Whether it’s a romantic partnership, a decade-long friendship, or a family member, having a close personal bond with a recovering alcoholic is often scary, overwhelming, and confusing. You want to be supportive and help them in every way you can, but how to go about this may not be so obvious. To compound this, alcoholism and its recovery process remain largely taboo subjects in society today. It’s no wonder we feel ill-equipped to be supportive when someone needs this kind of help. Let’s take a look at some of the common questions people have when a loved one is going through recovery. With a little guidance, you can become a compassionate and supportive ally to their recovery.
Is it okay if I drink when I’m with them?
This question is probably one of the most common and one of the most subjective. The short answer is: err on the safe side and don’t drink. If the person is new to recovery, staying sober in their company is extremely important. This may be inconvenient, challenging or even annoying – it can be a strange adjustment to forgo a glass of wine with your favourite meal. But remember that for someone in recovery, this is a matter of life and death. So just as you wouldn’t eat a peanut butter sandwich next to someone with a deadly allergy, avoid drinking around an alcoholic new to recovery. Similarly, if you share a home, rid the space of all alcoholic beverages to reduce the risk of relapse.
In some cases, it may be acceptable to drink in moderation in the company of someone in recovery; for example if someone has been sober for 10 years, this might not be an issue for them at all. When this is the case, communication is key: ask them what they need with regard to your drinking habits.
How do I prevent relapse?
In the early stages of recovery, relapse is common. If you suspect relapse is an immediate threat, speak to your loved one and encourage them to call their sponsor or counsellor, if they have one, or attend a meeting that supports recovery, like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous etc. It is important to remember that you’re not responsible for anyone else’s recovery and if relapse does happen, it’s not your fault.
Everything is about them, what about my needs?
When someone close to you is in recovery, you may feel like your needs are neglected or are taking a back seat. Being in a relationship – of whatever kind – with someone in recovery can be stressful and exhausting so it’s important to attend to your own needs as well. There is an invaluable resource for friends and family of recovering alcoholics: Al-Anon offers education and support groups for people in exactly your situation. Attending these meetings can be a great way to get the help you need and provide and seek empathy with others in similar situations.
When you’re supporting someone through recovery, you’re also on a journey, one that can be unpredictable and difficult. When you recognize this, you will gain strength and be better equipped to be supportive in a way that is also fulfilling for you.
If you need help at any stage of a loved one’s recovery from alcohol addiction, contact your Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) to connect with a counsellor who can support you through the process. Call 1.866.833.7690 or visit workhealthlife.com.