Addiction often takes a toll on those close to the addict, including their spouses, partners, children, and friends. Many individuals hurt by loved ones suffering from addiction have difficulty practicing forgiveness, especially if addiction led to serious problems that affected their quality of life, such as missed mortgage payments, job loss, and legal issues.
Though it may be challenging to do, forgiving an addict can help that person recover and may even lead to the mending of the relationship. Continue reading to gain practical tips on how to forgive a person in recovery from addiction.
Learn How Addiction Works
Addiction gets surrounded by stigmas that make it difficult for many people to understand that it is a disease. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction is considered a complex brain disorder and a mental illness. Knowing these facts can often help friends and relatives of the addict have more compassion and understanding about what that individual may be going through.
One of the first steps a person can take to forgive an addict is fully understanding addiction. That includes understanding what triggers addiction, how it happens, and how it develops over time. In many cases, addiction is entirely unintentional. However, habit-forming substances, including alcohol, heroin, and prescription drugs such as painkillers and benzodiazepines, can lead to addiction even when used for only a short time. Forgiveness for loved ones may become easier once they understand that addiction isn’t always intentional and often cannot be controlled or managed without professional treatment.
Be Patient With Their Recovery
Everyone recovers from addiction at their own pace. Some people may need only 30 days, while others may require several months or even years. Relapse is also common among those in recovery from addiction, just like with other chronic diseases. The NIDA reports that relapse rates for substance use disorders are between 40% and 60%. That is lower than that for other chronic conditions like asthma and high blood pressure, both of which have relapse rates of between 50% and 70%.
Many loved ones of those who suffer from addiction become impatient with the addict’s recovery timeline if it does not happen as quickly as they wish. Sometimes it can take years to achieve long-term sobriety and fully embrace life without drugs and alcohol. Loved ones of someone in recovery should be patient because recovery is often a lifelong process that may include numerous relapses and other hardships.
Establish Boundaries and Consequences
Setting boundaries with a loved one in recovery is essential, as boundaries are often effective at keeping that person accountable for their actions and sobriety. Boundaries and consequences may include ensuring the person go back to residential rehab should they relapse or making sure they attend Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous support group meetings at least once per week to stay on track with recovery. As time goes by, it may be easier to forgive the person if they do a great job following the rules and facing any necessary consequences.
Understand That Forgiveness Takes Time
Forgiveness is not a one-size-fits-all process, as each person moves to forgiveness on their timeline. It may take the loved ones of addicts several months or years before they can fully forgive the addict and recover from the effects of that person’s addiction. Forgiveness can often strengthen a relationship and allow it to heal, though forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean that you must keep the relationship.
While forgiveness is a crucial part of recovery for both the loved one and the addict, it’s critical not to forget the events that transpired. Remembering things that happened can help loved ones learn from their experiences with the addict to make sure those things never happen again.
Join a Support Group
Forgiving an addict is often easier said than done. An ideal way to embrace the act of forgiveness and learn more about how to do it and cope with it is to join a support group such as Al-Anon.
Al-Anon is a support group program for people whose lives have been affected by another person’s drinking. People who attend Al-Anon meetings do not have drinking problems themselves but may have spouses, partners, parents, children, or friends with those who do.
Al-Anon allows people to share experiences and strategies related to coping with their loved one’s addiction, including practicing forgiveness. Similarly, Nar-Anon supports the loved ones of individuals with drug abuse problems.
Receive Family Therapy
Many drug and alcohol rehab centers offer family programs that involve the loved ones of addicts in their treatment. Family therapy is helpful when families have been broken apart by addiction or exposed to toxic behaviors at home and can usually repair the overall family dynamic.
Forgiveness is often a key topic discussed at family therapy sessions and helps the loved ones of addicts learn how to recover and move on from the effects of addiction.
Recovering From Addiction With Haven Detox
At Haven Detox in Massachusetts, we offer a wide range of medication-assisted detox services to help people recover from physical dependence on drugs and alcohol.