By Alanna Hilbink
When a friend or family member is battling addiction — and winning! — you want to do all you can to help and support them. Random acts of kindness can be a great way to show you care, help a loved one heal and just put a little more goodness in the world. And it has benefits for you too!
When you’re kind, you feel better. According to Greater Good Magazine, when we feel compassion or do compassionate things, our brains show “activity in regions responsible for monitoring one’s emotions, planning movements, and positive emotions such as happiness.”1 We become less stressed, less depressed and more focused when we reach out and help others.
And when you’re kind, you don’t just feel better on an emotional level. You may also live a longer and healthier life. “People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. … Volunteering is nearly as beneficial to our health as quitting smoking!” Psychology Today reports.2
OK, so you already knew you wanted to support someone’s recovery — and now you have even more reasons to do it. So how do you get started?
Start With Respect
Simply acknowledging who a person is outside of their addiction can be an act of kindness. Treat your recovering friend or family member with respect. Treat them like the wonderful human they are. You don’t have to constantly ask if they’re OK, point out their sobriety or make a big deal out of their choice not to drink. Ask them about other parts of their lives — their interests, hobbies and talents. Those are much better conversation topics anyway, and you’ll let them know you see them beyond their addiction.
Offer to Help
Respecting an individual doesn’t mean completely ignoring their recovery. If you haven’t done so already, make a quiet, sincere offer to help. Let them know this offer is open-ended and available anytime, and then let this offer rest. You can bring it up again later if you think they’re struggling with their recovery or having trouble reaching out.
Learn How You Can Help
When you offer to help, you can also ask how you can help. Ask your friend, family member or coworker what you can do. If you don’t want to put pressure on a loved one, you can ask other people in recovery or other people who know recovering individuals. Read articles and forums online, and consider going to a support group meeting. The more you know, the more you can be sure you’re doing the right thing for someone in recovery.
Give a Compliment
There’s nothing simpler or more appreciated than a genuine compliment. Let someone know you’re proud of them or that you see how hard they’re working. And of course, recognize their skills and talents beyond recovery. Point out the positive ways they affect your life that you might take for granted. Let them know if their hard work has taught or inspired you.
Give a Gift
You don’t have to spend a lot to give a meaningful gift. You can present a flower or card on a day when someone is struggling. You can offer a gift card for coffee (or better yet, take them out and enjoy one together). You can pick up a book you think they’d enjoy. A little something to say “thinking of you” lets people know they’re appreciated, loved and supported. It can highlight the rewards of staying sober and living your best life. And as with other random acts of kindness, it’s a fun and feel-good thing for you too.
Be Kind to Yourself
Believe it or not, taking care of yourself is an act of kindness. When you are healthy, happy and balanced, you are in the best position to offer support to those in recovery. Consider going to therapy or support group meetings for yourself. Practice self-care in whatever form it may take for you. Making time for yourself isn’t selfish. It lets you rest and refresh so you can continue spreading kindness with energy, enthusiasm and good cheer.
Find Professional Help
If you or someone in recovery needs help, reaching out to professionals is more than just kind — it can be life-saving. If you’re worried about a loved one in recovery or a friend or family member who’s struggling with addiction, don’t stay silent. Call us or reach out to a favorite doctor or therapist. Ask questions, find professional resources and take the right action.
1 Baraz, James, and Shoshana Alexander. “The Helper’s High.” Greater Good Magazine, February 1, 2010.
2 Carter, Christine. “What We Get When We Give.” Psychology Today, February 19, 2010.