How to Support a Recovering Alcoholic

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) condition characterized by an addiction to alcohol, a depressive substance used by much of the global population. Alcohol addiction – or AUD – is a powerful condition that is characterized by chronic, relapsing drinking despite its negative impact on a person’s life. The mental health disorder infiltrates the reward and decision-making centers of the brain, making physical and chemical changes to the circuits in these regions to drive compulsive behavior.

Alcohol abuse can wreak havoc on the individual’s life experiencing it as well as those around them. However, the condition is treatable with many people overcoming their addiction and going on to lead fulfilling lives. A 2020 study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that three out of four people who experience addiction eventually recover.

Living Through AUDLiving Through AUD

It is often those who are closest that feel the greatest strain when dealing with alcohol use disorder. When an individual’s addiction grows over time it consumes more and more parts of their life – including their relationships. Living with a loved one dealing with alcohol use disorder can be challenging, with every interaction being influenced by the addiction in one way or another.

This emotionally consuming and confusing time can be hard to navigate through, with many falling into the accidental trap of enablement and codependency. Although this behavior usually comes from a place of love, it can actually further encourage active addiction. For example, this can look like giving them money, cleaning up their mess, and making excuses to others for them.

Accepting treatment is the first step in overcoming alcohol use disorder, with rehab and therapy close behind. Although, recovery is a lifelong process that is completed one small step at a time. Recovering addicts slowly begin the change during this period, readjusting their goals, behavior, expectations, and personality. These readjustments can also cause changes in relationship dynamics and force people to confront the underlying dynamics that addiction originally masked.

How to Support a Recovering AlcoholicHow to Support a Recovering Alcoholic

It can be challenging to know how to support someone recovering from alcohol use disorder, with many loved ones wanting to help but just not knowing how to! This is especially true for those who have enabled addiction in the past.

These following guidelines can help navigate through this difficult time and help reduce relapse rates for your loved one.

Educate Yourself About Addiction and Recovery

Addiction is an extremely complex disease that is difficult to fathom even if personally experienced. Educating yourself on the disorder and the process of recovery can allow you to better relate to your loved one and help prevent a relapse.

Researching information about substance abuse online, reading books, attending classes, or family therapy sessions can all help with this process. Here, it is likely you will learn about many aspects of substance abuse such as:

  • General information about addiction and recovery
  • Potential triggers
  • Health issues
  • Enablement
  • The psychological changes that addiction causes

Provide Encouragement to Follow Their Treatment Plan

It is not uncommon for a person in recovery to experience feelings of denial and demotivation surrounding their treatment plan. Family members and friends showing their support and providing encouragement will increase the chances the plan will be followed.

Support Sobriety

In the months following rehab, the support of loved ones is vital for staying sober – especially when living with the recovering individual. Some changes that can be implemented include:

  • Remove all addictive substances from the home
  • Avoid social events where substance use will occur
  • Putt a focus on new aspects of life
  • Find sober activities to do together
  • Build relationships with friends who are also sober

Understand and Prepare for Problems

There are a number of common issues that addiction and recovery bring for the people experiencing it and their loved ones. Preparing action plans for if these extended problems arise can reduce their long-lasting impact and make it easier to deal with them. Doing this is also useful for setting realistic expectations of the process, with many people expecting their loved one to simply be “cured” when they get back from rehabilitation treatment.

Understand and Prepare for ProblemsRelapse is a part of the recovery journey from drug abuse – even after many years – though it is important to stay optimistic during this time. Putting a relapse action plan together can limit and contain its effects. If you suspect a relapse it is best to consult with friends and family members to check if they share your concerns and approach the topic in a caring and non-judgemental manner. From here, you can suggest they speak to their doctor, sponsor, or therapist and recommend attending support groups.

Other issues that someone in recovery may experience include:

  • For a recovering addict, financial problems are common. During this stage, people are trying to rebuild their careers and pay off any legal or medical expenses that may have built up in their names.
  • A person in addiction treatment will have to face and treat any physical and mental health-related problems that have been caused by excessive drinking. This can be emotionally and physically difficult.
  • Addiction can put a strain on relationships and the issues that may have been caused by it take time and work to overcome.

Reduce Stress

Stress is one of the leading causes of relapse for a recovering addict, so reducing stressors for yourself and them is important. It is unrealistic to try and avoid all stress as the recovery process is inherently stressful, however, employing stress relief techniques can hugely reduce this burden.

Some effective techniques include:

  • Exercise
  • Breathing techniques
  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Artistic expression

Be an Active ListenerBe an Active Listener

Many people in recovery from abuse of alcohol or other substances have to go through a lot of mental processing of what they have been through. All of these thoughts are a lot to hold into just one person’s head but simply listening without judgment can go a long way here.

Get Support for Yourself

When looking after someone in recovery it is easy to forget about your own well-being, with the process sometimes feeling overwhelming and isolating. However, it is impossible to support another person if you are not looking after yourself.

There are a number of helpful ways to cope, though what works best depends on each individual at hand. Some find counseling or therapy sessions useful, while others use meditation or knitting as their outlet. Finding an activity you can do alone can also be a useful tool and allows some time to purely focus on yourself.

Many people cope with this stress via support groups which provide a valuable outlet for emotional support, friendship, and understanding. Support groups create non-judgmental spaces to allow your own experiences to be shared and insight to be gained.

Although difficult, enforcing your own boundaries is also vital for yourself and your loved one in recovery. Setting clear, firm boundaries about what you can tolerate helps avoid old behavioral patterns forming, plus builds respect between you.

Avoid Making Assumptions

We have been fed many ideas about addiction and recovery from what we may have interpreted from the outside or via the media, though the treatment process is different for each individual. Avoiding assumptions and setting up direct lines of communication can disperse any tension surrounding your loved recovery and allow their needs to be more successfully met.

Contact Us

Assisting your loved one during alcohol recovery can be challenging and confusing, though it’s important to remember that recovery is possible. The team at Alina Lodge is here to make this process a little easier for the recovering person and yourself. We can provide an individualized treatment process that is best suited to your needs.

Our long-term treatment process takes a holistic approach to healing. We take into consideration the development of new habits and life skills, healing the physical aspects of addiction, attending to personal relationships, and more. We use a range of evidence-based and up-to-date approaches when treating substance use disorder. As co-occurrent conditions are common with substance abuse, any mental health issues can also be diagnosed and treated.

As many family members are also deeply impacted by their loved one’s addiction, Alina Lodge also offers family therapy and education. This will help tackle underlying dysfunctional dynamics and work towards a future of healthier relationships and communication.