It can be harrowing navigating a relationship that is dealing with addiction. Often, loved ones are told that supporting an addict means co-dependency, that the best thing to do is to show some tough love, even if that means walking away.
But is this right?
Maybe there is a kinder, more effective way to relate to a significant other who is struggling with addiction? There is a form of love besides tough love that can help us help our loved ones.
Recent research has found that compassion plays a vital role in an addicts recovery. While we can not force change on to our loved one, there are things that we can do that will not only benefit the relationship but also support recovery.
The most significant way someone can offer support is to become more compassionate towards the struggle of addiction. Not to allow it, but to be compassionate with it.
As Johann Hari in his TED talk, ‘Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong’ suggests, compassion and relationship are crucial to recovery. Helping a person to feel seen, hear and understood without condoning, or enabling behaviour helps to support different choices and to move away from self-medication.
Why is compassion so powerful in recovery?
By offering a loved one genuine compassion, we voluntarily join them in their suffering and give them the profound gift of love that can be the catalyst towards real healing and recovery.
Being compassionate means:
We can see them
Compassion allows us to see our loved one and the suffering they are going through beyond the behaviours of addiction.
We can hear them
We all need to be heard, but those with substance abuse issues often feel they go unheard, that they are therefore unimportant. Finding compassion within ourselves for their struggle allows us to talk less and listen more.
We validate them
To see and to hear them is not enough. We must let our significant other know and help them feel that they can express their pain, anger, sadness or any other emotion they are experiencing. Too often, friends and family members ignore or minimised their loved ones suffering. Compassion helps us to be able to validate this process.
We comfort them
Compassion guides us and helps us provide a loved one with comfort through loving touch, knowing glances or kind words and a place of security.
If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction and are interested in exploring how to move forward, please contact me today. I would be pleased to speak with you about how working with me will support your relationship at this time.