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No two people have the same experience with addiction. Biology, environment, and a person’s development factor into whether they are at risk for developing substance use disorder (SUD). When you have a loved one who is in alcohol addiction treatment, it is important you understand SUDs in a general sense and accept that your friend is going through a unique experience.

Understanding Alcohol Addiction

From ages 12 and up, there are 29.5 million people in the US who live with alcohol addiction. However, substance use at any age, especially when a child’s mind is developing, can be damaging to the brain.

Alcohol affects the brain by interfering with the interactions between neurons. This causes the immediate, familiar effects of slurred speech, impaired reflexes, or memory loss. Although when someone has SUD, they have been abusing substances for a long time, and that affects the brain more severely.

When the neurons in the brain cannot function and communicate between the receptors properly, the brain will try to regulate itself regardless. It will send neurotransmitters, or messages, at an increased or decreased rate, depending on the receptor. This creates emotional imbalances, a lack of judgment and self-control, and a variety of other side effects.

Early Recovery in Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Early recovery is a difficult phase, as stopping substance use may cause painful withdrawal symptoms. While early in drug or alcohol addiction treatment, it is important your loved one receives support. Some people do not complete treatment the first time around due to the cravings and difficulty of withdrawal in early recovery. To help them manage their substance use while early in treatment, working with therapists and peers, your friend learns,

  • Universality: A sense of understanding that they are not alone and that others have similar problems
  • Imparting information: Treatment team teaches group members about the nature of addiction
  • Altruism: Self-esteem gained by helping other group members
  • Socialization skills: The group provides constructive feedback for ineffective social habits
  • Self-understanding: Being in a safe environment to support learning to express themselves and talk about their disorder
  • Existential facts of life: Within the group, individuals come to understand hard truths, like life can be unfair for no reason

What Is My Role as a Support Person?

As a support person, the most important thing you can do is understand SUDs and be present as your friend needs you. Since every person’s addiction journey is different, how your friend needs you may be different than what you are used to in your friendship.

However, it is important to set clear boundaries. Since alcohol addiction is SUD, and SUDs are mental disorders, relapse is likely to occur. It is hard for someone with an affected brain to manage complete self-control. Establishing boundaries protects your friendship by making sure you do not go too far for each other. Boundaries can be you will not talk about substance use with them. A less strict boundary can be that you will not let them borrow money.

Whatever your boundaries are, it is helpful as a support person to set some between you and your friend who is newly in alcohol addiction treatment.

4 Tips for Supporting a Friend in Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Supporting a friend who is new to alcohol addiction treatment can feel unsubstantial. However, being there for your friend and helping however they need is the best you can do for them. Healing just takes time and understanding. Here are four tips to help you support your friend in treatment.

#1. Help Them Accept Their Disorder

Our ideology is, “Acceptance involves someone looking back at their past and understanding the mistakes that they have made, and also acknowledging that those mistakes are a part of their identity.” It can be hard to not only accept having a disorder but having to go through treatment can make a person feel shame due to stigma against mental health and treatment.

When someone cannot accept their disorder, they are at risk of relapsing. Helping your friend accept their disorder and their past substance use and actions can help them through recovery.

You can do this by listening and not judging. By learning about substance disorders and not holding judgment, disgust, or other severe feelings.

#2. Encouragement

You can be supportive by encouraging your friend to continue with their treatment. Being in alcohol addiction treatment is exhausting. It requires looking back at past experiences and actions and taking responsibility for them. Exploring trauma or what drove the person to their addiction in the first place and accepting it. That all requires a lot of mental energy, and some people find it hard to continue to do that work.

Encouraging your friend to continue with their treatment can be integral to stopping your friend from relapsing. Sometimes people just need a person to listen to them and encourage them through the hard parts.

#3. Help Plan for Triggers

Not every triggering situation can be avoided. When you are hanging out with your friend who is new to alcohol addiction treatment, you may run into conversations topic, people, or places that remind them of their substance use. This can cause idealistic memories of using substances, which can cause a person to seek them again. Helping your friend plan for triggering situations can be simple, like you two immediately leaving the area. Plans can also be more in-depth, engaging in a coping skill with your friend, like providing pressure on their back to help ground them in the moment and not their memories.

#4. Explore New Activities or Hobbies

Going through treatment, a person sometimes realizes that their old habits and friendships may have been unhealthy. Or their hobbies only included substances. By looking up activities to do in your town, creating outings, or going to new events with your friend, you can help them find new activities to distract them from thinking about substances.

Have you considered alcohol addiction treatment before, but something stopped you? At Lighthouse Recovery Texas, we want to make the process as easy and comprehensive as possible. With evidence-based treatment, our staff works to make sure you feel safe and supported to start your healing. We offer different levels of treatment, with different time constraints, to meet your needs as an adult living your life. With an initial assessment, you will be placed in the level of treatment that is right for you. Contact us at (214) 396-0259 to talk with our caring staff. We can help talk you through the programs so that you know what to expect on your first day through our doors.