It can often be difficult knowing how to navigate a relationship that is tainted by addiction. Often, loved ones are told that helping an addict means creating codependency, and that the best thing to do is show some “tough love,” even if that means walking away.
But is this really true?
Is there a better way to relate to a friend or family member who is struggling with addiction? Is there a form of love besides “tough love” that can help us help our loved ones?
Recent research has found that loved ones can play an important role in an addict’s recovery. While loved ones can’t change their addicted friend or family member, there are things they can change about themselves that will benefit the relationship.
The most significant thing a person can do is to become more compassionate toward their loved one struggling with addiction. Compassion is key to recovery as it allows a person to love a friend or family member without condoning (enabling) their behavior.
When we offer a loved one genuine compassion, we voluntarily join them in their suffering and give them profound gifts that can be catalysts toward real healing and recovery.
Compassion allows us to really see our loved one and the suffering they are going through.
All humans need to be heard, but those with substance abuse issues often feel they go unheard. Compassion allows us to talk less and listen more.
To see and to hear are not enough, we must also let our loved ones know they have a right to express their pain, anger, sadness, or any other emotion they are feeling. Too often, friends and family members ignore or minimize their loved one’s suffering. Compassionate helps us validate the person.
Whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional pain, sufferers need to be comforted. Compassion guides us and helps us provide our loved ones with comfort through a loving touch, knowing glance, or a few kind words.
It is also incredibly important to be compassionate toward yourself during your loved one’s recovery. Self-compassion asks that we treat ourselves kindly; that we see, hear, validate, and show ourselves the same comfort we show our loved one.
As a licensed marriage and family counselor in Grand Rapids, MI, I would be happy to speak with you about what you’re feeling and how I may be able to help.