In the past few years, we’ve seen a huge uptick in the trend of less drinking. And a lot of the former stigmas surrounding alcohol are a thing of the past. There is less pressure to drink at social events or outings due to recent information about the health issues associated with alcohol abuse. Many people have chosen sobriety due to alcohol addiction or abuse, or just as a preventative safety method to avoid mixing drinking and driving or set an example for their children. There are many new non-alcoholic beers or hop-style waters offering the taste without the booze. So, how do you support a friend, family member, or spouse who decides to classify their addiction and make a change — especially when you don’t?
Meredith Belger, Director of Operations for Recovery Rx, provides suggestions on how to do just that. As a wife to a recovering alcoholic (who is the founder of their organization) and an advocate for addicts herself, you could say she’s an expert on what to do and what not to do when supporting someone in this situation.
Give Them Space & Time
Recovery requires time. Time for self, as well as being of service to others. If it’s going to work for the person in your life, you have to allow them the space and time they need for reflection, counseling, attending meetings, and talking with others in recovery. You aren’t entitled to know what these conversations include, and you have to be okay with that. Sobriety is often anonymous, which means if you aren’t the one in the program, you don’t get to know the details about what goes on in meetings, or in the late-night phone calls or texts between your person and someone they’re helping find their way.
Once your loved one has decided to make the leap to become sober, it’s important to first sit down with them and establish some ground rules, if you will. Do they mind if you have a drink in front of them? What are their triggers that you can avoid? For instance, for my husband, who has been sober since Mother’s Day 2022, I learned quickly that concerts are an issue for him. But he told me he didn’t want me to stop drinking or make big behavioral shifts because he said it wasn’t about me, it was about him and his relationship with alcohol. At the beginning of his journey, he certainly didn’t jump on the opportunity to watch sports at a bar, but the reality is that opportunities to drink exist everywhere. So in some ways, it’s important to go about your life as normal, like attending social functions, etc., and establish the parameters of your new relationship with alcohol, whether that means less consumption or abstinence.
The main thing my husband told me when he began his sober journey was…
Don’t Make It Weird
After you’ve established the preset boundaries that work for you both, it’s important to note you don’t need to revisit and reask the same questions over and over again to your spouse, friend, or loved one. If they mentioned they don’t mind you having a drink if you both go out to dinner together or at home with a meal, then it’s still fine and there’s no need to belabor the point and ask each time.
And don’t forget that you often know them the best, and if you think something will be a slippery slope, then you’re probably right. Go with your gut!
In addition to trusting the relationship foundation you already have in place, a great rule of thumb is to talk less and listen more. As women, we often tend to want to fix situations, but it’s important to understand that they may just need to talk through their feelings and struggles, and there may not be a clear solution or fix. And that’s okay. Recovery is a long, healing process in which one often needs both time and space (mentioned above) to get in their own head and deal with their own demons.
You may have noticed Recovery Rx’s motto in the first photo, which is “My Scars are my Armor.” What this means is that your past, even and especially your addiction, is always a part of you and actually helps prepare you for the battle we call life.
Be Their Safe Place
When you are listening, and it’s time to respond, remember to come from a place of support and non-judgment. But it’s also important to gently encourage them to do the things you know are best for them, depending on the individual. That could be as simple as getting a workout in, making it to church, and having healthy food or their favorite non-alcoholic beverage choices on hand. Put them in a position to be successful.
Also know that however you can support their sobriety, it will save your marriage (or relationship). If you’re both in a situation and they need to jet, you need to be willing to leave. Remember to look at the bigger picture, even if it means bailing on friends at dinner or having to sell concert tickets.
Take Care of You, Too
One thing I learned from Meredith that I did not know is that there are even support groups for spouses of recovering addicts. She said they helped get her through some of the hardest times in her life.
“These groups helped me realize that I was not alone, that other spouses were struggling to support their recovering addicts too. But most importantly I learned that I can’t fix him,” she shared.
More About Recovery Rx
Recovery Rx was founded to help others in their most desperate hour when they are finally open to change. They are a local non-profit (501c3) dedicated to bringing health, fitness, and community to men and women in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction; while also raising funds to help pay for treatment, sober living, gym memberships, or any other financial hurdle that might be in the way as someone embarks on their sober journey. If you or a loved one has reached the point of wanting to live a life of sobriety or is sober-curious, and is looking for this type of support, please reach out to them. They are happy to help you find community with other supportive people or to help shoulder the initial unfortunate financial burden that tends to come along with the first stages of sobriety.
Chad and Meredith have helped numerous addicts at various stages of new-found sobriety, walking them through the steps and even helping them pay fees for recovery. They have been able to witness families reuniting, the homeless becoming gainfully employed, babies being born, new careers, and so many second chances. If you’d like to donate to their mission, you can do so here. You can also support them by attending an event and purchasing their awesome swag, which is helping to spread the word in our tight-knit Jacksonville community!