Reaching out to a Loved One in Recovery
Communication is the cornerstone to maintaining a healthy relationship, but is one of the first casualties of a problem with addiction. It can be challenging to communicate with a loved one when they are undergoing addiction treatment. When we can no longer effectively communicate our emotional concerns and feelings, our lack of communication turns into resentment, frustration, anger, and indifference.
When a loved one enters into treatment for addiction, it can be particularly difficult to communicate. It is likely that the two of you will experiencing a variety of conflicting emotions. You may be relieved at the fact that your loved one has finally made the decision to enter into treatment. It is also common to simultaneously experience feelings of sadness, anger, shame, and hope. Despite experiencing a flood of intense emotions, it is more critical than ever for you and your loved one to establish an open line of communication in order to have healthy and constructive conversations.
Through the process of creating a safe and positive space for healthy conversation, you pave the way for love and forgiveness, which are vital to long-term recovery. Here are some communication tips for when your loved one is in treatment.
Where to Start
Begin with Love
It is important to remember that your loved one is not their disease. Though their past behaviors may have hurt you, the negative consequences of their past behaviors must be addressed in a loving and constructive manner. In order to forgive, it is essential to discuss past hurt and resentment without sweeping it under the rug. Forgiveness equates to understanding. Your loved one has been sick and is finally getting much needed treatment. Through love and forgiveness, it is possible to rebuild your relationship and communicate with understanding.
Write a letter
When experiencing conflicting emotions, writing a letter is an effective way of expressing love and support, without accidentally saying something that you’ll regret. Take your time, and allow for multiple drafts. Craft a letter in which you communicate your exact thoughts and feelings. This way, your loved one will have the benefit of time when digesting what is on your heart and mind.
In your letter, it is best to refrain from judgement. Avoid the negative and shine light on the positive aspects of their recovery. In all likelihood, your loved one is already experiencing guilt, shame, and frustration without your help. Express love, and set the table for an open dialogue.
When in treatment, your loved one may be harboring feelings of shame and insecurity. They desperately need your encouragement and support. Let them know that you admire them and believe in their decision to seek professional help. Keep the focus on the positive, and remember to be encouraging. As they reclaim the self-esteem and inner strength necessary for long-term recovery, make an effort to reinforce confidence with positive communication.
For those undergoing treatment, it is a common fear that their loved ones will fail to understand their inability to “just get sober”, along with the challenges they face with their addiction. Communicate to them your acknowledgement of the various obstacles they face on the road to sobriety. The following are ways to show support:
Show interest in developing new activities together, such as: learning a new skill, taking a class, or traveling. In establishing new traditions and making future plans, you help them break patterns from the past, while learning to embrace a new lifestyle in recovery. It is important not to overwhelm them during this process. Allow them to set the pace during the planning process.
Educate yourself about their addiction and the process of treating it. Create a safe space for open communication so they can talk openly and honestly about the rewards and challenges of getting sober. By being genuinely interested in their recovery process, you are offering support of the best kind. You may even offer to attend one of their open meetings.
Set Boundaries. In addition to offering help and support, it is equally important to set and maintain boundaries. This reduces the likelihood of developing issues with codependency. If necessary, let your loved one know that you’ll support them through their recovery, but that there will be no tolerance for abuse.
Family Counseling and Programs
At JourneyPure Emerald Coast we value family addiction counseling as an important part of our comprehensive treatment programs. Family counseling provides an open forum for communication. A counselor is there to facilitate an open and constructive conversation.
Speak with the counselor in advance about what to expect. This will allow you to be more adequately prepared. If there is a specific aspect of your loved one’s behavior that negatively impacted your life, bring it to the attention of the counselor prior to the meeting. This way, it can be address in the most constructive way possible. Spend time preparing in advance. It can be quite emotional to talk face-to-face with your loved one about the negative repercussions of their addiction. Find the right words so that you can properly articulate your feelings. Remember, expressing anger and resentment is not helpful. We have more information about family programming here , and we invite you to ask our admissions staff more about what this may look like for you and your family.
By making a sincere attempt to communicate with your loved one, or attend family counseling, you are helping them to succeed on their journey to recovery.