It’s highly likely that you have a connection to someone who is, or has, struggled with problematic substance use. We are surrounded by drugs and alcohol. Whether it’s binge drinking weekend after weekend, a dependency on opioids, or regularly smoking weed, substances are a large part of our culture. When a person’s use becomes problematic, they may decide it’s crucial to abstain.
Giving up drug or alcohol use is a big life change that comes with many challenges. Creating new thought and behavior patterns, learning new ways to cope with stress, and developing new relationships may all be part of a person’s process when stopping drug or alcohol use. These types of life altering steps take a great detail of effort to establish and maintain. When someone you love is going through this process, it’s likely you too will experience a range of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that take effort to understand.
Here are some concepts that may be helpful to remember if someone in your life is in the process of recovery from drug or alcohol use:
-Everyone’s feelings are equally valid - When a loved one’s drug or alcohol use becomes problematic it can create chaos. Feeling angry, hurt, disappointed, and scared are common reactions when someone you love is engaging in risky behaviors. Once that person is working to stop using, you may still resent them for all of the challenging times in the past. That person is experiencing their own difficult feelings, as they work to stop their use. No one’s emotions take priority, each are equally important.
-It’s ok to ask for things you need in relationships - Individuals in recovery are likely making big life changes, but that doesn’t mean you need to walk on eggshells around them. It’s ok to communicate what you want, or need from them.
- Acknowledging successes helps everyone - Big life changes are often made up of small, sometimes not so noticeable, small changes. Paying attention to progress, and validating any positive change, can provide hope to both you and your loved one.
- Asking questions can be a sign of support - It’s not uncommon to make assumptions when you don’t understand, or don’t know, what someone else is experiencing. Approaching with curiosity, rather than assuming, can be a sign you are invested in that person’s individual experience.
- Showing your love is important - If you loved this person before, you probably still do. Love is complicated and human beings are imperfect. Loving someone through challenging times looks different for everyone.
- You are responsible for your own anxiety - You will likely worry about this person on their journey. Asking your loved one to reassure you they won’t relapse, or that they aren’t depressed, or any other concern you may have, puts undue burden on them. Just as they are working to manage their own feelings, you will need to work on managing yours.
-Having your own therapist during this process can be invaluable - You deserve just as much support as your loved one during this time. We at Bailey & Associates have a great deal of experience caring for people just like you and your loved one. We would be more then happy to help you through any part of this journey, please feel free to reach out using the form on our Contact page.
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Bailey & Associates, Counseling and Psychotherapy, LLC is a group of psychotherapists, counselors, and art therapists working in the Wicker Park/ Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago