How Can We Be First Responders for Those in Recovery?

How Can We Be First Responders for Those in Recovery?

Published on July 10, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

Helping a loved one who is a first responder recover from alcohol and/or substance use results in many unexpected responses. While everyone wants the best for their loved ones, the strain of addiction impacts far more people than the individual experiencing it. The repercussions of addictive behavior typically extend to the person’s family, immediate social circle, colleagues at work, and beyond.

The role that friends and family take on when a loved one struggles with addiction closely resembles the jobs of first responders. The feeling of being “on-call” for a person who has the potential to go into crisis at any moment is not unlike a first responder anticipating a radio alert or fire alarm. Constantly remaining open to the prospect of intervening for your loved one requires both empathy and vigilance — the same characteristics that first responders use to do their jobs well.

Helping a loved one who actually is a first responder and struggles with alcohol and/or substance use leaves both parties with many questions and without a clear-cut path forward, especially when that person is used to being the one who helps others. Growth and healing will require understanding and openness for both parties, as everyone learns how to approach recovery together.

Admitting That Your Loved One Has an Addiction

Just like an individual dealing with addiction is prone to denying their unhealthy relationship with alcohol and/or substances, admitting that someone you love is dealing with addiction is rife with complications. For starters, the stigma surrounding addiction causes many addicts who are first responders to harbor extreme guilt or denial — often leading them to try to hide the signs of their addiction.

Codependency within family and personal relationships can make it difficult at times to know whether a loved one is communicating openly and honestly. Even if a person is a hero at work, they can still be an addict. Always remember that advocating for truth within a relationship shows how much you care.

People struggling with alcohol and/or substance use can be prone to unexpected mood swings, frequently lashing out at those who are closest to them. First responders encounter events and situations that many of us can’t even imagine. But if you notice your loved one drinking or using alone in excess, talking about their desire to drink or use when unprompted, or being unable to enjoy themselves when sober, you may want to consider having a conversation with them.

Talking to Your Loved One About Addiction

Speaking with your loved one when you suspect they may have a problem with alcohol and/or substance use can be met with resistance — especially if they are still performing heroic acts at work. Still, this first step is crucial. And much like a first responder who arrives to provide assistance, this intervention can be life-saving.

Generally, the most productive conversations come from a place of truth, allowing friends and family to share how their loved one’s addiction is affecting them. There are many different strategies for having healthy conversations about addiction, but truth, vulnerability, and simplicity are common themes for all of them. By connecting with your compassion and love for the person struggling with addiction, we can appeal to their empathy — and hopefully lead them to understand the need for help.

Encouraging Change While Showing How Much You Care

Although addiction is a self-consuming condition in many ways, the key to changing the perspective of an addicted person lies in revealing to them how it feels on the other side of their behavior. Sharing your perspective can encourage the other person to choose a path of recovery by reinforcing the need for change.

Researching the effects of addiction goes a long way to understanding how to offer the best possible assistance. Taking action to encourage recovery also goes a long way to strengthen the relationship with your loved one who is battling addiction. In many cases, a first responder who is battling addiction will try their best to hide it from their partners at work. They may not want anyone else to know, making your support even more valuable. Embarking on a commitment to sober living with someone in your corner almost always leads to growth in understanding and comradery.

Staying Emotionally Available

Once someone understands the need for change in their relationship with alcohol and/or substance use, they embark down a perilous path — but they don’t have to go it alone. If you know someone who is making this change in their life, help them research and find an appropriate treatment facility. Let them know that you are here to help in any way you can.

The responsibility for overcoming addiction ultimately falls on the person in recovery. While it is natural to want to help our loved ones, it’s also important to set independent boundaries. After all, one person can only do so much. Our loved ones deserve the best care and assistance we can find — it just so happens that the best way to provide it is usually through encouraging them to seek help from trained experts. It’s time for them to stop focusing on helping others, and do the work to help themselves.

For friends and family of those in recovery, the emotional and physical support roles they often fill resemble those of first responders. True Recovery’s First Responders Treatment Program is dedicated to meeting the needs of America’s first responders who are fighting addiction. Law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, emergency room personnel, and other first responders put themselves on the front lines every day. Dealing with stress and trauma is a part of the job, which can impact your mental health and well-being in a myriad of ways. It’s your turn to be rescued — let us show you how to live a happy, healthy, substance-free life. To learn more, please call our admissions staff 24/7 at (888) 743-0490.