Watching someone you love suffer from a substance abuse disorder is one of the most difficult things to live through. Not only is there an enormous amount of suffering, but your loved one is risking death to continue their use. When the miraculous happens and your loved one is finally sober, you naturally want to help them maintain their sobriety in any way humanly possible. Here are 6 ways you can encourage a sober loved one to stay sober for good (one day at a time).
1. Keep alcohol and drugs out of the environment
If you’re not an alcoholic, it’s likely that you sometimes bring alcohol home with you. It may be time to change that habit, at least when your sober loved one is around. If your friend, partner, or loved one is sober now, it’s time to put away those bottles and any substance that might trigger them to use. By providing a substance-free environment, you are helping to keep them out of harm’s way.
2. Exercise patience
The person you care about is going to have ups and downs, good days and bad days, and sometimes they might feel angry or alone. It can be tough listening to a friend who’s going through something like recovery. Realize that as someone who cares about them, they will need your patience as much as your guidance. Sometimes they just need a gentle, patient ear to let them know that they have support.
3. Recommend support groups
Is your loved one in counseling or attending a support group? It could be that there was more to their addiction than just the substance abuse. There might be underlying causes that they used substances to mask. If so, support groups can be a very healing entity in their lives. Maybe they haven’t even considered going to a support group. Just my mentioning this to them, you may open up another avenue of healing. You might also recommend techniques like mindfulness for relapse prevention.
4. Try not to judge
People who have rough pasts might share things that make you uncomfortable. While it’s okay to be uncomfortable, and even natural depending on what’s being shared, you should never unleash your judgment on the person you care about. Listen attentively, show support, but keep harsh judgments to yourself. Always keep their confidence as well. Don’t spread anything they tell you to others! This could completely block off all communication with them in the future, and you’re trying to help them stay sober.
5. Suggest a new hobby
When someone does away with a bad habit, they almost always benefit from adding a new good habit in its place. Just like giving up a favorite hobby leaves an empty slot in your schedule, giving up drugs and/or alcohol may leave a certain emptiness inside your loved one. They need to replace that activity with another more healthy one. If your loved one is able, you might recommend going for a daily run together or picking up a new card game on a certain day of the week.
6. Ask good questions
When you’re discussing their concerns, make sure that you keep your questions focused on the topic at hand. The questions you ask should give your loved one the opportunity to expound further on what they’re feeling and going through.
Helping someone you love stay sober is an uphill battle sometimes, but the rewards of seeing them grow in recovery are well worth the time it takes to listen, advise, and share. Right after treatment can be the most difficult time to stay sober, so your friend will need you the most directly after they get out of rehab. If your friend didn’t go to rehab, then they may need to pursue AA meetings or similar programs to keep sober. Don’t be afraid to make suggestions, but take some time to applaud their progress along the way