Early sobriety can also be lonely because old friends may still be using alcohol or drugs. The person in recovery will need to avoid being with them to prevent a relapse. New friendships built around common interests or recovery may not yet have developed. You can support a friend or family member who is making a new start at sober living in three major ways.
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Focus on the Person, Not the Illness
For many years, the illness took over the person’s life and personality. They may be having trouble remembering who they were and all of their unique gifts and strengths. Help them to begin to reclaim their gifts, interests, goals, and dreams that may have taken a back seat to the illness. If you shared a common sober activity, such as a hobby or sport, try doing that activity with them again, working to rebuild their interest in the activity as well as your relationship. Avoid using alcohol or drugs around them.
Also, help them focus on healthy habits such as eating balanced meals, exercising, having regular health screenings, finding a faith community, and managing stress. Encourage them to stay connected with all the support systems available to them, such as their therapist and 12-step and other peer support groups. If invited to participate in therapy with them, do so.
A person in early sobriety often feels unsure of themselves and their ability to live into recovery. They also are continuing to crave the substance and are concerned about how to avoid relapse. Sometimes, the sobriety journey will become so hard that they’ll consider giving up.
You can help by giving positive encouragement as they move forward one day at a time. Don’t judge and don’t advise unless asked. If they permit you to provide honest advice and feedback, give abundant praise, and offer constructive suggestions to get them back on track. Remind them, and yourself, about the tortoise and the hare — slow and steady wins the race.
Take Care of Yourself
You can’t help your friend or family member if you aren’t well yourself. Caregiver stress, defined as the emotional and physical stress associated with caregiving, is common. Watch for signs of caregiver stress such as feeling tired often, changes in sleep habits, gaining or losing weight, becoming irritated easily, feeling overwhelmed, or beginning to abuse substances yourself. If you see the signs, ask for help for yourself and your loved one. Refer them to professional help services and arrange for a break for yourself. Join a support group and set goals for your own personal health.
Reach Out to Northern Illinois Recovery Center Today
Northern Illinois Recovery Cente
Licensed Physician and Surgeon
Dr. Beth Dunlap, a board-certified addiction medicine and family medicine physician, and is the medical director at Northern Illinois Recovery Center. She is responsible for overseeing all the integrated medical services at both campuses. Beth completed medical school, residency, and fellowship at Northwestern University, where she continues to serve on the faculty as a member of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. She has extensive experience in addiction medicine at all levels of care, and her clinical interests include integrated primary care and addiction medicine, harm reduction, and medication-assisted treatment.