When someone you love makes the decision to recover from substance or alcohol misuse, you can provide support to help them achieve success and celebrate their recovery. But sometimes it’s hard to know how to help. “It’s human nature that we need constant reinforcement, and there are many things you can do to help during recovery,” says Kelly Flynn, Chair of Oakland Community Health Network’s Oversight Policy Board.
Here, we share Kelly’s advice to help you support the ones you love.
Check in often
Know that your loved one will have good days and not-so-good days, so keep checking in. Offer whatever support they need to get through the next day, the next hour or even the next minute. Help them move forward in small increments of time. Put their needs into context — while everyone else is worried about the weather or politics, someone in recovery worries about staying sober until bedtime.
Create a substance-free environment
Some individuals in recovery are triggered by being around substances and alcohol — even empties in the recycling bin. “Loved ones may have to change their lives and have no alcohol in the home or not bring drugs around the person in recovery. Just the smell is a trigger for those who are addicted to marijuana, so be considerate about smoking and recognize you may smell like it. That education piece is huge for loved ones,” Kelly says.
Asking for help is an act of courage. Move forward with your loved one by recognizing their bravery today rather than reminding them of the decisions and mistakes that led them to this moment. “Nonjudgmental conversations are so important,” says Kelly. “You never know what that person is going through. Ask how you can support them now.”
Recognize the signs of a potential relapse
Listen carefully when your loved one reminisces about life while they were misusing a substance — it may be a sign they are moving in the wrong direction. If they are easily angered or annoyed, self-isolating or not attending recovery meetings, these may be warning signs of relapse. “Check in with how your loved one is acting and if they came home late or are repeating old behaviors,” she says.
Reflect on the positives of being in recovery
Show them you have confidence in their ability to recover by talking about all the positives. “Be in partnership to help end their addiction and help them recognize that they are capable of living a life where they can contribute to their family and their community,” Kelly says. “Tell them you look forward to being able to rely on them and that they will enjoy life without using drugs or alcohol. They’ll be able to give back.”
Celebrate even the small victories
Be a cheerleader for your loved one’s accomplishments, even if they are sober for just one day. “Remember and acknowledge anniversaries of sobriety. People don’t recognize what a victory it is to achieve those anniversaries. You want people around you who will celebrate those victories,” Kelly says.
Oakland Community Health Network (OCHN) leads a service provider network that assists approximately 21,000 Oakland County citizens who are living with an intellectual or developmental disability, mental health challenge or substance use disorder. OCHN’s goal is to ensure these individuals have access to services and supports that will improve their health and quality of life. The majority of these individuals have Medicaid insurance coverage. OCHN also manages a $300 million budget funded in part by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, General Fund, grants and Oakland County.
Visit OCHN at oaklandchn.org.