When someone suffers from alcohol use disorder or another substance use disorder, it affects everyone around them. Living with a recovering alcoholic or addict presents a unique challenge. Our team at Northern Illinois Recovery Center helps families and individuals who struggle with substance abuse issues by offering individualized care and flexible treatment programs for addiction. This guide can be a resource for anyone living with a recovering alcoholic or addict.
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What Does It Mean to Live with a Recovering Alcoholic?
Living with a recovering alcoholic or person addicted to substances means sharing a home and time with someone who is trying to stay sober and abstain from alcohol and drug use. Being in recovery means that the individual had sought some professional help, such as detoxification, inpatient or outpatient rehab, or therapy. Addiction is a complex disease and a person in recovery may need varying degrees of support. It can be stressful and difficult to understand what a person in recovery is experiencing, but your support can significantly impact their healing and improve recovery.
If you live with someone–a parent, sibling, partner, or other family member–in recovery, it’s important to give your support while also taking time to care for yourself in this situation.
Why Is Family Support Important in Recovery?
During recovery from addiction, support from friends and family is a crucial component. Encouragement from family members can provide motivation for an individual to stay committed to their recovery. Often, family and friends are reasons why a person may seek help with an addiction issue in the first place, so being able to connect with and be supported by these friends and family members after rehab can be very beneficial. Family can also help their loved one find treatment and attend meetings. Here are other ways family support helps during recovery from addiction:
Provides emotional support: Addiction can also be a lonely and isolating experience, but having family members who provide emotional support can help alleviate these feelings of loneliness. Being around friends and family when returning from rehab can also be helpful in regaining a sense of normalcy and belonging.
Increases accountability: Friends and family can also help hold an individual accountable for their recovery, which is essential for maintaining sobriety. This may include helping them follow the treatment plans and holding them accountable for their progress.
Resolves family issues: Addiction can often be linked to underlying family dynamics or issues, and family members who are willing to address these issues can help their loved one in recovery achieve long-term success. This not only supports recovery but can strengthen family bonds.
Reduces stress: Addiction can be a stressful experience for everyone involved–the individual with a substance use disorder and their family members. Knowing their family is supportive and wants to understand the disease can help alleviate stress and provide a sense of stability.
How to Support Someone in Recovery
If you’re living with an individual who is in recovery, there are several ways that you can offer your support to them.
Learning about addiction can help you understand what your loved one is experiencing. Rehab centers often provide educational resources for families. One of our therapy programs at Northern Illinois Recovery includes family therapy, which emphasizes family engagement, reframing, and changing behavior to ensure family members do not enable an individual’s habit.
Attend meetings for substance abuse to connect with others who are going through similar experiences and to learn from their experiences. There are support groups specifically for the family members of individuals in recovery, but you could attend other meetings such as AA too. Participating in support groups gives you access to more resources and can give you perspective on addiction issues.
Recovery is a process, and it takes time. A major way you can provide support is by being patient with your loved one. Try to emphasize and allow them the time they need to recover. This may include aiding them with tasks around the house, giving them time to focus on developing healthy habits, and forgiving them for past mistakes.
When your loved one struggles with drug or alcohol abuse, one way to help is to avoid enabling their addiction. You can do this by setting boundaries and not providing financial or emotional support that contributes to their habit. When your family member returns home after addiction treatment, it’s crucial that you don’t encourage any negative behaviors or thoughts that once lead to drug and alcohol use.
You can show your support by removing alcohol and drugs from your home so that an individual doesn’t have easy access to substances. You can do this while your loved one is completing an inpatient program. This way, when they’re home, they can enter another safe and supportive environment that encourages sobriety.
If you’re living with someone who has completed some type of drug or alcohol rehab program, they likely have learned to replace some habits with healthy ones. You can support their recovery by encouraging them to practice new habits, such as exercise, healthy eating, and stress management.
A person in recovery may need a lot of emotional support. You can be a source of emotional support for your loved one by listening to them, offering encouragement, and helping them find resources when needed. Even after completing a treatment program, a person may struggle with cravings or negative thoughts that lead them to use substances, so your emotional support can be a huge help.
Communicating effectively with the people you live with is key to a comfortable and safe home environment. This is especially true when living with a recovering alcoholic. Communicate openly and honestly with them, but avoid blaming or criticizing them. You can use “I” statements to express your feelings and concerns to avoid putting blame on someone. Communication skills are a pillar to developing coping skills, so you’re loved one should be able to better communicate with you as well.
Another way to support someone in recovery is by celebrating their milestones in recovery. This may include sobriety anniversaries or completing a treatment program. A celebration of their accomplishments can be very motivating. Celebrating milestones is also an important way of recognizing your family member’s effort to change.
How To Support Yourself When Living With Someone In Recovery
It’s essential to their recovery for you to support a loved one during and long after they receive treatment for addiction. But while you’re supporting them, it’s important that you’re also taking the time to support yourself. Addiction takes a toll on everyone involved, not just the person who abuses substances. Here are ways you can support your own mental health and overall well-being when living with someone in recovery:
Set boundaries with your loved one by setting clear rules for interactions and behaviors toward you. Boundaries help create a healthy living environment for both of you. This can also keep you from becoming overwhelmed by having to support your housemate. Consistency is key when creating boundaries. Make sure you don’t allow exceptions to your boundaries.
Taking care of yourself is an important part of supporting a recovering alcoholic. Make time for self-care so you can avoid neglecting your own needs. Remaining healthy mentally and physically will better equip you to support others. You can take care of yourself by setting boundaries, taking part in mindfulness activities like meditation, and ensuring you get enough sleep.
Living with a person with an alcohol use disorder or other substance use disorder can have adverse effects on your mental and physical health. Just as your loved one needs professional help to overcome addiction, you may need professional help to recover from how the substance abuse issue affects you. Consider speaking with a therapist to treat your mental health.
Addiction Treatment at Northern Illinois Recovery Center
At Northern Illinois Recovery Center, we devote all our resources to helping individuals overcome addiction and start living happier, sober lives. Our team started as individuals in recovery wanting to help others transform their lives in the same way, so we understand the unique struggles of addiction both for individuals and their family members and friends. We offer addiction treatment services to anyone struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, including detox, residential treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient treatment, outpatient rehab, sober living, and aftercare.
If you or a loved one has a problem with substances, we can help. As family and friends, we also understand that being a supporter in someone’s addiction recovery can be grueling. At Northern Illinois Recovery, near Chicago, Illinois, you can receive help with our family therapy treatment which offers educational resources and tools for helping an individual in your life who’s in recovery. Call our team today for more information about living with a recovering addict.