Supporting those Achieving Recovery through Sober Living
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Addiction is one of the hardest things a person might go through in their life. It can also be challenging for friends and loved ones to watch the people they love struggle with addiction. No one’s journey is the same when it comes to recovery, and that is why building a support system can be incredibly beneficial to achieving and maintaining sobriety.
Recovery is a unique learning process for those who are sober and for those who are supporting their loved one’s sobriety. “Go where you feel supported,” says Shane Kuhlman, Chief Psychology Officer at Centerstone. “Advocate for yourself and limit your contact or get away from people who don’t support you in your recovery.” Boundaries are essential for sober living—you can’t assume that everyone is aware or supportive of your sobriety so you need to make your needs known to those who want to be there for you and to disconnect from those who are unsupportive of your recovery.
Although, sometimes those in recovery are placed in vulnerable positions by being in the presence of alcohol or substances. As someone who is supporting them, it is helpful to try and find alternative activities that do not involve alcohol or substances. A few examples would be, walking in the park, exploring a new area, watching a really great movie and talking about it afterwards, or trying to pick up a hobby or two that you find joy in.
Sober living can take time, in fact, forming new healthy habits generally takes at least three to six months. Here are some ways you can offer support to someone in recovery:
- Think outside of the box. If you know someone might be struggling to stay sober, try to avoid taking them anywhere where alcohol or drugs are a temptation. Think of creative and fun ways to spend time with those you love that don’t involve anyone drinking. There are many activities and hobbies that can be just as fulfilling that do not involve alcohol. Try something creative like cooking dinner, game nights, or going out to see pretty lights around the holidays.
- Offer support. The choice to be sober might be challenging for some. Try to avoid any language that might shame someone in recovery for being sober. Use your words to uplift them and be someone they can talk to throughout the process. Support can be found through sponsors, family, friends, or someone who has also experienced recovery. Those who are in recovery should feel listened to and supported by their chosen support system.
- Respect boundaries. Alcohol or substances can be tempting to those who are trying to maintain a sober lifestyle. If someone in recovery has made their needs clear to you, try to be very mindful. Try to avoid offering alcohol of any kind or drinking alcohol in front of someone who is in recovery. “In the early stages of recovery, people tend to think of themselves as selfish,” says Kuhlman, “It’s truly a selfless act to focus on getting better so you can be there for other people in the future.”
- Supporter boundaries. Set your own boundaries as a supporter in recovery. Establish your role in recovery early. For example, you may be willing to remove alcohol from the house and listen to the person when they are struggling and you are available. However, you may not be willing to take a “sponsor” role (i.e., be for them every hour of every day when called upon).
Throughout this journey, the most important part to remember is that no one is alone, and having support is truly what helps people move forward.