The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 2008 estimated that up to 60 percent of recovering addicts have a setback during their first year. While lapses weigh on the addict, they can also impact the loved ones who suffered during the addiction and actively assist in the recovery. Furthermore, a 2011 Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) report found that almost 57 percent of rehab admissions were previously in treatment, which shows that many recovering addicts require ongoing care or multiple rehab stints. For friends and family members, it can be difficult to watch the recovering addict experience ups and downs, failures, and restarts, but a steadfast commitment to supporting the recovery can make a big difference. Though the early stages of recovery can be tough, the 2008 NIDA study found that the relapse rate drops to a mere 14 percent after three years, and The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment in 2007 suggested even more recovery stability after reaching the five-year mark. While the journey might become easier with time, recovering addicts need the perseverance to overcome substance abuse, and loved ones trying to help need the very same trait.
Perseverance with Recovering Addicts
Perseverance brings to mind terms like dedication, determination, and endurance, and when applied to addiction, it involves a steady persistence in action and purpose to promote recovery. For loved ones, the need for perseverance can manifest in different ways according to the situation, which can range from promoting positive activities to addressing a relapse. In regard to relapse, loved ones can persevere in several potential ways including the following:
- Reject any argument that a lapse was a one-time setback that needs no response.
- Bring the recovery sponsor and/or rehab center into the loop if a relapse ensues.
- Implement continuous accountability and support immediately following lapses.
- Work with the recovering addict on identifying substance-using triggers and cues.
- Regularly develop and improve strategies to deal with cravings and lapses.
- Diligently watch for warning signs that the loved one might be at risk for relapse.
Setbacks and lapses can take an emotional toll on loved ones, but do not let such disheartening events shake the commitment to the addict’s recovery. Stress and tension levels might rise, but perseverance is needed to get the individual back on the right path.
While dealing with setbacks is crucial, a loved one’s support needs to be more than reactionary. Perseverance also applies to pushing positive activities that aid recovery. In terms of actively promoting the positive, friends and family can help in several possible ways including the following:
- Make sure the loved one finds a recovery sponsor and joins a local support group.
- Possibly join the loved one for the first few group meetings as a show of support.
- Encourage and participate in lifestyle improvements like exercise and healthier eating.
- Help the loved one find and pursue positive new interests, hobbies, and activities.
- Assist with basic life needs like writing resumes, job hunting, and overall organization.
- Pursue any possible way to be a positive influence in the recovering addict’s life.
Loved ones help by promoting positive, enduring disappointments and addressing setbacks no matter how often they might occur. However, perseverance also applies to making personal changes that might help the loved one in recovery.
Perseverance in Personal Change
When assisting someone in his or her recovery, loved ones can also help by making personal changes, which potentially include the following:
- Make a similar commitment, at least temporarily, to refrain from alcohol and drugs.
- Gain a better understanding of addiction by speaking with more stable recovering addicts.
- Refuse to engage in negative thoughts, assumptions, and chatter around the loved one.
- Deal with personal issues involving anger, stress, conflict, and criticizing other people.
- Learn to communicate with the addict without sounding judgmental or condescending.
- Change behaviors (e.g., making excuses for the addict) that helped enable the addiction.
- Adopt a more positive attitude and outlook that the recovering addict can emulate.
Occupational Therapy International in 2008 and the Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy in 2005 both published studies that emphasized the value of peer and community support in overcoming addiction. Likewise, support is more effective when it is consistent and reliable, and for this, loved ones often need to stretch the limits of their perseverance. When persevering becomes difficult, loved ones should solicit personal support from friends, family and professional resources including therapists and addiction counselors. Support groups like Al-Anon are also available that provide group support for the friends and families of addicts.