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Learning to live again after addiction

Recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction is not a simple, short or straightforward process. Many people believe that the toughest part of recovery for an addict are the initial stages of abstinence where they may experience withdrawal symptoms that can result in severe emotional and physical turmoil. Of course this is a harrowing experience but the recovery process doesn't end after that part eases. There are many models of the stages of addiction recovery but all of them include early recovery and ongoing recovery/maintaining abstinence. Early recovery is generally categorized as the first 90 days of abstinence but once that time is up many recovering addicts may be left feeling lost. Yes, they are doing well but their life, their health and their relationships are all in need of some serious rebuilding. It is in the ongoing recovery stage that a former addict really starts to put the pieces of their life back together again which can be a very challenging and sometimes painful task – particularly when those around them may wrongly assume that the hard part is already over with. Here are some tips on how to support an addict in the later stages of their recovery.

Help build self esteem

Studies show clear links between low self esteem and drug dependency in later life. They also indicate that low self worth and a general lack of respect or consideration for one's own body and well being can be a major factor in relapse – even after the early stages of recovery. For this reason it is important to encourage a recovering addict (who's self esteem is probably at an all time low) to start to love and value themselves. Simple things like positive reinforcement, reassurance, compliments and displays of affection will help them to feel loved and if they start to believe that they are worthy of the love of others then it will enable them to love themselves too. Look out for any warning signs of low self esteem such as anxiety, withdrawal or irritability around others and constantly reassure them that your presence and support is permanent and unwavering.

Help them to get back into work

There are many benefits of helping a recovering addict to get back into work and the ongoing stages of recovery is the perfect time to start this. Not only is a set routine a positive move away from the inconsistency and chaos of an addicted lifestyle, but having a job with responsibilities and independence is another great way to boost self esteem, confidence and it will also keep them busy. On a more practical level it will enable to addict to start taking control of their finances again. One article by Forbes suggests that addiction and poverty are intrinsically linked due to the nature of addiction – a compulsion that constantly escalates meaning that the longer an addiction continues for the more of a substance the addict will need to feel satisfied. Therefore the cost will increase and in the meantime other areas of their life may begin to dilapidate leading to expensive mistakes such as job loss or criminal/legal charges. As they emerge from early recovery into ongoing recovery, a steady job will give a recovering addict the opportunity to start dealing with any creditors whilst building for the future. Certain employers are even taking part in a new scheme that offers incentives for employing recovering ex-addicts in order to give them the opportunity to move forward with their lives. Look into any such programmes in your area and encourage the addict to be confident and positive – their history will not affect their ability to be a good worker.

Be committed and considerate

Understand that if a recovering addict lives with you may have to make some lifestyle changes in order to help them through. If the addiction is related to alcohol then you should never present immediate temptation to an addict by drinking around them or even keeping alcohol in the house. Understand that recovery is a commitment that will affect the whole family and even though most addicts are reportedly unlikely to relapse after a five year period of abstinence, you need to remain cautious and considerate forever.

Help them by helping you

The most important thing to a recovering addict is a strong support network. If this is you then you need to take care of them by taking care of yourself. There are many support groups for the families of recovering addicts where you can go for advice and information on the best ways to handle such a difficult situation. Make sure that the addict is aware of you seeking help – this may make them more inclined to reach out themselves and become involved in support groups or aftercare programmes.