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How to love someone in recovery

It takes hard work to maintain relationships through life’s ups and downs no matter what the relationship is—friends, family, or romantic partner. This is especially true for people who want to support a loved one through the recovery journey.

The first step to loving someone in recovery is to learn more about what that person is going through. Community groups such as Al-Anon, Celebrate Recovery, and Parents Anonymous. Rosecrance offers a family program as well as virtual support groups and information about behavioral health and recovery. By seeking information and building a support network, family and friends discover they are not alone in their efforts to relate to their loved ones.

“When you seek information, you will realize that addiction is a disease that people didn’t ask for, but it leaves a mess to clean up," said Rosecrance Jackson Centers Vice President of Clinical Services Brenda Iliff. "Understanding that part is transformational in that it opens you up to the fact that you’re not alone as a supporter.”

In addition, it’s important to be there as an advocate for the loved one. Early in recovery, find ways to help them transition to a new life. This might mean removing alcohol or other substances from the house or altering routines to remove potential temptations that could threaten the loved one’s recovery. Words of affirmation are always valued, especially to someone in recovery. Be on the lookout for ways you can brighten their day with genuine compliments and encouragement. You also can help by finding support groups that could be a resource to the loved one.

Over time, these steps will help your loved one build up strength and positive habits they need to succeed in their journey. Hard work can renew lost trust and the person in recovery may discover, perhaps for the first time, who they truly are. This will transform all their relationships, including yours.

“The rules of addiction are ‘don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel,’ and recovery is the total opposite,” said Brenda Iliff. “The reward can be amazing when people are working healthily together again."