How To Help A Loved One Recover From Addiction

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September is National Recovery Month, and Parkridge Valley Licensed Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor Tony Neuhoff offers strategies for family and friends of those who are reclaiming their lives from alcohol or drug addiction. 

The path of recovery does not end once a person has decided to seek help, or even once a person has left a formal drug or alcohol rehabilitation program. “For the addicted person, recovery is a process that requires a plan to maintain a healthy lifestyle and actively avoid falling back into old behaviors,” Mr. Neuhoff notes. “If friends and family members are going to be a part of the recovery process for an individual, everyone needs to work together to develop a written ‘recovery contract’ with realistic, achievable goals as well as consequences for not meeting those goals.”

Mr. Neuhoff emphasizes the need for accountability in recovery:  “It is vital for those involved with their loved ones’ recovery to be consistent, and follow through with consequences if expectations for behavior are not met. This stabilizes the situation and allows for the rebuilding of respect and trust.”

When helping a loved one or friend through the recovery process, Mr. Neuhoff recommends avoiding nagging or criticizing. “A large part of addiction has to do with low self-esteem, and reminding someone of the ways in which you feel they are falling short is neither helpful nor productive as it only makes them feel worse.”

It’s also important to avoid ‘hovering’ over the recovering person. “It’s uncomfortable for anyone to feel like they are being watched constantly and interrogated about their every move. You can keep an eye on your loved one without smothering them. In this case, a little space is very helpful,” advises Mr. Neuhoff. 

“Most importantly, don’t enable your loved one,” says Mr. Neuhoff. “Don’t take over their responsibilities or cover for them if they make poor decisions. You might think you’re helping, but really, these types of behaviors are part of a negative cycle that does not help the addict at all.”

During recovery, family and friends need to remember to take time to care for themselves by seeking support as needed. “There are a number of good counselors and support groups such as Al-Anon, and it’s a good idea to set a positive example of self-care for the loved one in recovery,” says Mr. Neuhoff.

While relapses can and do happen, it’s important to remember that treatment can work and recovery is possible. “Above all, remember that recovery is not something you can do for someone else, it is something they must do for themselves.” 

For more information about the addiction rehabilitation programs at the Parkridge Valley campuses, call 499-2300 or visit

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