One of the great damages that drug addiction has on families is the sense of helplessness that is imparted on a recovering person’s support circle. When affection feels like smothering and helping feels like enabling, how do you effectively support your spouse, sibling, cousin, or friend?
The answer is that, in order to be truly supporting, you’ll need to learn to take on a passive role. You can’t directly solve their problems, but you can be the person who has never let them down. As you learn how to truly listen, empathize, and assist, you may even come to see the ways that the world has failed to support this person in the past.
Supporting Your Loved One Through Recovery
One of the first things you need to recognize is that this recovery process belongs to the loved one in question. You have suffered great pain as their family member, and you’re also likely to go through personal growth watching them recover. However, you should recognize that a struggling person can’t help you process these emotions; in fact, they need you to help them through the same journey. Now is the time to truly give on an emotional level in order to help them become the stable and supportive adult that you know they can be.
Maintaining this sense of perspective will help you avoid classic smothering and enabling behaviors. When we step away from our own emotional attachments to a situation, it’s much easier to see the form of help that someone actually needs. Your support will look different based on your relationship with the person in question, but you should generally be looking to assist in ways that are materially or emotionally impactful. Some of the most common types of recovery support include:
- Phone calls and letters: Whether they’re in a rehabilitation center or simply live under a different roof, don’t let your loved one feel alone or abandoned during this process. Daily phone calls and regular written or digital communications will do a lot to break the depression that comes with a feeling of isolation.
- Counseling sessions: Your presence at counseling sessions can help your loved one feel more comfortable opening up; it will also give you a chance to see if the therapy process is treating them kindly. If you’re comfortable with it, attend more sessions to help them work through some of the familial relationship issues that often turn into self-damaging habits.
- Financial support: If you have the ability and desire to pay for medical bills and therapy expenses, you may be a massive help to your recovering family member. Remember to set reasonable boundaries that you know you and your family can handle.
- Pet care: Where does a recovering person’s dog live while they’re going through the therapy process? No one should have to abandon their pet in order to get better. Whether you look after the animal yourself or find a caring temporary home, your loved one will thank you forever for maintaining the bond with their best friend.
Learning to Listen
Paying real attention to a struggling person is one of the best things you can do for their mental and emotional health. So many people who go through difficult times complain that they feel alone, isolated, and uncared for, even when they are surrounded by loving family and friends. You can break this dynamic by learning to actively listen and empathize with your loved one, no matter what they may be going through at this time.
Active listening is a skill that needs to be practiced. It’s not enough to spend time with the person you’re trying to help; you also have to give them room to talk and encourage them to work through their problems. As they talk, try to legitimately understand what they’re going through and why they feel how they do. Nothing makes you feel more alone than thinking that the people close to you could never see the world through your eyes.
When It’s Time to Help Again
Enabling is often defined as providing monetary support that allows for substance abuse. Many people want to help their loved ones but do not want to encourage addictive behavior. Just as you must take the emotional back seat to avoid smothering, you can also avoid enabling by accepting that you can’t pay to resolve their problems. Instead, you can be there emotionally to ensure that their positive efforts are met with encouragement and support.
It’s normal and often necessary to pull back monetary support when addictive behavior gets worse. However, you should also recognize the positive impact that well-timed financial assistance can have on someone who is struggling. In general, you should be willing to offer your help again when the situation represents a good-faith attempt to rebuild a healthy lifestyle.
Recovery can be a lifetime process. The problems that send people in the direction of substance abuse are legitimate, and the addictive behavior may not stop until the person feels like those problems are resolved. Have patience, and maintain an open heart. Your loved one needs to feel supported in making lifestyle changes that will actively improve their mental health.
From advice to counseling to therapy, we’re here to help you and your family. Call us now at 844-639-8371 to learn more about the recovery process.