Alcoholism, like any disease, affects more than just the sufferer. Those close to alcoholics are also greatly impacted by the disease. It is natural and healthy to wonder how to best support an alcoholic in recovery because once one leaves treatment, continued reassurance from family and friends becomes vital to a favorable outcome.
Remaining sober is a lifelong process, and even when ample time has passed, the alcoholic will encounter roadblocks that threaten sobriety. Those close to an alcoholic must remember that although maintaining a sober lifestyle becomes less intimidating over time, it is never effortless. Recovering alcoholics have needs from their support network that go beyond verbal encouragement.
Expect Prolonged Hurdles
A prevalent mistake many make in their attempt to look after someone in recovery is believing that time spent in rehab is a cure-all. While entering a treatment program is a crucial first step in recovery, there is much more work to do upon departing rehab. In some respects, the months after leaving are more daunting than the time in treatment.
Once back out in the real world, navigating everyday life, alcoholics find themselves surrounded by triggers. Anything from passing a liquor store, to running into old drinking pals, can take a good day and throw it into a tailspin. Those hoping to provide support should respect that the alcoholic will battle triggers indefinitely and does not emerge from a treatment program magically cured of the urge to drink. Recognizing that battling alcohol abuse is a marathon and not a sprint is critical.
Maintain a Healthy Balance
Reassuring the alcoholic of ongoing support is essential, but there must be a balance. Loved ones cannot give so much of themselves that they feel as if they are losing their own identity. They should not go so far as to assume all of the alcoholic’s responsibilities. This includes household duties as well as financial obligations. Those in recovery do garner strength from those around them, but they should not be treated as if they are incompetent.
Recognizing possible codependency is mandatory for those who feel that their self-worth might be reliant on the relationship with the alcoholic. Nobody should lose their sense of self when providing care and compassion in any situation. Codependency is a learned behavior and can cause one to actually pave the way to a relapse. For this reason, it must be addressed if there is any sort of a codependent dynamic between an addict and a loved one.
Know Relapse Signs
It is not pessimistic to bone up on the signs of relapse because it can and does happen for some. Taking a drink is the final step of a slide back, and certain signs of an impending relapse are present before actual alcohol consumption takes place. One of the main signs involves the alcoholic failing to maintain the established treatment program and deeming it no longer necessary. Long after the drinking has ceased, physical withdrawal symptoms can rear their ugly head, and alcoholics will often drink in an effort to quell the physical afflictions.
In addition to knowing red flags, having an action plan in place, should a relapse occur, is imperative. Scrambling to formulate a plan after an unfortunate relapse is not ideal. Lack of preparation wastes valuable time. If bottom lines have been discussed, they must be followed for a higher likelihood of success for those who have suffered a slip. Developing a strategy should not be a secretive endeavor. The alcoholic can and should be part of the planning.
Those seeking information on how to support an alcoholic in recovery have already taken an admiral step by striving to educate themselves. If this is new territory, information is invaluable. Those with further questions can rely on our team of expert counselors who are on hand 24 hours per day at 800-737-0933.