When a person begins the recovery journey and seeks professional help, many resources are available. Counseling, medical evaluation, education about addiction, nutritional advice: all these services can be a part of the treatment experience. Husbands, wives, family members, and friends want to know what they can do to help the client begin again.
It may be a confusing experience to participate in someone else’s recovery. The closer the relationship, the more difficult it may be for the other person to know how to help. It may be understandably frustrating, as well. “I have done my best to help, and it didn’t seem like anything worked. Now you say you have all the answers.” The whole experience may seem unfair—the family member or friend has been holding down a job or going to school, plus covering for the addict, straightening out financial problems, dealing with law enforcement, and exhausting himself or herself in the process. In treatment, the addict is offered support, guidance, and encouragement. What about the other people?
There is good news. Sobriety Matters offers a Family Program, available to all family members, significant others, and family friends. Family Group is a great opportunity to learn about addiction, family dynamics, and solutions. Individual Family Counseling is available, too, with counselors and clients meeting with family members in private session, to address immediate issues and begin planning for the future.
One of the most difficult issues for family members is the problem of “loving too much.” It is hard to know when to help, and when to allow the addict to experiences the consequences of his actions. It’s natural to protect the addict. A part of loving someone is being patient with his faults. It makes sense to believe that love will guide the addict into being loving in return. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work very often. The frequent result, after months or years of loving too much, is exhaustion for the person doing all that work, and continued using for the addict. This is called “enabling” in recovery environments—the support allows the addict to continue using. This situation can last a long time, until the family member sets firm boundaries about using, and sticks to them.
Finding the difference between enabling and helping can be a challenge. One practical rule is: don’t do for the recovering person what he can do himself. This doesn’t exclude kindness and loving help—it means letting the person regain the confidence to get back in the swing of life. In early recovery, a newly sober addict may need help with some things, but this help should be tapered off when possible. While in treatment, the addict cannot work, so help may be needed in finding a sober house, living expenses, and the like. These responsibilities should be returned to the recovering person, as the client returns to a productive life.
It is very useful to seek professional advice about the amount of help that should be offered the newly sober client. This is where seasoned counselors may be of real service. At Sobriety Matters, we have a team of experienced staff members, ready to help you to know how much helping is just enough! Call us at 713-904-4699 and let us be there for you!