Recovery literacy is so important to help the whole family, but how many people have learned the language? Statistics show that 23 million Americans are in recovery from some form of substance use, but exactly how to achieve long term recovery success is still something of a mystery for family members who want to help. That's where recovery literacy comes in. Research shows that increasing the family members’ roles in addiction recovery can enhance treatment admission, retention, and outcomes. Recovery can restore relationships and help everyone heal. Here are five tips to get started.
1. Take Care Of Yourself
You cannot pour from an empty cup. Research shows that family members of individuals in recovery need to take care of themselves during their loved one’s process of recovery. Substance use of loved ones causes dysfunction that hurts every member of the family. When family members begin to take care of themselves, they restore their own well-being. The whole family can heal.
2. Stay Connected
Social support is an important part of the recovery process for individuals in recovery and for their families. Staying connected helps individuals cope with stress and maintain recovery. Family members can be supportive encouraging sober contacts. This allows for an open, honest, and non-judgmental relationship with the individual in recovery. Likewise, it encourages healthy coping techniques. The whole family is traveling the recovery journey and this holds true for everyone. Social support during the process is crucial.
3. Learn The 3 R's
Recovery is a new language. Family members may have to go back to school (figuratively) and become more educated about what recovery, treatment, addiction and brain science has discovered about what is happening to their loved one, and also the impact the disease has on the whole family. The three R's for family members are Reading about Substance Use Disorder, wRiting about it, and having your own Recovery program to restore feelings of hope, peace and serenity.
4. Restore Relationships
While Substance Use Disorder fractures families and causes many levels of discord and unhappiness, recovery can unite families and restore relationships. Trust has to be rebuilt over time, but with recovery, you can be a loving family again. Family members can be open and allow for expressiveness, cohesion, and agreement between the loved one and other family members. The dynamic will change for the better given time, but prepare for rough patches along the way. Recovery is a process that takes persistence and patience. Family cohesion is important for decreasing levels of stress and social isolation, which are common relapse triggers.
5. Improve Your Communication Skills
This may seem impossible at times, but research shows that learning to communicate effectively with your loved one is perceived as significantly helpful. Effective communication includes but is not limited to refraining from being critical, being honest, expressing love, helping behaviors, expressing concern, and expressing confidence in their ability to recover.
Don't Lose Hope
Most importantly, do not give up on your loved one. Instilling hope is a key component to deriving change. Life is not always linear and as supporters we need to be there for the individual at all points throughout their journey.
By Alexis May Charrys, M.S., M.A., LMHCA
Alexis Charrys is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor currently working with clients with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders at Centerstone. She is pursuing her doctorate in clinical psychology at the Florida School of Professional Psychology and is a board-certified assistant behavior analyst.