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When Someone You Love Doesn’t Support Your Recovery

Posted on May 15, 2024

When Someone You Love Doesn’t Support Your Recovery

Individuals undergoing addiction recovery need as much support as possible.

Health professionals and addiction specialists can play a key role in the battles against physical and psychological dependence, and so too can family and friends.

Loved ones can provide emotional support for individuals to lean on when recovery gets tough. However, some individuals are forced to proceed without this support due to their loved ones not being supportive of their treatment.

There can be a number of reasons for why a friend, relative or partner can be unsupportive of addiction recovery, and individuals who are unfortunately subjected to this can look to a number of techniques in order to stop it affecting their progress.

Reasons why a loved one may not support your recovery

People walking through a forest during holistic therapy for video game addiction

While it may seem cruel or unreasonable to be unsupportive of addiction recovery, there are a number of reasons why a loved one may exhibit resistance to helping someone through treatment.

1. Fear manifesting as denial

Denial plays a key role in drug and alcohol addiction [1], and while it is usually those experiencing a substance use disorder who exhibit the behaviours associated with not acknowledging the presence of a problem, it can also affect those around them.

Loved ones can have difficulty accepting that an individual has an active addiction and is in need of help and push this fear or distress away. They consciously refuse to acknowledge the condition, choosing instead to protect themselves.

The problem is that this refusal to see addiction means that there is no logical way these loved ones can support recovery. They don’t accept that it is needed, so their only option is to ignore and deny its necessity.

2. Emotional attachment and a desire to protect themselves

The inability to support someone through addiction recovery does not mean that there is a lack of love or affection for that person. Instead, it could mean the precise opposite.

Loved ones can refuse to support an individual through recovery because it is emotionally demanding for them to witness them going through such a struggle in order to combat addiction.

Supporting this process can be additionally challenging as individuals can often face a number of ‘failures’ – where they succumb to the immense difficulties of rehab and relapse – before achieving long-term sobriety and good health [2].

Avoiding these harsh realities forms a way in which loved ones can protect themselves from the sadness, guilt, or anger they might feel as a result of someone they love being a victim of addiction.

3. A lack of understanding of addiction treatment

Although public opinion of mental health issues is improving, there are still studies which point towards a negative stigma around addiction which actively deters people from seeking the help they need [3].

This same misperception of addiction as something to be shunned can mean loved ones struggle to help individuals through rehab. They may fear public judgement or believe that the addiction arose as a result of moral inadequacy.

How to handle a loved one not supporting your recovery

Addiction recovery is a really challenging process to undergo, both physically and emotionally. Doing so without the support of loved ones is even harder, but that doesn’t mean that those who have to combat their addiction alone are doomed to fail.

The most important factor in an individual’s chances of recovering from substance abuse is their self-belief and determination. As a result, techniques for overcoming the lack of support from loved ones are pivotal to success.

1. Remain focused on your targets and gameplan

Successfully navigating through addiction recovery and coming out the other side without a dependency for a substance is all about minimising distractions and remaining focused on the task at hand.

While the absence of support from loved ones can be difficult to accept, it mustn’t get in the way of what is paramount: engaging with addiction treatment, progressing through physical and emotional challenges, and working for the future.

Prioritising the process of rehab can also help.

By concerning themselves only with the structure of rehab, the treatment options available and their respective goals, and the gradual positive progress, individuals can achieve safe and sustainable sobriety.

2. Remember that you don’t have to explain yourself

When a loved one doesn’t provide their support for addiction recovery, it can be a natural response to defend yourself, explain everything about your situation, and defend your actions.

It’s important that individuals don’t fall into this trap. Not only does explaining yourself detract from the energy you need to combat addiction, but a loved one’s lack of understanding can lead to self-doubt and disillusionment with rehab.

3. Consider their emotional pain

During addiction recovery, an individual’s priority must be their own thoughts and feelings. However, if they have the capacity to think about others, it can help to remember that a loved one’s lack of support will come from a form of pain.

A loved one will likely deny their support because of some emotional challenge they are facing in accepting the reality of addiction. Their love for an individual will meet a psychological barrier that denies that affection translating into practical support.

Although it will not solve the problem, considering this pain can help individuals remember that their loved one does not hate them or wish them to fail, but more likely can’t overcome their own pain in order to see addiction for what it is.

4. Ensure you are otherwise supported

The support of a loved one can be really helpful during addiction recovery, but it isn’t the only source of support individuals can benefit from. It’s important to understand that help and guidance can be accessed from other sources.

Individuals’ most important source of support during addiction recovery are the doctors and therapists that they work with during rehab. They can be relied on for guidance and help, both in terms of treatment and the emotional trials of getting better.

Outside of rehab, there are support groups and online communities that can provide a range of perspectives on addiction recovery and help individuals feel less alone in their journeys.

5. Recognise when to put some distance between you and them

It can be a really difficult decision to make, but there are certain circumstances in which walking away from a loved one is necessary in order to facilitate addiction recovery.

If a loved one refuses their support but also restricts an individual’s ability to effectively help themselves, they need to be pushed away. This can often take the form of emotional blackmail or financial punishment.

Although a loved one can be misguided and unaware of what effect they are having, the most important thing is that an individual properly engages with the pillars of addiction rehab. If the relationship can be saved, the break need only be temporary.

Are you not being supportive of your loved one?

Two people in recovery from the effects of ketamine on the bladder

If you suspect that you are not providing someone you care about with the appropriate support regarding their addiction recovery, there are a number of ways you can alter your attitude and behaviours.

It isn’t easy seeing a loved one fall into addiction. However, denying them your help is only going to prolong their journey and restrict their ability to rebuild a life of sobriety and stability.

Considering the following principles, therefore, can make a difference.

1. Understand addiction as a disease

A common misconception about addiction is that it is a product of poor character and immoral behaviour. While it does often result from individuals behaving recklessly, the nature of dependence carries a greater medical significance.

Addiction is defined as a brain disorder and mental illness [4], and therefore the process of addiction rehab and the recovery journey is one of effectively treating a condition that would otherwise continue to be harmful for physical and mental health.

Supporting a loved one through addiction recovery is not a reinforcement of addiction and its negative reputation, but actually an invaluable gesture of support for them overcoming a debilitating condition.

2. Recognise your own lack of education and understanding

Withholding support for someone undergoing addiction recovery arises from misunderstandings about addiction and what recovery entails. Individuals who do this believe they know what is occurring, but these assumptions can be wrong.

It becomes easier to support a loved one when you acknowledge that you might not understand what active addiction is or how it can affect people. From this point, you can open your mind to the ways rehab can change lives and offer better support.

3. Use love as support, not punishment

Love is such a powerful motivator, and those who are battling against their addiction can utilise the love of their family and friends to push through their obstacles and stay dedicated when all else seems hopeless.

Love must, however, be used positively rather than negatively. In order to best support a loved one, provide love as a basis for them to rely upon and use as motivation.

What doesn’t help is withholding love as punishment in order to motivate an individual. This negative reinforcement only makes it harder for them to overcome challenges and sets them further back in their recovery process.

4. Provide support without enabling

Helping someone through their addiction can encourage individuals to try and make their life easier no matter the implications. It must be identified, however, that certain forms of support can do more damage than good.

Enabling behaviours – those that facilitate substance abuse – may be mistaken for those that are truly supportive.

For example, not addressing a relapse may seem like it’s sparing emotional turmoil, but in reality it actually allows such behaviour to go unchallenged and denies individuals the chance to counteract their action and correct their recovery path.

Instead, individuals should aim to help individuals progress in the right directions while also holding them accountable for those behaviours that represent a retreat into old, destructive ways.

5. Recognise the value in making mistakes

The journey from substance abuse to physical and psychological sobriety is never a simple one. Individuals are bound to encounter challenges, setbacks and relapses, and understanding these wrong turns as necessary is essential in providing support.

By discounting an individual’s progress or proclaiming rehab pointless due to a mistake is only going to stall and reset their overarching journey. Mistakes can be misjudged as needless and disruptive, however they are actually incredibly valuable.

As long as they are learned from, mistakes provide individuals with a reference point with regards to how easily recovery can be hindered. These incidences provide perspective and help steer them towards long-lasting progress.

6. Prepare for a lifetime of learning and recovery

Addiction rehab tends to last for around 28 days, but those supporting loved ones through the process need to remember that combatting addiction is not simply a month-long endeavour.

Instead, addiction recovery is a life-long journey. Individuals will need to engage in aftercare following their rehab, and going forward they will always be navigating the physical, psychological, emotional, and situational triggers of everyday life.

Successfully supporting them is therefore not about helping them for 28 days and assuming sobriety to be everlasting, but a matter of helping them through good times and bad and remembering that good health is a product of hard work.

How to recover a relationship harmed by addiction

Family therapy in Wigan

The challenges in both developing an addiction and accepting the existence of one can create significant rifts between individuals who previously loved and cherished one another.

While difficult, these bonds can be rebuilt with time and dedication.

1. Reestablishing mutual trust

Addiction can severely affect the extent to which individuals can trust one another. Those who develop addictions can lose trust in those they looked to for emotional support, and loved ones can lose trust in an individual they lost to substance misuse.

Both of these things result from needing someone who isn’t there, and so rebuilding trust by becoming consistently dependable again for one another is one of the most effective ways to make a relationship healthy again.

2. Rediscovering healthy communication

A substance use disorder can sever the ways in which loved ones communicate. Desires and expectations can get lost in the emotional and addictive cloud that surrounds the condition, leaving individuals divided.

Once recovery begins, effective communication channels can be identified again and strengthened over time. Needs can be acknowledged and mutually worked towards, creating a foundation for a relationship to be rebuilt.

3. Prioritising the right relationships

In order for a cherished relationship to be recovered, a process of prioritisation may need to occur in which those relationships that don’t provide positive results are abandoned.

For an addicted individual, relationships that reinforce substance misuse need to be walked away from in order for those with family and true friends to be better invested in. This can also demonstrate a commitment to rebuilding lost trust.

For a loved one, moving away from those who judge or discount an individual working through recovery can demonstrate a similar dedication and show how ready they are to support their loved one through addiction no matter what other people say.






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