Identifying Unsupportive Relationships
Long-term, successful sobriety requires strong, supportive relationships. In many ways, getting sober is a group effort: of the person in recovery, their treatment team, their family, and their recovery community.
Many clients, when they first arrive in treatment, hold a lot of resentment, grudges, and residual hurt from close relationships. These feelings impact recovery success, and it’s important to transform hurt to healing as the recovery journey progresses. Unfortunately, some relationships are and will remain unsupportive, and it’s important for the recovering person to be able to identify those relationships and know how to handle them.
The Apple Can Fall Far From the Tree: Recovering with Unsupportive Parents
A lack of support from a parent can be confusing to identify. Why? Mainly because many parents resort to codependent and enabilist stances when they’re dealing with a sick child.
Often, parents who enable their adult child’s addictions display the following behaviors:
- Paying bills caused by their child’s dependence
- Purchasing substances for their children and allowing them to abuse those substances in their homes because it is “safer that way”
- Making excuses to other family members, friends, or grandchildren about their loved one’s addiction
- Bailing adult children out of jail for intoxication or other substance-related or induced crimes
While all of these behaviors may seem helpful and may even inspire a sense of gratitude, they’re not supportive. In fact, they are the opposite of supportive: they’re enabling an addicted person to continue on the path of self-destruction.
On the other side of this parental coin, parents can often be openly against their children’s substance abuse issue and display the following behaviors that also harm more than they help:
- Making themselves a martyr in relation to the addiction (continually making it clear how much they are sacrificing for their loved one)
- Using their child’s love for them as the reasons they should get sober (the typical “If you really cared for me, you wouldn’t abuse alcohol” refrain)
- Punishing their adult child verbally or otherwise for relapsing or not recovering as quickly as they would like
Parents often find themselves enabling or berating their adult children in these ways because they struggle to balance the love they feel with the guilt they feel for having “failed” as a parent. It’s important to understand that their inability to support is not unusual: many parents are simply unequipped to be supportive, firm, and encouraging when dealing with a child’s addiction.
When You’re No Longer the Apple of Their Eye: When Your Partner or Friend Is Unsupportive
Normally, a lack of support on the part of a romantic partner or friend usually stems not from some anger or resentment, but rather from their own struggle to live happily and sober.
It’s logical that partners or friends who used to drink or use drugs with the person in recovery are upset when that person decides to change.
The idea of a drinking partner sobering up can trigger feelings of panic for some people. Thoughts like the following often pop up:
- What if they leave me once we don’t have the ability to bond over substances?
- What if they want me to stop using or drinking as well?
- Will they feel like I’m less than for not choosing sobriety, too?
If you are in recovery and struggling in a relationship with someone who still drinks or uses substances, that person may try to keep you in a substance-friendly environment or even encourages you to continue using substances along with them. They may try to cajole you into “just one beer” at the cookout with friends or constantly invite you to go with them to the club or bar. They may scorn your suggestions of other sober activities and demonstrate, overall, an inability to take you seriously in your recovery journey.
So What Can You Do to Manage These Relationships?
If you’re confused about whether a relationship is helping or hurting your sobriety, remember this: someone who supports you will always make you feel like sobriety is the right decision for you. They will help you make healthy decisions and encourage any choice that helps forward your recovery journey.
If your friends or family are behaving in ways that are enabling or encouraging you toward relapse, we can help. Our family therapy program may be especially beneficial to your situation. Contact us today to learn more.