When someone is in the early stages of their recovery process, friends and family members play a significant role in their success. At first, having a newly sober person around can be confusing and sensitive for everyone outside the treatment center walls.
Wondering what to say or do in the presence of a newly sober person may be stressful because of the stigma of substance abuse. But, people in recovery need positivity and affirmation from their friends and family. Avoid judging them or putting any unnecessary pressure on them. Also, try not to hover over them or “helicopter” their sobriety.
Although you likely mean well, you may not understand how recovery works. Helping someone stay sober requires sensitivity, patience, and honesty. Here’s some important information on talking to a newly sober person:
Understand the Recovery Process
Overcoming the disease of addiction is a complex and ongoing process. When a person is in active addiction, all aspects of their lives change. Now, in recovery, they must rebuild and repair.
Recovery has no specified end date. It’s a state of being in recovery, not being recovered. Staying sober involves many challenges that seem impossible to overcome, such as relationship issues, financial problems, cravings, and mental health issues.
The newly sober person in your life will likely spend time mending relationships and fostering new friendships with other sober individuals. Rebuilding a new, sober lifestyle takes courage and determination. These actions are all part of a process that restarts each day.
While in recovery, your loved one must focus on what is best for them to establish a productive, substance-free lifestyle. Sometimes, that means breaking ties and saying goodbye to toxic friends. This can seem like a betrayal, but it is vital for sobriety. True friends learn about the recovery process and find ways to support a newly sober friend.
Why can’t your loved one hang out with the same people? A triggering person or environment may put them in an unsafe headspace or bring on intense cravings. Friends and family must understand the risks of pressuring a newly sober person to attend events involving alcohol or drugs.
You want your friend to trust you enough to open up about their thoughts and struggles. Ask your friend if they feel comfortable going to the event in question. When you understand what your friend is going through, you can talk to them with more patience and composure.
Vocalize Your Concerns or Praises
Communication in addiction recovery is vital. A newly sober individual gains effective communication skills in recovery and should not hesitate to express their feelings. They need to let family members and friends know what they are and aren’t comfortable with.
It’s also helpful if you voice your concerns, and you should always try to do so in a calm, mild way. If you want to tell your loved one you’re proud of their sobriety, do that! Try never to condescend, but instead say things like, “I can’t imagine how hard it’s been to stay sober. I am so proud of you.”
Without effective communication skills in recovery, no one knows what to expect, and miscommunications can have serious consequences. For example, maybe your loved one in recovery misjudges something you say or do. This could jeopardize the hard-earned trust you’ve worked to build.
Communication also requires honesty with oneself and others. It means using positive language rather than demands or threats. Show empathy for your loved one in recovery and be a good listener. These behaviors show you care and don’t judge.
In addiction recovery, communication can help you build sound relationships with your newly sober loved ones. These relationships will help them maintain a happy, healthy recovery.
Be Sensitive and Compassionate
Substance use disorders involve more than a physical addiction to drugs or alcohol. Most recovering addicts also struggle with mental health issues or emotional problems; a lack of confidence and low self-esteem can often lead to substance use disorder.
After rehab, your loved one must learn (or re-learn) how to manage their emotional issues without addictive substances. Sober friends and family can have a significant impact on this process.
Showing sensitivity, patience, and compassion to the newly sober person in your life won’t always be easy, but it’s important. Here are some suggestions:
Socialize Without Drugs or Alcohol
If you plan to take your newly sober friend out on the town, forget about the “good old days” when having fun meant getting high or going places where people are drinking. Acknowledge the risks involved and find a new venue for dancing, dining, or other activity that doesn’t promote drugs or alcohol.
Be Aware of Potential Triggers
As we learn in family therapy, temptations are around every corner, and sober people often have to work hard to avoid triggers—even at home. As a friend, you can do several things to help.
Talk to your loved ones openly and honestly about their triggers, then help them avoid those people, places, and things linked to their substance use. Most support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon, recommend this approach.
Be aware of these common triggers and help your friend avoid them:
- People (triggers) refer to friends, family, a boss, or others who encouraged drugs or alcohol use, whether directly or indirectly. For example, if your friend was abused by someone they knew and trusted, they need to stay clear of those people during recovery.
- Places (triggers) refer to clubs, bars, bowling alleys, restaurants, or other places associated with drinking and drug use.
- Things (triggers) might be any objects that remind your friend of their time in active addiction.
Of course, you can’t prevent every trigger, but you can certainly help.
Avoid Hovering Over Your Friend
Your friend or family member will appreciate your concern and support. However, you must be careful not to make your newly sober loved one feel smothered. Just be there, show support, and offer space when necessary.
Treatment for Addiction at Indiana Center for Recovery
Do you have a friend who needs addiction treatment? Or, are you struggling to control your own drug or alcohol use? If so, contact Indiana Center for Recovery today. We offer a multi-faceted treatment approach that can adapt to your specific needs.