When someone is well on the road to long term recovery, it may seem that any substance-related problems are a thing of the past. There are things you can do as a family to support your loved one’s journey back to health and wellness. Fostering their strengths, talents and coping abilities will help them overcome any bumps along the way.
Tips to fostering long term recovery
A regular schedule of work, play, household responsibilities, as well as making time for recovery activities, helps them stay on track.
Have a conversation with your child to discuss what to do if their routine goes off course. Point this out in a caring, supportive way — without a confrontation. As a result, you can help move them back into a healthy direction. If your child isn’t living with you, check in once in a while and ask about how they are spending their time. This can help you better tell when “all is well” or when there may be a problem that needs attention.
Build a support system
Healthy relationships with family members and others who can support your child’s long term recovery are important. This helps them feel a sense of belonging and that they are valued. If there is a lasting resentment or bitterness between family members that can’t be resolved, consider involving a third party. A counselor, clergy or someone else the family trusts can help repair the relationship.
Having a strong group of friends is a mainstay of recovery. If your child’s peer group is not healthy, your child will benefit from new friendships. However, this is often easier said than done. Your child may be anxious in social situations, worried about letting others know they are in recovery (for fear of judgment), or simply have trouble making new friends. You may need to encourage or nudge them to explore new relationships. They can consider recreational and support groups, volunteering or hobbies.
If your child is on medications of any kind, it’s important that they keep doctor’s appointments and take medications as prescribed. These include medicines to address physical problems and mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, or medications for their substance use disorder. They may fall into the trap of thinking “I feel better, so I’m going to stop taking the medication,” but this can lead to the recurrence of symptoms.
Encourage your child to talk with their health care provider if they have questions about how often they go to appointments or how much medication they are taking. Similarly, it can be helpful for you to meet with your child and their provider. Ask how you can best support your child’s recovery.
As your child becomes more grounded in long term recovery they may feel comfortable pursuing larger goals. For instance, this can include a better job, more challenging classes, relocating to a new home or having a significant relationship. Feeling conflicted about this is not unusual. You want bigger and better things for your child but you still worry if they can handle the additional pressure. Being supportive despite your worries can be helpful, as well as not over-reacting if there’s a setback.
The road ahead
Recovery is often like a winding road. Your child may run into some potholes or detours along the way, as we all do in life, or may have a relapse. These obstacles are a natural, though not inevitable, part of the recovery process. It can help to think through how you can encourage your child to get back on track. What was learned from the situation that can help promote wellness? What lifestyle change, if any, could help? Is more formal treatment needed?
“The key thing that can make recovery a reality is remaining honest about how you are really doing and to talk about urges, instead of hiding or suppressing them.”
Person in long-term recovery
Above all, keep the lines of communication open, be supportive in a way that honors your child’s boundaries (e.g., not stifling and not distancing) and show love for your child. This can make a tremendous difference in their recovery journey, not only for them, but also for the family.