If one doesn’t have a history of substance abuse addiction or a mental health disorder, they will never fully understand or grasp how difficult it is. For many people who are in recovery, it feels like they will forever live their lives like they are impaired. They have to be vigilant about their progress and work towards a worthy goal.
This is why if you have somebody in your life who is suffering or in recovery from any of these disorders, you need to do all you can to be a source of light and love in their lives. You may never be able to save them—and you shouldn’t try, lest you risk forming a codependent relationship or trauma bond. However, you can be strong and a channel of positive support for them.
If you know someone who’s battling a mental disorder or recovering from substance abuse addiction, here are some ways to be a good and supportive friend.
Don’t think of your friend or loved one as a figurine that will break. It’s important for people in recovery to feel normal, to not feel like the people they love are not changing themselves to accommodate their healing. While you should be sensitive and avoid taking them to places that might trigger a relapse or an episode, do your best to act around them how you did before their diagnosis. Love them by being yourself.
Offer practical help
Many people in recovery might feel like a burden to those around them, so one can’t assume that they would ask for help when they need it. Communicate with your loved one if there’s anything they need, whether it’s driving them to the doctor, group therapy, or a rehab facility for alcoholics or offering to get their groceries. They will surely appreciate it if they know they have you to run to, even if they never take you up on the offer.
Arm yourself with information
If you want to avoid judging or condemning your loved one that is in recovery, you need to educate yourself about their condition. Did you know that there is a connection between mental health struggles and substance abuse addiction? It’s something that should be common knowledge. But because not many people know about it, they default to thinking that people who are struggling with addiction are automatically at fault. They don’t take into account their loved one’s comorbidity, genetic predispositions, and the economic and contextual conditions upon which the addiction was developed.
When you take time to study their disorder, you send the message that you care about their well-being and that you want to help them in this fight. More importantly, it stops you from making assumptions about them because you have a wealth of information about what they might be going through.
However, don’t forget to ask them directly if you have questions about their condition. While being academic in your approach can help, nothing is more effective in your education than asking your loved one about their experience and circumstances. No amount of theory will replace the real-life experiences of someone who went through, or is still going through, the disorder.
Open up about your problems too
Those in recovery tend to feel like they are the most broken or flawed person in the room. Help them combat these thoughts by being honest about your own struggles as well. Here are some pointers to remember when sharing your life and issues with a friend in recovery:
- Don’t embellish your struggles to make your issues seem equal. Just because you don’t have a history of depression, anxiety, or addiction, it doesn’t mean your own sadness or grief is any less valid.
- Avoid topics that might be triggering to them. If you don’t know which issues might trigger them, you can ask them about it. Moreover, don’t forget to ask them first if they have the emotional capacity to listen to you right now. That’s the first step towards battling compassion fatigue.
Find the balance between being there for them and being codependent. Remember that while you are their friend or family member, you are not their savior. Encourage them to keep seeing their therapist, going to alcoholics anonymous meetings, or doing whatever treatment works for them. Be a source of support, but don’t stand in their way when they try to find healing. The journey will come with challenges for you and your loved one, but their healing and recovery are always worth it.
Meta title: How Can You Care for Your Loved One Who’s in Recovery?
meta desc: If you know someone who’s battling a mental disorder or recovering from substance abuse addiction, here are some ideas to be good and supportive to them.