When a loved one returns from an addiction recovery program, we struggle to know how to interact. Strained relationships, and misunderstandings between the recovering individual and his or her loved ones can lead to isolation that severely impairs healing and regrowth.
Although you love someone, it can still be hard to know what to say, how closely to watch and worry and monitor. It’s hard to know, in such a delicate situation, what helps and what hinders.
While every recovering addict is different, here are a few things that recovering patients often say--or wish they could say.
#1: “It Takes Time”
Although your loved one has returned from their recovery program, that doesn’t mean that the process is over. For most people, addiction recovery is a lifelong process, characterized by highs and lows, discouragement and hope at alternating times. Your loved one will still be struggling with cravings, side effects, adapting to new coping mechanisms, and battling negative mental patterns and challenges.
Be patient. Be compassionate, and let them take the time they need.
#2: “I Don’t Need This Problem Trivialized”
After over-obsessing and worrying about the delicacy of the situation, the most common problem recovering addicts confront is people who try to demote the challenges that they experience while battling addiction. It’s easy to casually say “I’m addicted to those bundt cakes!” but few people truly know the pain and struggle of addiction. Your loved one may be going through intense struggles, frustrated by misunderstandings, and they may need to make major changes in living situation and lifestyle in order to support sobriety. Communicate with them to understand their challenges.
#3: “I Am More than my Addiction”
While addiction may have enacted some changes in your loved one, and recovery is creating even more changes, it’s important to realize that he or she is still that person that you’ve always known and loved. They have joys and hobbies, humor and preferences, and most of all: hopes for the future. It might be necessary to slowly reconnect and get to know each other again. Take time to rediscover the person underneath the challenges.
#4: “We All Have Challenges”
Addiction often sets people apart. It may make people feel isolated, ashamed, and alienated. However, it’s important to remember that everyone has challenges. Your loved one has made the incredibly difficult decision to meet his or her demons head-on. What are your challenges? Have you had to make conscious changes in order to protect your relationships and personal well being? What strengths do you see and admire in your friend? What can you learn from the perspective they’ve now gained?
#5: “I Could Use Your Help”
Relationships and interpersonal connections are the lifeblood of addiction recovery. Your loved one needs you now more than ever. Even though your friend may not always be forthcoming, communicative, and open, they need your help and support. Your honest compassion and care will strengthen them. By listening, communicating, and researching and learning all you can, you can become a pillar of recovery for your loved one struggling. Don’t be discouraged. Reach out in hope and love.