There’s an endless supply of “peer wisdom” out there. That’s a term I use for all the advice that bubbles up around you. It can come from friends, family, and sometimes even from complete strangers.
Having a Loved One who struggles with addiction is one of the best ways to attract advice from all directions. Sometimes it feels warm and comforting – just what you need. At other times you are fighting a desire to clap your hands over your ears. And there can also be times when you just can’t help it: you make a cutting remark to put the person “back in their place.”
Is there a way to make sense of all this advice? Is there a way to put an end to people sharing their two cents when you didn’t ask them to in the first place? How do you know who to listen to?
First let me say that there’s no remedy that will wipe out all advice-giving from your life. And a lot of advice can actually be helpful. Let me share some thoughts in the hopes of shedding some light on the subject.
- Watch out for the “Hopeless” crowd. I have noticed something about the people who are most likely to share their stories – or “wisdom.” They tend to be the people who have had the least success in helping their Loved one. Their ongoing frustration may mean they have a strong need to share. If the tone of what the person is sharing tends toward the negative, and sounds hopeless, beware! Scientific research has shown that there are many positive changes family members can make to improve their situation. My experience working with families backs this up.
- If it sounds awful, it may well be! Many people are still clinging to some common and popular beliefs about dealing with addiction. The notions of “detaching” from your Loved One or letting them “hit rock bottom” have gotten a lot of lip service. But we now know that these are not the best solutions. Studies on CRAFT have shown that families can step in before things get out of hand. There is actually a lot you can do to help. Work on your own ways of communicating. Learn to adapt your own behavior depending on if they are using or not using. Every word or gesture can make a difference.
- Sound advice to family members should meet the following 3 requirements:
- It should show respect for the Loved One.
- It should reflect the reality that as a Family Member you can not control the situation but you CAN influence it.
- It should focus on what is happening now, in the present moment (and not, for example, harping on things that happened in the past)
- At Allies in Recovery, we do not seek to dispense instructions on how to deal with each situation you encounter. Instead, we hope to help you get a handle on a framework for affecting change in your relationship with your Loved One. The principles that make up the CRAFT method are suggestions – not prescriptions. Our goals are:
- making you feel better,
- improving your relationship with your Loved One, and
- helping you help them to get help.
As you become more familiar with the material, you’ll probably notice that much of what we teach forms a precious tool-kit. It is not only helpful for families dealing with addiction. Anyone who wants to end gridlock and move towards positive change in their life can use these tools with great success.
As a final note, let me remind you that as lost as you may feel at times, you also have your own, innate wisdom. That little voice, if you can find the quiet you need to hear it, can be an unfailing guide, helping you to act from your heart.