two people talking on couch

Whether family members are forthcoming regarding their recovery process or not, if you have a loved one recovering from substance misuse, it’s important to understand how deeply your interaction and communication with them play a role. Discover some helpful tips for effectively communicating with family members recovering from addiction. 

Learn about their history

Taking time to listen to your loved one’s personal experiences can positively shape the course of their recovery. But while they certainly need support, so does the family coping with the effects of their illness. Not only will families attending support groups benefit from shared knowledge, but they can also learn how to obtain a better quality of life, manage stress levels, upgrade their own mental health, and help prevent their loved ones’ future relapses. 

Listen well

Lending an ear to your loved one is often more helpful than quickly offering your own opinion. Those struggling with addictions often have information overload regarding their condition, whether it’s from their doctors, counselors, or support group administrators. Give them a chance to vent to you and process their thoughts and emotions. Listening to their hopes and fears can give you the chance to provide solid and consented advice. 

Avoid giving unwanted advice 

Though we may have the best intentions to help our family members struggling with addiction, it’s entirely possible to provide advice that isn’t in their best interest. When it comes to recovery and preventing relapse, it’s essential to let our family members primarily lean on advice, resources, and tools from professionals. In turn, provide your encouragement and support as a concerned loved one. 

As much as possible, avoid using empty words that may push your loved one in recovery away or cause them to feel misunderstood. Phrases like, “You don’t look like an addict,” may seem like a compliment at the moment, but in reality may make the person feel invalidated. “Just take it one day at a time,” may sound cliche or redundant, and comparing their recovery journey to a voluntary alcohol fast when you say, “I did Sober September last year,” won’t sound relatable or inspiring to your family member, but instead may negate their struggle and come across as insensitive.

Stay affirming and positive

A supportive family member of a relative in recovery is one that encourages them with a sense of hope and positivity. As your family member presses forward to leave their past behind, hearing authentic words of affirmation and excitement regarding their future can have a powerful impact on their next steps ahead, especially in terms of preventing a relapse. Instead of dwelling on the pain they may have caused, build a safe space for them to share their emotions, tell them you’re proud of the path they’ve chosen, and say you’ll be there to cheer them on.

Respect their boundaries

Dealing with addiction is not only difficult but the recovery process for those combatting it is also a challenge. While your family member is going through recovery and building strength for the road ahead, they may need time to reflect individually and that means withdrawing from certain conversations to focus on their personal needs. Giving your loved one the space or freedom to self-disclose on their own accord is both thoughtful and helpful before asking questions or giving advice.

Manage expectations

As your family member recovers from substance misuse, set realistic goals and expectations. The recovery process can be long and frustrating for your loved one and though relapse is undesirable, the possibility may still loom. Support your loved one the best you can by being patient with them and avoiding comparing them to others in recovery. Remember that their journey may be a roller coaster but let them know that they can lean on you through the highs and lows. 

It’s not easy to witness a relative dealing with an addiction, but with education and support, families can encourage recovery and prevent relapse by listening well, exhibiting optimistic attitudes, and setting appropriate boundaries and expectations. 

To get more information, referrals, and resources about familial addiction support, contact Wellspring Center for Prevention offices at 732-254-3344. 

Photo by Klaus Nielsen

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