Caught In A Trap of Addiction: Handle Your Loved One’s Relapse With Care and Compassion
As human beings, we have the capacity to feel things on behalf of other people. When someone we care about experiences sheer happiness, that carries over to us—and we can benefit from their positive emotions. It makes us feel good when other people feel good. However, the flip side is that when people are experiencing pain, we might also feel that discomfort.
Because your loved one has suffered so much due to his or her struggles with addiction and substance abuse, it is likely that you feel as though you have experienced that tumult, too. In fact, it can sometimes feel like you are taking on even more than the addict in your life, and you may feel resentment, anger, or bitterness toward him or her. And when relapse happens, especially after an extended and successful period of sobriety, it can feel like an absolute punch in the gut. All of those emotions you feel on behalf of your addict can be draining and really difficult to handle. After all, you shouldn’t be suffering just because someone you care about can’t remain healthy, right?
While that may seem true, the most important thing for you to do in order to support an addict after a relapse is to remain calm, compassionate, and level-headed; though it may seem that by doing this you are simply conceding and catering to their needs, you are actually opening yourself up to personal healing and growth, along with supporting someone you care for deeply.
Speak with love.
After discovering that a loved one has relapsed, the natural initial reaction is never a positive one. You’re angry, hurt, and feel betrayed. You may think: How could she do this do you again? Why doesn’t he just get what he is putting himself and others through?
The problem with these sentiments, though, is that they all stem from the thought that your addict is deliberately trying to hurt you or cause you pain. In most cases, this is nowhere near the truth. Remember: addicts know what it feels like to suffer. They are ill, and when their intentions seem misplaced, or their actions seem irresponsible and dangerous, they may not be aware to what degree. Just like any other individual with an illness or disease, your loved one needs to be treated with the same compassion and love in regards to his or her addiction.
This does not mean you can’t feel angry. This does not mean that you can’t feel upset or hurt. This means that you allow yourself to feel these things, but that you also understand that your addicted loved one is not intentionally trying to cause you suffering. Once you begin to view your loved one as someone who needs treatment for an illness, you will no longer need to blame him or her for the way you feel in regards to their struggle with relapse, and you can begin to act and speak with love, compassion, and understanding. Instead of saying things like “How could you do this again?” or “I knew you couldn’t be trusted,” use phrases like “I may not understand, but I love you regardless,” or “While this is the reality of the situation right now, this doesn’t have to be a pattern.”
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Bring your personal truth.
It’s hard to be honest with those we love, especially if that truth is not what he or she wants to hear. Many people are afraid of bringing their honest feelings to the table when talking to their addicted loved one, for fear of angering or upsetting them. While this makes sense, and while honesty can be uncomfortable, staying silent doesn’t help anyone in the long run. Telling your loved one the truth–how you feel about your role in their addiction and relapse, not only allows him or her to understand the lasting emotional and relational consequences, but it also removes part of that heavy burden that you’ve been holding on to.
Maybe you’ve been through a relapse before with him or her already, maybe even more than once, and each time it has gotten harder to move on. If you feel this way, you could be approaching a breaking point where you feel as though you can no longer continue to pretend to your loved one that what he or she is doing doesn’t hurt you. Speak with them calmly and with a tone of love, and use words that allow your loved one to know where you are in terms of emotional, physical, and spiritual support for your ongoing relationship. It is okay to let them know that you are disappointed and hurt by their actions, but also let them know that your love and support are unconditional, and that you believe that their relapse is a chance to begin again instead of a failure.
Remain strong and steady.
While being truthful can result in a difficult, emotional conversation, it is important that you don’t allow it to escalate into an argument. It may be natural for the addict to become upset, angry, or defensive. This stems from the fact that disappointing you and knowing you are hurting on their behalf is hard to accept. Allow them to feel this way without reacting, and stick to your personal truth while ensuring that they know that your honesty comes from a place of love.
It is important you recognize that supporting an addict can still happen without allowing the pain of addiction to dictate your emotional health. Crippling, complex, and heartbreaking, the lives of those who love addicts can be hard to navigate for the people that live them. By allowing yourself the knowledge that you can support the addict in your life in times of need while keeping a distance safe enough to protect yourself and your emotional truth, you will show the addict that you love both them and yourself. That type of love can inspire change, and empower your addict to make the choice for compassionate treatment at a place like Alta Mira.
Dealing with the addiction of a loved one is difficult and intense—but you don’t have to navigate it alone. With the support and help of professionals at Alta Mira, you will be able to find resources and advice on how to cope with the pain and emotional hardship that come with substance abuse. Contact us today for more information on our individualized programs and dedicated staff.