Helping A Friend Who’s A Recovering Addict

Jun 20, 2017 by

Living with or around a friend who’s a recovering addict can be a difficult experience. On the one hand, it’s wonderful to see a friend in recovery, and at times it can feel as if everything is back to normal. But on the other, there’s always a nagging sense of concern, like something might go wrong at any moment. But the priority, at the end of the day, is helping your friend to stay sober.

For the sake of full disclosure, I should mention that I, the writer, do not have medical or psychological authority in these matters. However, from research, some personal experience, and general interest, I’ve compiled some casual tips for people living in this kind of situation.

The first is to try to ignore that sense of concern I already mentioned. Now, let’s be clear: that doesn’t mean you should forget about it. You should always remain concerned for your friend’s wellbeing, and after all, that’s probably why you’re still reading! But allowing yourself to become preoccupied or weighed down by a nagging worry is palpable. Your friend is likely already on the lookout for things like this, and if you’re noticeably worried all the time you’re going to make things more stressful. In other words, act normal – be normal – but be vigilant as well.

The point isn’t to act like nothing is different, however, or to pretend the addiction doesn’t exist. It’s also important to take specific measures to support your friend and do your part to help. That might mean that you openly discuss his or her progress, or even talk about AA meetings after the fact. Don’t force the subject, but don’t run away from it either. If your friend wants to talk about progress, it’s probably a good sign that he or she is treating addiction in an open, honest, and realistic manner. That’s definitely something to support.

Speaking of support, it’s also your responsibility as a good friend to do your best to avoid putting temptations in front of an addict. That means, as one helpful list of ways to help someone stay sober put it, creating a substance-free environment. In other words, if your friend had a specific problem with, say, drugs, alcohol, or even something more conventional like cigarettes or hookah, you should do your best to keep these things out of the way when socializing. A lot of people who have overcome addiction will insist they don’t mind if you open a beer or do something else related to the addiction. But it’s still applying some unnecessary pressure, and it’s probably best avoided.

As you do your best to prevent relapses, you should also be on the lookout for new addictive behaviors, even if they’re not inherently unhealthy. For instance, some recovering addicts turn to fitness as a means of lowering stress and finding something to latch onto. This can be a good thing; long workouts can occupy time, consistency can be healthy, and a fitness routine can even lead to additional habits. There are some plant-based supplements that can assist with a health effort (though you should make sure they’re not addictive), and a better nutrition plan can also be healthy for a recovering addict. But if you notice your friend getting too interested in, say, less healthy supplements, or workouts so rigorous they can be unhealthy, you might have to intervene. Addiction is a personality trait, and this is just one example of how a recovering individual can get attached to a new habit or hobby.

Ultimately, however, the most important thing is to remain thoughtful and patient. We could keep going with specific initiatives and actions for quite some time. But the single best thing you can do for a recovering addict is to practice patience and understanding. Provided a healthy process and strong support system, the rest should take care of itself.

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