If you have a loved one who struggles with an addiction, being compassionate isn’t always the most effortless thing to do. After all, you are probably struggling with how their addiction affects your life and your relationship with them.
Perhaps, you remember broken promises, irresponsible choices, and the havoc addiction has created. Grief and loss can be at the center of your pain and it can be hard to navigate. Plus, much advice for dealing with a struggling loved one takes the approach of tough love.
It can be hard to take a new perspective on how to treat someone who is struggling. I get it. You are in pain yourself and unsure how to move forward. Learning to be more compassionate is surprisingly helpful for both you and them. Here are some tips about how you can find a compassionate spirit toward them.
1. Remember that they are a person, worthy of love and acceptance.
Maybe you’ve gotten to the point where you only see the horror of the addiction. It has warped your ability to know the person behind it. Perhaps you feel like being kind toward them will be enabling.
However, underneath their addiction lies a person who is hurting, ashamed, frustrated, and lonely. The first step toward compassion is to remember this fact.
Like all people, they want to feel genuinely seen and loved. They want to know that you care about what they’re saying. They want you to listen without judgment and respond with empathy. Small gestures such as a reassuring squeeze of their hand or a touch on their arm mean a lot. It shows that you hear them.
2. Learn about new addiction research.
As mentioned above, new research in the addiction field is changing the way counselors approach treatment. If you take the time to educate yourself, you’ll better understand the reason for a less aggressive attitude toward someone who is struggling with addiction. http://www.drgabormate.com, a renowned addiction expert, is a good place to start if you would like to read more.
A large part of this new approach involves the proven scientific benefits of kindness and compassion. When family members are there to support and encourage, it increases the chance of recovery. And when you take an attitude of loving-kindness toward anyone, your blood pressure levels decrease. You experience more patience toward them and react with less anger. Now those are great positives!
Researchers have also found that relapses are a normal part of recovery. If your loved one is in treatment or has tried it, that’s a significant step — even if relapse has occurred. Remember that relapses are stepping stones along the way toward sobriety.
3. Refuse to prolong the cycle of shame.
It’s painfully easy to shame other people. And we do it the most to the people closest to us. But shame is incredibly destructive. Most, if not all, individuals struggling with addiction operate from a deep core of shame.
Childhood abuse and other traumatic events have left many of them emotionally wounded. Addiction is often a way to try to stifle their overwhelming sense of shame. Compassion and love offer an antidote to shame.
Unfortunately, when you’ve dealt with a loved one and feel tired and drained yourself, it may feel impossible not to shame them. You see them make poor decisions over and over again. You give them a chance after chance, but they always fail.
It’s only natural that your initial reaction is to utter hurtful words. However, this approach is only counterproductive. More shame drives them further away from you — and recovery.
As challenging as it may be, decide to stop the cycle of shame. It doesn’t help anyone; hurt is its only outcome.
If you are struggling to deal with a loved one who has an addiction, you may feel overwhelmed and hopeless. Trying to find compassion toward them may seem impossible — and I understand.
If you feel like this, I encourage you to reach out. As a therapist, I’ve counseled many individuals who are struggling and their families over the years. I can come alongside you as you work through this journey. Please visit my drug and alcohol counseling page or contact me for a free initial phone consultation.