Content reviewed by Khelsea Walker, CEO of New Hope Ranch
Being a parent, friend, sibling, spouse, or other loved one of someone struggling with substance use disorder (SUD) can be distressing. After all, addiction is known as a family disease because it affects more than just the individual engaging in chronic alcohol or drug use. If you are reading this, you likely have a loved one struggling. You may wonder if there is something you could do to help them stay sober. Fortunately, there are things you can do to support them throughout their healing process.
Addiction Recovery Is a Lifelong Journey
You may have watched your loved one’s addiction develop slowly over the last several months or years. What’s more, you may have even experienced some direct consequences of their substance use. As a result, you probably feel a mix of emotions, such as anger, sadness and even numbness. You may feel you need space from your loved one as they work to rebuild their life during treatment. No matter where you stand with your loved one, it is important to remember that recovery is a lifelong journey.
Addiction is a chronic and complex disease. Often, family members and friends of those struggling with addiction do not understand the severity of their loved one’s condition. In turn, they may feel compelled to blame their loved one or feel resentment toward them. These feelings are understandable and valid, but they are not conducive to supporting your loved one’s sobriety. By keeping in mind that recovery is a lifelong journey, these feelings can be shifted into more positive and hopeful emotions.
Keep in mind that, as recovery is a lifelong journey, relapse is common. Addiction is often referred to as a chronic and relapsing disorder. Throughout your loved one’s treatment and recovery, they may relapse, but that does not mean that they have failed or their recovery is over. If a relapse does occur, it can signify that their treatment and support structures need to be adjusted. At this point, they may need to connect with additional recovery resources.
The Importance of Aftercare in Addiction Recovery
Let’s say your loved one has achieved initial sobriety, but are they concerned about maintaining their recovery progress. One common misconception regarding treatment and recovery is that once treatment is completed, an individual is ready to sustain abstinence from substance use on their own. Unfortunately, treatment is not a one-and-done solution for addiction. Rather, treatment instills the tools and mindset needed to help an individual choose sobriety over and over again.
What is Aftercare?
One of the most important things you can do for your loved one after they have completed treatment is to ensure they engage in aftercare. Aftercare involves ongoing treatment services for individuals who have achieved their initial sobriety. Such programs help them maintain their commitment to recovery.
As mentioned previously, addiction is a relapsing disorder. Research has shown that 40-80% of patients who receive treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD) have at least one “lapse” (at least one drink) within the first year following the completion of treatment. Similarly, full relapse rates for individuals with SUD are between 40 and 60%.
However, when individuals utilize aftercare following treatment, relapse rates are significantly lower than those who don’t participate in aftercare. Ultimately, aftercare services work to support individuals throughout their recovery. They do so by preventing relapse and helping them meet milestones in their healing journey.
Examples of Aftercare in Addiction Recovery
There are a plethora of aftercare programs and services available for those in long-term recovery. Here are just a few examples:
- 12-Step groups
- Continued therapy and/or counseling
- Group therapy
- Becoming or gaining a mentor/sponsor
- Alumni programs
- Sober living homes
How to Support Your Loved One’s Recovery
In addition to encouraging your loved one to participate in continuing treatment opportunities, such as aftercare programs, there are other things you can do to support their recovery journey. Consider the following:
1. Facilitate open and honest discussions.
Creating a safe space where your loved one can practice honesty can do wonders for their recovery and your peace. When your loved one was using, they were likely isolating themselves. Social support is an incredibly important component of their long-term sobriety. Encourage your loved one to open up about their struggles and avoid placing blame or judgment so they know they have a solid support system.
2. Attend sober events together.
Another thing you can do for your loved one is to attend sober community events alongside them. Alternatively, you can attend social events and be your loved one’s sober companion. Encourage your loved one to get out and socialize even during difficult times in their recovery.
3. Become educated about mental health.
You can never know too much about mental health, especially when it comes to SUD. You can support your loved one’s long-term sobriety by educating yourself about the disease of addiction. This is especially important if you have not experienced addiction directly.
New Hope Ranch is a men’s only addiction treatment facility that knows how challenging it can be to have a loved one who is struggling with substance use. You have likely experienced the consequences of your loved one’s addiction and may not know how to best support or encourage their recovery. Our facility offers an alumni app so individuals can stay connected no matter where they are. To learn more, call (737) 600-8565.