September is Recovery Awareness Month which is an opportune time to remind ourselves of how to be allies to everyone in recovery, no matter what stage or type. Whether a person is in recovery from addiction, eating disorders, or other mental health conditions, it is important to be an ally for those in need of support and encouragement. We can start by listening to others and show empathy, not sympathy. Below are four ways to you can be supportive and impactful ally.
Listen & Be Present
One of the most meaningful ways to show empathic support is through the simple acts of listening and being present. Try validating the person and listening to what they have to say instead of problem solving or thinking of a creative way to respond. Also, although difficult for some multitaskers who check phones or other electronic devices while having conversations, if we eliminate the noise and fidgeting, the experience of a one-on-one conversation with an empathic and active listener can go a long way.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and celebrate successes. Many people in recovery are open about their journey and are willing to share their feelings and experiences. Recognizing a person’s dedication to meeting one’s recovery goals and commitment to meetings or therapy sessions can be very reinforcing. Doing this with a non-judgmental lens is important as we often do not know a person’s struggles or how their addiction, eating disorder or bout with depression impacted their life.
Ask how you can help support in the healing process. For some, it may be providing a ride to a meeting, or accompanying them to an appointment; no matter what the task, your interest in being an active source of support shows that you wholeheartedly care.
Speak up and build awareness in your community. This can be within your group of friends, in the workplace or even on a larger scale in your city or town. Recovery warriors are everywhere and educating the community as allies is a valuable tool to help others understand the stigma of mental health treatment and why it is so important to have access to quality programs and care.
We are allies; we are partners, friends, colleagues, spouses, parents, siblings, coworkers and neighbors and our mental health is part of our humanness. Now get out there and spread love as thick as peanut butter!