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How to Communicate with a Loved One in Recovery

Communication is a key element in a healthy relationship, and unfortunately it’s one of the first skills that can be lost to addiction. When a loved one is going through drug or alcohol treatment, communication can be challenging. When we lose our ability to share feelings, emotions and concerns with a loved one, lack of communication can turn into frustration, anger, resentment, or indifference.

When a loved goes to treatment, communication can seem especially difficult. Chances are you will both be feeling a variety of conflicting emotions. You may feel great relief that your loved one is finally getting the help he or she needs, among other feelings: sadness, comfort, anger, defeat, shame, and hope. Despite the intense emotions you may be experiencing, it is more critical than ever for you and your loved one to open the line of communication and establish a healthy form of constructive conversation.

By creating a safe and positive space for constructive conversation, you open a dialogue for love and forgiveness which are essential to long-term recovery. Here are some tips for effective communication when your loved one is in treatment.

  • Start with Love

    Remember that your loved one is not his or her disease. Though you might be frustrated or hurt by their behaviors in the past, it’s important to address the negative consequences of their addiction in a constructive and loving manner. Forgiveness doesn’t mean sweeping things under the rug, or moving forward without discussing past hurt or resentment. Forgiveness means understanding that your loved one has been sick, and they are finally getting the treatment they need. With love and forgiveness, you can rebuild your relationship and communicate effectively.

  • Write A Letter

    If you are experiencing conflicting emotion, writing a letter is a constructive way and positive way to express your love and support, without accidentally blurting things out. Allow yourself the time – and multiple drafts, if necessary – to craft a letter in which you effectively express your feelings and communicate exactly what you wish to say. In letter form, your loved one will be able to fully digest what is on your heart and mind.
    You may feel hurt, frustrated, or angry, and want to express these emotions in your letter; however, it’s best to refrain from judgement, bringing up the past, or scolding your loved one. Chances are they are already experiencing enough shame, guilt, and frustration on their own. Express love, and set the stage for positive communication.

  • Build Confidence

    If your loved one is in treatment, they are likely harboring feelings of insecurity and shame. They need your support and encouragement now more than ever. Tell them you believe in them and that you admire their decision to get help. Focus on the positive, and voice your love and encouragement. As they begin to build back the inner strength and self esteem necessary for long-term recovery, it is especially important to reinforce confidence with loving and positive communication.

  • Offer Support

    For those in treatment, a common fear is that their parents, spouses, or friends won’t understand why they haven’t been able to “just get sober,” and the real challenges they face with their addiction. Let your loved one know that you acknowledge the challenges of getting sober, and that you admire their courage and their decision to get help.
    Here are some ways to show support:

    • When appropriate, offer to attend an open meeting with your loved one.
    • Express interest in doing new things together like learning new skills, taking classes, and traveling. By creating new traditions together and making plans for the future, you can help your loved one break patterns from the past and enjoy their new lifestyle in recovery. When suggesting plans, try not to be overbearing; allow them the space to take part in the planning process. Let your loved one set the pace.
    • Learn more about their addiction and the treatment process, and create a safe space where they can talk openly and honestly about the challenges and rewards of getting sober. By taking a genuine interest in their recovery, you are offering them the best form of support.
  • Set Boundaries

    While it’s important to offer your help and support, it is equally important to set boundaries and stick to them. This will allow you to be supportive without becoming co-dependent. If necessary, remind your loved one that you are here to support them through their struggles in recovery, but you will not tolerate any abuse.

Guidance for Attending a Counseling Session with a Loved One in Treatment

At JourneyPure At The River, we consider family addiction counseling an important component of our comprehensive treatment programs. Family counseling provides a safe space for communication and open dialogue. A counselor is there to help facilitate constructive conversation and help you and your loved one effectively communicate feelings. Here are some suggestions for making the most out of your family counseling session:
Talk to counselor in advance. If you can, speak with the counselor beforehand about what to expect, and how the session will be structured. This will give you a better idea of how to prepare. Note: If there is something you would like to address – such as how your loved one’s behavior negatively impacted your life or the lives of others – bring this up with the counselor before the meeting if possible. The counselor will be able to bring this up in a constructive manner.
Take the time to prepare. Talking face-to-face with your loved one about their addiction and its repercussions can be incredibly emotional. Take some time prior to the session to prepare what you wish to say and find the right words to articulate your feelings. It is not helpful to express anger and resentment. Breathe through negative emotions and set the intention to constructively communicate with your loved one.

By making the sincere effort to communicate with your loved one, you are helping them on their journey to recovery.

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