For decades, individuals suffering from addiction have travelled the same route towards recovery, combining support such as rehab, anonymous groups with individual counselling and psychotherapy.
The traditional route of psychotherapy, counselling and group support has held limited potential for influencing patients outside the office, group or treatment centre. Once outside these walls, the addict is free to walk away from any treatment plan that they feel restricts and makes them uncomfortable.
It is now increasingly the norm to include family and friends in the process of recovery. Networks of loved ones can have a significant impact in supporting the addict on the road to recovery.
Below are some ways that loved ones can have a central role in helping the addict to maintain sobriety.
Social cohesiveness is the glue that keeps us together. Whether the togetherness is society, a sports team or our relationships, the psychological and emotional well being of all members of that group correlates to feelings of togetherness.
When cohesiveness and emotional wellness are identified and prioritised within the social network of loved ones, the addict can start to feel the importance of this bond and begin to trust it.
Loved ones can then help encourage the addict to meet their group’s expectations by making changes to help support the addict in their sobriety, for example, with being sensitive around abstinence during social gatherings, where alcohol might be served.
Addicts can get involved in self-destructive behaviour. Often, the only way they can live day to day in such a destructive manner is to develop patterns of denial. For example, they may convince themselves that their job is on the line not because of their addiction, but because their bosses always had it out for them.
When it is made clear that these denial patterns are in direct contrast to the realistic views held by loved ones, this can help to support the addict from using destructive denial.
The addict must be supported to resolve this coping mechanism of denial and start to trust the viewpoint of loved ones. Of course, this doesn’t happen quickly. Often, an addict will become defensive and even withdrawn through this process. But through the continued support and love over time, the addict can change their perceptions.
Pressure typically carries a negative connotation, but in this instance, pressure can support an addict to change their behaviour. Any group has the power to force reluctant members to comply with its norms of behaviour. This is done through social pressure.
The withdrawal of affection, the expression of the group disapproval or the disruption of social interactions desirable to the addict can have a powerful effect. Interestingly enough, often, these punitive steps do not have to be acted upon. A gentle threat is usually more than enough to encourage addicts compliance.
When acted in concert with and supported by mental health professionals, loved ones can play a crucial role in the recovery of an addict.
If you are loved one of an addict and are interested in exploring support, please contact me today to talk about couples counselling. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may help and support your relationship.
I offer a 20 min free call or zoom session to talk more. I see my clients on-line in and in my office in Hove.