9 Tips to Encourage Your Valentine to “Lean In” to Addiction Recovery

iStock_000008811652MediumIn honor of Valentine’s Day, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment reminds couples that selfless act of love can rekindle a sense of purpose in their Valentines. Without a doubt, the power of love can help people take the first step in overcoming alcoholism and/or drug addiction.

“An act of concern and support may arouse a renewed sense of personal power in others, which changes their perspective from ‘feeling forced’ or powerless to change to ‘feeling confident’ or capable of change,” explains John Larson M.D., Corporate Medical Director, Gateway Treatment Centers.

Building self-confidence and sense of purpose in your Valentine requires genuine respect and judgment-free affection from reliable “agents of change.” To help encourage an open approach versus a confrontation about substance abuse concerns, Gateway offers nine tips:

  1. Get smart about effects of alcoholism and drug abuse as well as potential treatment options to help facilitate a productive discussion.

  2. Timing is extremely important. Choose a time when your Valentine is sober and the mood is calm.

  3.  Set a caring and supportive tone for the conversation–anything less may backfire.
    – “You haven’t seemed to be yourself lately. Is everything okay?”
    – “What can I do to help the situation?”
  4. Use open-ended questions to draw out underlying feelings.
    – “It’s not uncommon for people to drink alcohol to try to appease their tough thoughts and feelings. What are some memories and feelings that trigger drinking?”
  5.  Talk less, listen more. Listen and respect everything your Valentine has to say, and resist interrupting.
    – “What are some of the things that make you happy when you’re not drinking?”
    – “What are some of the not-so-good things about drinking?”
  6. Use affirming statements to demonstrate understanding and to validate a loved one’s feelings. Validating a person’s feelings—no matter what he or she has to say—can help encourage self-guided change.
    – “You are under a tremendous amount of pressure so it’s no wonder you feel so overwhelmed.”
    – “That must have been devastating. I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
  7. Take with a grain of salt any accusations of blame or verbal abuse, and refrain from engaging in arguments.
    – “I understand this isn’t easy to talk about so I’m going to let that one go.”
  8. Substance abuse rattles one’s self esteem so be sure to express he or she deserves better, and is capable of achieving whatever change is desired.
    – “I’m not giving up on you. You are the most amazing person I know.”
  9.  If shut down, don’t take it personal. Rather, just listen and try to withhold frustration or it may be more difficult for him or her to open up later.

“Planting the seeds of recovery from addiction is a delicate balancing act requiring patience and unconditional love but it’s not impossible,” says Larson.

For more insights and tips about helping a person take on addiction issues, download Gateway’s Roadmap to Understanding Substance Abuse at RecoveryGateway.org/Roadmap.

Another Helpful Article: “What To Do When a Loved One Has a Substance Abuse Problem?”

Editors Note: This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness February 2016.
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