their victories. Be a cheerleader for their good news. On the days they talk about setbacks, their struggles or their fears for the future, let them talk. They may just want a listening ear and not someone who will judge them for their feelings. If you think they might need more than what you can offer, you can suggest they talked to a therapist who specializes in recovery. 

Take care of yourself. If you are a primary support person to someone in recovery, it’s vital that you take care of yourself, too. Sometimes people get so caught up in being available for another person 24/7 that they forget about their own needs. You can be of more help to someone else if you are eating healthy, getting enough sleep and looking after your own physical and mental health.  

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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