Listening Without Judgment: Supporting a Loved One in Addiction Recovery

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope

Girlfriends relaxing in park, horizontalIn any type of relationship, communication is often a key aspect of developing and strengthening the bonds between individuals. In any scenario, being able to appropriately communicate feelings, emotions, issues, challenges, etc. is a necessary part of growing with another person and evolving a trust in a relationship.

If you have a loved one that is recovering from substance abuse and addiction, you have likely experienced firsthand the power of communication and how essential this component of relationships really is.

Manipulated by Addiction

Addictions often cause people to become manipulative, especially towards the people who are closest to them. Perhaps you have felt betrayed by a loved one in your life who has suffered from addiction, and this has caused you to feel as though you can no longer trust this person. There is also a possibility that your loved one was dishonest in their communications to you as a result of their addiction, and this has likely broken or damaged your relationship with this person.

As your loved one seeks help for their addiction and progresses with treatment, your support will make all the difference in their ability to recover. While it can be difficult to overcome the pains inflicted as a result of an addiction, it is important to consider being part of the treatment process in support of your loved one, if and when this is appropriate.

Becoming involved in the therapeutic part of addiction recovery can give you insight into what your loved one might be struggling with as well as the resources to repair an otherwise damaged relationship.

Restoring Communication with Loved Ones

Father And Teenage Son Having A HugRestoring the communication that may have been damaged as a result of addictive behaviors will also be part of the healing process. It may be difficult for you to listen to your loved one without having various judgments run through your head. This may be a result of past communications that may have been misguided or failed all together.

While it may be hard to give the benefit of the doubt, listening without judgment can be a healing and therapeutic part of your loved one’s recovery from addiction. Consider these following suggestions when communicating with a person you care for who is recovering from addiction:

Remember the Nature of the Disease:

Addictions are complex diseases by nature that involve behavioral, psychological, biological and environmental components. Understand that your loved one did not choose to have an addiction just as anyone does not “choose” to have cancer or diabetes.

Keeping this fact in mind can help you approach your loved one with more compassion and empathy, which can in turn help cast off judgment in communications as well.

Utilize the Help of Professionals When Needed:

Often, professional help is needed to intervene and help an individual recover from addiction. If you are finding it too difficult to communicate with your loved one during their recovery from addiction, consider enlisting the help and support of an addiction specialist, such as a licensed therapist or counselor or a marriage/family therapist.

When communications are not effective, having a professional guide a conversation can bring a better understanding and perspective. If your loved one is in treatment, ask about family therapy sessions if appropriate, which may be integrated into the treatment process.

Remember the Person You Love:

Together in parkWith the severity of addictions, it is easy to lose sight of the person you have loved and cared for. When frustrations, anger, and resentment result from the addiction, it can be difficult to remember the aspects about your loved one that you used to enjoy.

Before going into a conversation, take a few minutes alone to reflect on memories of your loved one or look at pictures of a time when the addiction may not have been active. Remembering the person you love, apart form addiction, can help soften your communications and let down the judgment that can so easily arise.

Your ongoing support will help your loved one recover and support their journey towards freedom from addiction. With persistence, dedication, and professional help, your loved one can overcome their addiction.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Have you supported a loved one through their recovery process from addiction? What has helped you listen to them without judgment? What advice would you share with other family members who are also supporting a loved one through the recovery process?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 28th, 2015
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.