If you have someone who has finally accepted addiction treatment, you can play a big role if you know how to support a friend during recovery. Being there for that friend or loved one can have a huge impact on their morale, their commitment and the success of their treatment.
When you have a relationship with someone who is trying overcome their addiction, it can be difficult to understand how we can be of assistance. Family counseling includes information on what you should and shouldn’t do, but there doesn’t seem to be any quick reference guide to which we can refer.
The general rule is to understand the difference between offering help and enabling them to continue their addiction.
When framed in this manner, the choices become more clear: you should help only when it is directly contributing them to getting or staying in treatment. Here are some scenarios – see if you can identify which is providing help and which is enabling:
- Giving a ride to an AA meeting because your friend lost his license;
- Loaning your friend money so he can go on a weekend getaway cause he “needs some time to think”;
- Letting a friend stay at your place for the weekend because he wants to wait until Monday to check into rehab;
- Paying the impound fees for your friend’s car so that he can drive to AA meetings on his own;
In case you’re wondering, all but the first item on this list would be considered enabling. Anything you do to delay treatment or to provide a potential escape from being actively participating in daily treatment is enabling.
“You’re not doing them any favors by loaning an addict money for rent, clothes, or car payments just so that they can delay getting treatment. For an addict, the motivation to seek treatment comes only with they are faced with consequences they cannot bare.”
It may be tempting to want to loan them money because you think that preventing a serious hardship will only help support your friend’s recovery.
The truth can be much darker. Your friend might have been running this same game with family and other friends before he got to you. The longer friends provide a safety net, the longer your friend will be an addict.
True support takes shape in only a few forms:
- Morale support;
- Participation in recovery (i.e. driving them to meetings, being available for a phone call when the addict is in recovery)
- Researching continuing treatment options (i.e. Sober living facilities);
How does support differ from enabling? One aspect of support is a simple as paying attention, or participating in the recovery journey. This does nothing to shield someone from negative consequences. Instead, providing compliments, celebration or support as they meet milestones during recovery is a better way to show support.
Yet we often here from addicts in recovery that they would have sought treatment long ago if friends and family weren’t so gullible at accepting their fake promises. A family that tells their child, “son, your mom and have drawn the last line. We are done helping you in any way. No money, no place to stay, no food, no contact, unless you check yourself into rehab right now.”
Such a family is not terminating the relationship, but they have placed a condition upon it continuing. They have stated in no uncertain terms that they cannot force the addict into recovery, but if they fail to cooperate, they’re on their own.
This isn’t preaching, nagging or lecturing, it is setting a condition of the relationship. Friends need to take the same stand if they truly care about the individual.
A big problem is that some friends simply don’t have the foggiest idea of how to support a friend during recovery. There always seems to be one or two friends that keep giving handouts or a helping hand to an addict friend. They consider themselves to be more charitable or more compassionate than those friends who have already turned the addict away. Friends who continue to help would probably stop if they knew how dangerous this can be.
If you can provide help without enabling, we suggest that you do. Such opportunities exist usually only at two points during the addict’s journey: (1) early in an addictive problem, after the first crisis or two, before someone has established a history of twisting help into enabling, and (2) well into a recovery process, when it is clear that even without you the person is likely to continue to improve.
Other than these two instances, you’ll need to be very careful. Never, ever give an addict money. Paying for treatment or transportation (taxi) to/from treatment is ok. Help them choose continued treatment and recovery solutions, whether it’s I.O.P., Outpatient or sober living and of course, lend a sympathetic ear as they continue their recovery journey.