Listening isn’t always as easy as it seems. We say we want to listen to our loved ones, that we are available to them whenever they need us. We want them to know that when they are struggling and need an ear to reach out to, ours are worthy to volunteer and listen. Are we truly prepared to hear what they have to say? Do we listen to them with an open heart and truly validate their experiences? Or might we still have residual pain due to the wreckage they caused in the past with their drinking and using? If we do, its likely we only listen to what we want to hear. We look for opportunities to prove ourselves right, to assert our authority, or to defend our positions. Perhaps we are filled with guilt and shame for not knowing when our loved one was asking for help- all those times when we should have been listening, but we weren’t.
Recovery and all of the work our loved ones are doing in treatment is teaching them many important lessons. One of them is to let go of the past and live as fully in the present moment as possible. Without holding onto anxiety about the future or worry about the past, our loved ones are finding themselves capable of being authentic and present in each moment of their lives. Listening is a practical way to apply present moment mindfulness to our new relationships building with loved ones in recovery.
Encourage Introspection Rather Than Investigate
We can be incredibly nosy and suspicious as the trusted family members of a loved one in treatment. Instead of truly searching for what is going on with our loved ones, we start to investigate them for what might be going on. For listening it is best to apply “innocent until proven guilty”. Ask them what is happening inside instead of accusatory statements like “what’s going on with you” or “what’s wrong”.
Remember That You’re Human, Too
Nobody is perfect. Consequently, we are all prone to being imperfect. If you find you want to fix, advise, control, or prevent something your loved one is talking about you are heading in the wrong direction. Now more than ever your loved one needs to know they are not deserving of the shame and guilt which comes with addiction and alcoholism or any co-occurring mental health disorders. Give subtle cues like head nods and non-verbal sounds which indicate you understand their struggle, even if you don’t get the details.
Enlightened Solutions believes it is possible for the family to heal. Our treatment programs include opportunities for family therapy and intensive family programming weekends in which loved ones come together in recovery. For more information on our partial care programs, call us today at 833-801-5483.