8 Ways You May Be Hurting Your Loved One in Recovery
Recovery is hard won and fraught with pitfalls. The individual who has been through professional care to achieve addiction recovery must continue to be vigilant. They have to work at managing their condition indefinitely. And they can’t do it alone. They need support from loved ones. If you have a family member or friend in recovery, your actions and words matter. Without meaning to, you may be harming your loved one and their recovery by making some common mistakes.
Recovery from addiction is a process and a state of being. It takes a lot of work to get there. Simply stopping use of drugs or alcohol, or completing a detox program, does not lead to recovery.
Your loved one needs intensive care following detox to achieve real and lasting recovery.
Once they have done the hard work, it’s important to be supportive. Recovery is never truly over, and relapse is always possible, even years later.
To reduce the risk of a relapse and for a successful recovery, be supportive and avoid these ways you may unintentionally sabotage your loved one:
1. You Assume Your Loved One Is Cured of Their Addiction After Recovery.
It’s important to think about addiction like a chronic illness. There is no cure, but you can successfully manage it. If you treat your loved one as if professional care has cured them, they may start to think they can drink or use drugs casually and responsibly. This is a dangerous, risky path. While you don’t have to walk on eggshells forever, you cannot ignore the fact of your loved one’s addiction.
2. You Ignore Your CoDependency.
Many people struggling with an addiction are codependent with a spouse, partner, or parent. Codependent relationships are not healthy, for either of you. These are some of the signs not to ignore:
- You take responsibility for your loved one. You take on their struggles and prevent them from doing the hard work in their life.
- You tend to put their feelings first and your own needs last. You have a hard time recognizing and talking about your emotions and needs.
- You have poor or limited boundaries with each other. This leads you to react strongly to any criticism or negative emotions because you take them to heart.
- You fear being abandoned and put up with more difficulties than you should just to avoid being alone.
Ignoring the codependency between the two of you limits your loved one’s ability to be successful in recovery. They need to take control of their own life and manage their own problems. Only by developing independence can they strengthen their recovery. Consider therapy if you feel your relationship may be too codependent.
3. You Keep Drugs or Alcohol in the House.
Your loved one may insist they can be around substances, but it’s always a risk. It is a mistake, especially early in recovery, to keep substances they cannot have in the house. You are only making their life harder, making the home into a minefield. It makes it easier for your loved one to relapse. There is no need to test their so-called willpower. Keep substances out of your lives for now.
4. You Treat Your Loved One Like Damaged Goods.
There is some danger in the idea that addiction is a disease. It can lead to a damaging attitude that the addict will always be an addict and has no control over it. While addiction is a type of disease, like other illnesses it can be treated and managed.
It’s a mistake, and harmful, to treat your loved one in recovery as if they will always be addicted. It hurts them when you assume they are flawed and damaged. When you treat someone in recovery as if they have ruined their lives, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Their addiction, just like any other chronic illness, does not define them. It does not have to dictate the rest of their lives. Instead of pointing out the damage they’ve done, focus on who they are as a unique individual and what they have to look forward to in the future.
5. You Let Them Slide on Care.
Recovery is an ongoing process. After intensive help, your loved one will need outpatient therapy and support to avoid relapse. As time goes on, they may feel strong in their sobriety and want to cut back on these protective measures.
They may be just fine with reducing therapy hours, but it’s a mistake to let them completely slack off when it comes to recoverry. Don’t support their excuses for not going to a weekly support group or therapy session. As with any chronic illness, they need to maintain recovery with these preventative measures.
6. You Hold Onto Grudges and Resentments.
Your loved one probably hurt you in many ways when they were using. Now that they are in recovery, you may feel resentful about those past hurts. It’s natural and understandable to feel this way. If you don’t release them, though, you only pass the hurt on to your loved one in recovery. They know the damage they caused. They feel bad about their past even without you reminding them.
Relationship therapy, or even individual therapy just for you, is a great way to move past these wrongs. A good therapist can help you process the ways your loved one hurt you and help you forgive. When you can forgive your loved one, you’ll both be happier and ready to rebuild a better life together.
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7. You Ignore Red Flags and Warning Signs.
After a hard-fought battle to be in recovery, the last thing you want to see is your loved one relapse. It’s easy to bury your head in the sand and pretend you don’t see warning signs. This is a mistake that can ultimately cause more harm.
Be aware of your loved one’s moods. They may become anxious, stressed, or depressed before a relapse. They may start seeing old friends they used with in the past or lapse into old bad behaviors. If you see signs that your loved one may be headed for a relapse, be proactive.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your loved one about what you see. It’s often easier to see someone else’s problematic behaviors than one’s own. Encourage them to attend extra support group meetings or to call their therapist for an additional appointment. Whatever you do, don’t ignore the warning signs.
8. You’re Not Getting Involved in the Positive Aspects of Their Life.
One of the important tools of recovery is to build a positive, substance-free life. It’s important that you get involved in this part of your loved one’s life to encourage it. By not doing so, you send the message that it isn’t important or that you can’t be bothered.
Do meaningful activities together: Take up a new hobby or learn a new skill; work out together and spend time outside; adopt a pet and learn to care for it together; get involved with a charity or do volunteer work in the community.
9. You Neglect Your Own Self-Care.
In order to fully support someone in recovery, you need to be well. It may seem selfish to take time for yourself, but your loved one needs you at your best, and you deserve to have good mental and physical health, too.
Don’t forget to take time to do the things that make you happy and help you feel fulfilled. Spend time on your physical health, eating well and getting exercise. Manage your mental health, even getting therapy if you need it.
Recovery is a tenuous position, especially in the early weeks and months. Your loved one needs your unflagging support, but you may not know exactly what that looks like. Avoid these pitfalls, the unconscious ways you’re harming your loved one. Provide proactive, positive, and compassionate support to help them stay firmly in recovery.