6 Simple Ways to Support Your Sober Friends

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The process of recovery empowers individuals with mental health and substance use disorders to manage their condition(s), improve their overall health and wellness, and live meaningful and fulfilling lives. For those in recovery, having the right support can often make all the difference. Here are 6 simple ways you can support your sober friends in their journey.

1. Practice patience.

Many people in recovery say that it is a lifelong process, and progress is rarely linear. There will likely be good and bad days (or even months), and your loved one might even fall back into negative or unhealthy behaviors. While this can be frustrating and even hurtful, it's important to be patient with them throughout their recovery journey. Your friend will truly appreciate knowing that you are there to support them as they work to get better.

2. Validate their experience.

Recovery is filled with ups and downs. The physical, mental, and emotional work of such a lifestyle change can take a toll, but the act of making progress and reaching milestones can also bring incredible joy. Whatever your friend is going through, it's important to validate that experience. Celebrate their victories, no matter how small, and support them through the more difficult times. Finally, remember that you don't have to agree with someone's feelings or choices to acknowledge that their experiences are valid.

3. Refrain from shaming or judging them.

Battling addiction or a mental health condition can be isolating, and people are often afraid to disclose their struggles due to societal stigma or personal shame. If your friend confides in you, don't reinforce their fears by shaming or judging them. Rather, listening and speaking from a place of support will encourage your loved one to communicate openly with you throughout their journey. Even if you don't fully understand what they're experiencing, show that you are willing to try.

4. Hold them accountable.

Supporting a loved one in recovery doesn't mean that they are absolved of personal responsibility. Have an honest conversation about their goals and expectations in recovery, including what steps they are planning to take and how you can support them in the process. Then, hold your friend accountable for maintaining their recovery (in a respectful manner). It can be helpful to learn the warning signs of a relapse and what you can do to help.

5. Speak positive affirmations.

As humans, we are often harsher on ourselves than we are anyone else, and this is often especially true for those battling addiction or mental health conditions. Speaking positive affirmations, such as "you are loved" and "you deserve to recover," can offer an external source of motivation and validate their recovery.

6. Be aware of their triggers.

No two people experience recovery in the same way; two people with the same diagnosis will likely have different challenges and support needs. Have an open and honest dialogue with your loved one about their triggers, including what does and does not help in the moment and in the long term. By understanding these triggers, you can help them navigate or avoid situations that could compromise their recovery.

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