In the realm of addiction treatment, recovery isn’t a finite event. Instead, it’s a lifelong journey that starts with initial sobriety and lasts for the rest of a substance abuser’s life. Temptation will always be there, and sobriety will be dominated by ups and downs.
For those living with a recovering addict, the ups and downs of recovery can be very challenging. Unfortunately, this can make being a supportive ally an uphill battle, leading to potentially uncomfortable realities that can upset the delicate balance of recovery.
Living with a recovering addict isn’t always easy, but trying to understand the mindset of getting well in addition to the temptations and hurdles that can come from living a normal life without drugs is important. These five tips can help you live in peace with a friend, roommate, child or loved one in recovery while providing support and guidance that can help, not hurt, the process of staying clean.
The Realities of Living With a Recovering Addict
For those not experienced in the cycle of abuse caused by addiction or the recovery process, living with an addict can pose immediate challenges. In many ways, this is due to a lack of understanding of the toll addiction can take as well as the transformations required for a successful recovery. Those without experience in the world of addiction often believe that rehab is like a magic switch: Once the program is over, everything is fixed for good.
Unfortunately, this is not reality. Rehabilitation is merely the first step in a long process, and success rates aren’t guaranteed. Relapse is tragically common for recovering substance abusers, even those committed to quitting and staying sober. As a chronic disease, addiction never really goes away.
Due to the ways in which rehabilitation changes behavior and encourages new habits, many people come out of treatment a different person. This can be subtle or extremely noticeable, depending on the person and how drug use affected the root of their personality. For those who aren’t prepared for this, meeting an effectively new person after rehab can be confusing or even concerning. While this transformation is ostensibly a good thing and is inspired by healthy lifestyle choices versus abuse, a drastic change can lead to frustrations in the household. This can be uncomfortable for everyone — and even stand in the way of ongoing sobriety when reactions don’t align with a healthy way of life.
Five Tips for Living With a Recovering Addict
If you are now living with a recovering addict, you’ve likely noticed a change in the household environment. You may be missing the person you knew prior to treatment or mourning lifestyle changes that come with life post-recovery. You may even find it hard to trust the positive changes you are seeing.
This is all normal. However, there are things you can do to be a better support system and encourage a healthy, happy home. These five tips for living with an addict in recovery can make life easier for everyone under your roof.
Compassion and understanding starts with education. Without educating yourself properly on what recovery means and both the short- and long-term perspectives that can come with overcoming addiction, it’s going to be hard to know the reality of your roommate or loved one’s journey.
Education in addiction can come from many sources, from reading about addiction and drug facts through the National Institute of Health to browsing blogs from experts in the addiction space. In some cases, groups like Al-Anon that serve friends and family members of an addict can be an excellent source of support and education. Don’t stop with just one source; devote as much time as possible to reading books, blogs, articles and studies about the addiction cycle and the trials faced in recovery.
Stay Sober at Home
It’s not uncommon for the friends and family members of recovering addicts to still enjoy recreational substance use, like drinking alcohol when out with friends. This can be fine when out of the house, but to facilitate recovery, stay sober at home. Don’t bring addictive substances into the home, don’t use them in the home and, if you utilize substances while outside the home and away from your partner, do not return home until you are sober. This is true even if your substance of choice is not the same as the source of your friend or loved one’s addiction.
Staying sober creates a camaraderie and shows support. This tells a recovering addict that you are in it together and you understand. Continuing to use substances in the home can be disrespectful or send signals that you don’t find addiction to be a serious problem.
Provide a Supportive Ear
In recovery, some days will be easier than others. Sometimes, a recovering addict will feel light and happy. Other days, the weight of staying sober can be exhausting or depressing. However, in both good times and bad, it’s not uncommon for those in recovery to wish to discuss their struggles.
In time, it may start to feel like recovery is the primary point of conversation in your home. While this is indeed frustrating, do your best to keep your emotions contained. Support is among the most valuable things you can offer to someone in recovery, and that means listening, offering words of encouragement and providing consistent and ongoing feedback. The last thing you want is to develop a cold or closed-off persona that implies you don’t care.
Don’t Rush to Judgment
While living with an addict, it’s not uncommon to learn more details about life while addicted, including potentially troubling facts about activities and behaviors. This can include things like stealing, lying or abusing others for the sake of getting drunk or high. These kinds of confessions can be hard to handle and may lead to knee-jerk reactions of criticism or judgment, even though these events occurred in the past. However, this is the worst possible way to react.
Addiction is a disease. It can cause people to do damaging, shameful and harmful things. Those in recovery understand this, and they know that addiction was the driver for behavior like lying and stealing. They likely feel shame for these actions already, and your judgment isn’t necessary. Keep an open mind, continue to offer support and keep any negative feelings to yourself.
Respect the Person and the Process
Showing respect is among the single most important things you can offer to someone living with addiction. Addiction is not a moral failing, and those who become addicted to drugs or alcohol are not lesser because of their experiences. They deserve the same level of respect you would give to anyone else, regardless of the nature of their struggles. They are not children to patronize or lesser beings to judge; they are people in need of love and support to best succeed on their current journey. No matter the road they have been on or the path they are following now, they deserve your compassion and respect.
Living with a recovering addict isn’t easy, and supporting their sobriety will be challenging at times. These five tips can make life a little easier, helping you be the best possible ally and encourage success in sobriety.