Being an ally to someone in recovery is not always an easy task. Those who are not an addict themselves may struggle to truly grasp the realities of addiction and have trouble navigating their relationship with an addict. When it comes to being an ally, these guidelines are a good place to start.
- Do not enable an addict. While it may seem easy to make excuses for their behavior sometimes, you have to keep their best interest in mind. It may be difficult to tell it like it is and not allow behaviors to continue, but in the end you will thank yourself for taking action. You won’t regret taking action, but you’ll likely regret not taking it.
- Educate yourself. No one, especially an addict, will listen to you if you don’t know what you are talking about. The internet has an endless amount of information about addiction – utilize it. Learn what you can, read articles, and have a full understanding of addiction before trying to confront an addict or try to make them see the reality of the situation.
- Express concern as soon as you think there may be an issue. Waiting until someone hits rock bottom will not do them or you any good. If you think someone may have a substance abuse problem, speak out and confront them – but not while they are using. That could be a dangerous situation and you want to avoid that if possible.
- Take the time to listen. While an addict’s reasoning and justification may not make sense, it’s important for them to feel validated, and it makes them more likely to listen to you in return. Never underestimate the value of taking the time to sit down and listen to someone express themselves. Learning about how they view a situation could benefit you when determining how to address it.
- Never blame yourself. It’s easy to think you could have done more or contributed to a different outcome, but in the end an addict’s actions are theirs and theirs alone. Blaming yourself will only result in negative feelings and frustration. Instead of blaming yourself, look at the situation in front of you and ask yourself what you can do now to make a difference.
- Don’t expect an addict to change immediately. Recovery is a lifelong process, and a large percentage of addicts do relapse. Just because someone relapses doesn’t mean they don’t want to change or weren’t trying hard enough. Sometimes relapse is part of the process of recovery for addicts, and they need understanding rather than someone giving up on them. Be ready to take on the ups and the downs of recovery.
- Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Sometimes caring about an addict may seem like a full-time responsibility. But you can’t care for, or about, someone else very well if you don’t care for yourself first. You need to be well-cared for if you expect to be able to be supportive for another person. That being said, recognize when you need a break or need space, and take actions to achieve that. You’ll come back to the situation with fresh perspective and you’ll thank yourself for taking the time to regroup.
Written by: Beth Leipholtz