At our latest gathering, Andy Garcia-Ruse, MA, LCPC and Treatment Consultant for the KC Region of American Addiction Centers, led us in a beautiful question and answer time about how we can walk alongside people we love who are experiencing addiction.
As we spoke about the experience of those in early recovery, Andy shared that showing them validation, love, and support is essential, especially as they are dealing with the shame and consequences of prior actions. Families and friends need to be patient and learn which expectations are reasonable. They may also be used to a certain level of dysfunction in the family system, and when the person begins to become more healthy, it can disrupt the homeostasis. So the best advice is for family and friends to take the time to work on themselves too, so that everyone is working towards health and away from codependency and shaming. Frank, honest conversations and boundaries are good, but minimizing and hiding are not helpful. We cannot control another person’s actions and are not responsible for them. We are there to support, but not enable. Have a plan in place for relapse prevention, which is created and agreed upon by both the addicted person and the persons who support them. Self-care is very important for all parties!
At one point during the evening, Andy spoke about how most people can become so laser focused on the addiction and all the appointments that go along with it that we forget to have fun. She strongly encouraged folks to plan fun, healthy activities with the person in recovery; to show the person in recovery that it is possible to have a great time while sober. This is such a simple and deeply humanizing act. It not only helps people forge new paths forward in life, but also has the power to transform the relationships that are often times strained due to the stresses of the addiction.
If you’re looking for some additional resources, below are a few Andy suggested:
- Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling others and Start Caring for Yourself, by Melody Beattie
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- First Call in KCMO has a “How to Cope” course for adult family members and friends impacted by a loved one’s substance use. They also have a 24/7 crisis line at 816-361-5900.
- The Open Table will host an informal “Addiction Stories Group” on Sunday, March 19 at 6:30 p.m. (no cost to attend). Join us as we gather together to share stories, tips and tricks about what has and hasn’t helped us on our road to recovery. We will have light appetizers and coffee available, and you’re welcome to bring a snack to share if you’re able.
As we walk alongside folks struggling with addiction, let’s remember that we are all human and in need of support, grace and forgiveness. To listen to the discussion, check out our podcast here.