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How do I support an addict without sounding sorry?

Juliett55 How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
Dear recovering addicts and their loved ones, I have a question for you:
What were the most helpful words to you from your loved ones when you were just seeking help.

My addict is trying to get help right now and I feel that he has a good chance this time. He is communicating more consistently (right now) and even when he doesn't answer, later on I find out how much that meant to him.

But today I'm at a loss. I'm learning that a supporter may sound like he or she is sorry for the addict and that is very demeaning.....especially for a male addict....

How do I give support and not sound sorry?
Is saying, "my thoughts are with you" sounding sorry? Like he is weak or a sissy.?
And, if I write about my own day is it going to take attention off of what he needs to concentrate on?

Thank you all
Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
Here are some things I tell my husband:
I tell him that I believe in him and I have faith in him.
I tell him that he is worth loving and that he hasn't done anything that can't be forgiven in time.

As far as:


if I write about my own day is it going to take attention off of what he needs to concentrate on

I'm not sure what you mean by this. You mean when you write to him while he's in rehab?


I'm learning that a supporter may sound like he or she is sorry for the addict and that is very demeaning.....especially for a male addict....

I've learned that the 'especially for a male addict' is because they have a big problem checking their macho ego at the door.
My husband never wanted to be viewed as 'weak'. He's now whipped, and seems to be a lot more pleasant!

Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
I recently wrote a list of things I admire (admired) about him. I titled it "Why I Respect You". I gave it to him, folded up, and said "keep this with you, you can look at it whenever you want to". Things really seemed to change in his personality.

Men need to be respected. Women need to be loved.
Bless you on your journey!
Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
Thank you Newlywed.

Yeah, I was talking about the "MALE EGO" for sure, I understand why they have it but how does one get around that? Esp. when he isn't strong, cause lying isn't that cool ether.

When I said, "talking about my day", I meant acting normal, as "life goes on" or will that make him feel like I don't care about the seriousness of his position? He is not in rehab just is getting some psychological, and I probably AA, help.
Loraura Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
Most meth addicts in early recovery are going to take things personally that are not meant to be personal.

It's a physical symptom of having lower than normal dopamine levels, which is caused by using meth.

So IF he takes something "the wrong way" keep in mind that his brain chemistry imbalance may be tainting his ability to have an accurate perception of the world around him.
Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
Great idea about the list...
thank you
Iselita Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
with my hubby it's like even if i say i love him he gets mad his Mexican machismo is far out there. the only time i can communicate is when he was sober
Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
IMO - putting your 'life' aside and not talking about it to tiptoe around his means that you are still trying to take care of HIM and not YOU.

As far as the macho ego bullshyt....like I said - hubby was afraid he would appear 'weak', would be deemed a 'sissy' by other men if he showed emotion or affection.

It just happened - not sure how - but he says he's whipped now.

Someone told me something that I relayed onto him - @#%$ whipped is the best whipping there is.

I think once he realizes / admits that he is powerless - the rest will happen.


Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
Barncats answer about making a list of things you see, feel, think, know to be good in him is some sweet medicine for the front (macho bullshyt/"I'm the shyt n know it").

In my therapy session yesterday--time flies when I get a day behind on posts--seems even females, meaning myself, have that bullshyt/big-person/my-shyt-don't-stink front...
because it covers up *my* things I don't want to deal with or am avoiding in life...and that is before any use of addictive substances or behaviors. Now add the meth madness in on top of the fronts (male or female) and it's like pouring gasoline on a roaring fire.

Prayers for you to find your best way to help him understand he has good in him and you see it. Yes, that someone says we are good (or tells us what they admire or like or love or enjoy--in regards to the recovering addict) is a means of allowing them (me) to work through how truly horrid they (me) feel. It's as vital to recovery as are the programs we choose to work, therapy, and faith that an addict is not beyond recovery and hope....

(This is just my opinion--take what is helpful and run with it and what is not helpful.....leave it rest, but keep seeking how you can encourage him.)

Much compassion and my prayers are with you.
Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
Hmmm... Interesting interpretation! I have (keyword here) been in the pits of despair and lost hope only to find my faith in Jesus Christ and come alive once more. I had tried everything else even after being on this board over a year.

I believe 'time' is relevant. Some of us take longer to come out of denial. I'm working my way up with the grace of my Higher Power and His will for my life.

If, in the 'meantime', my life is more pleasant telling my loved one of 34 years what I respect about him and that I love him and that I thank God everyday for him, works "for the 'now'" than so be it.

I work on 'me', not him. I participate in Celebrate Recovery and I am working a women's 12-step group for my hurts, habits and hang-ups. I am currently working on my inventory and am finding out who and why "I am" the way I am. I have also come out of the fog of self-medication (drinking) - 8 days clean today.

It's all a process and unfortunately (or not), takes time. I'm in the process of healing as are all of us that frequent this site, all at different stages of the process.

God Bless Us All on the journey to recovery, it's not a destination.
Reason Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
My husband never wanted to be viewed as 'weak'. He's now whipped, and seems to be a lot more pleasant!

*laughs* Great line. And from a newlywed! You don't waste any time.

Juliette55: From speaking to a number of former addicts about the early stages of their recovery process, a common sentiment was clear: help me when I ask for it.

While getting clean, having a loved one or spouse around who knows of your drug use can be a blessing and a curse. The guilt experienced by the addict can be immense. Do not underestimate it! Finding one lacks the courage and willpower to resist a drug is a serious blow to one's self esteem. To make this discovery in full view of people you know and love can be devastating. People have committed suicide in part to avoid facing their loved ones as a failure.

So while having someone around to support the addict---the methods by which unclear---may sound good to an observer, in reality it actually can end up being just one more thing in their life that reminds the addict of their shameful failure and weakness.

That is why I generally counsel spouses and partners of recovering addicts to take a hands-off, curiosity-off approach. While inquiries as to how the addict is dealing with addiction may be well intentioned, each and every time the subject the broached, that's one more time---again---the addict is made to feel ashamed in the eyes of an intimate.

It's for this reason I would caution against special actions to bolster their self-esteem, including uplifting notes and motivational letters that others have mentioned. One, they know what you're trying to do, and it can easily appear forced and not entirely sincere if it's the first time in a blue moon, if ever, you've said or written such kind words.

It's apparent you're trying to cheer them up.
When trying to cheer someone up, it's common to exaggerate the positive.
Therefore, your heartfelt sentiments may be perceived to be suspect to some degree.

Your "Why You're Great!" note can end up saying something closer to, "You're Not a Loser. Really!"

The addict doesn't need a cheerleader, or a motivational speaker, or affirmations. This is not some zero-sum problem, where an increase here will compensate for a decrease there. The addict must face himself, consider his life in context, and make decisions of no little significance. This can happen slowly or quickly, in a concentrated effort or in fits and bursts, and with successes or failures or both, in the meantime.

The addict enters this endeavor as is. It is too late to strengthen resolve, too late to develop better habits and structure, too late for the ol' moral code to get a tune-up. The sum total of his character right now will determine the amount of virtue he can bring to bear on this crisis.

I'm emphasizing the addicts plight to make a point: small gestures obviously intended to "cheer him up" are irrelevant, or even distracting, as I mentioned earlier.

You asked, what were the most helpful words from loved ones when you were seeking help.

My answer: every single word that made me feel normal. Every word and gesture that was normal. Familiarity. Not fawning, or disinterest... but a recognition that addiction can't be shared, only acquired. Progress cannot be rushed nor should be oft inquired of, but it can be impeded.

Normalacy is what the addict needs most, so he can feel as safe and comfortable as possible. He needs mental energy to work out his drug dependency, energy that's wasted when spent trying to explain the unexplainable, wasted when he's reminded (by the most innocent of questions) of his guilt for not being stronger, for neglecting loved ones. for have gotten mixed up in this mess in the first place.

That is how you show support: be confident he'll do the best he can. Don't say you're confident... BE confident. Through your actions. Are we ever assured of another's confidence in our self simply because they claimed to be? No, it's demonstrated by how they treat us, what they say and don't say.

If you feel pity for the addict, it means you think you understand addiction. You don't. If the addict fishes for pity, they don't understand addiction. You are an impartial observer here. You've no reason to feel sorrow OR resentment towards his addiction, because you don't know what addiction is. You don't have an opinion on his addiction, and he should not cajole one from you. Do not humor him just because he's suffering.

Sounds odd, but think of the alternative: if you think you know something about addiction, you will then automatically attempt to reconcile, say, his negative behavior with your idea of addiction. By establishing premises, logic will compel conclusions, and SHAZAM... you now have a whole structure of opinions and judgments on his struggle with addiction---conclusions which will most certainly be at some odds with how he himself perceives it---and argument is born! Strife shatters what SHOULD have been a normal, familiar environment, and time spent ruminating on his life is lost. All because of a faulty premise.

Time is important here. Like the one ring that rules them all, his former master meth will come calling, and the pull will be strong. If he hasn't had the time to make adequate forward progress, your Frodo may instead become Lord Denethor.

Normalcy. Peace and quiet. Personal time. Neutral opinions of what you know not. These are the words and deeds the recovering addict seeks, though he might not know it.

Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
I think I should add that my husband is not in recovery and continues to think that meth is not a problem.

I've given him to God -
Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
Thank you Reason and Barncats7.

This is so helpful. I thought of making a list of his great things, his birthday is next week. But may be I should wait a little; he is in a critical period right now and certainly hates himself. He is very smart and will figure out that I'm trying to pump him up, I can see how this can backfire.
I still think it's a great idea.
Don't know.....confused.....because they say that in the beginning of getting  sober they need the most support, but at the same time I don't want to sound like I'm sorry for him.
Sounds like a great birthday present, but will it backfire.
I'm willing to learn.
What to do?.
Reason Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?

I'm curious... assuming you've asked him, what kind of things would he prefer you do during the recovery period?
Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
He always tells me to take care of myself, which I try to do very hard.
He doesn't ask for support very often, but sometimes calls and keeps me on the phone. I try to lead him in to talking about what he would need to talk about, and it works well. We talk about things that are very personal; the ones we don't feel comfortable talking about to others. I try to support him like that, but that is a rare occasion.
I guess the dilemma is: when I write him something encouraging, some times I get an answer some times not. I often find out about how much it meant to him month later. But I also except the fact that in that time my support might have been making him feel like a looser. I very clearly see your point. You have may be saved me from doing smth. very premature I think the idea of the list is great, it's just the timing. Addiction is cruel it will use us against the ones we love.
I read your post to me over and over again. It was like reading an educational book about helping a loved one. I do have a personality that tends to want everyone to be OK, saying positive things to people is very easy for me, it's learning the other side that's hard; it's hard for me to wait while others learn their lessons on their own. I want to make it OK for them.
But I'm willing to do what I need, even if it feels uncomfortable. I really think he is on the right track now and I don't want to screw it up. He takes what I say to heart and it's where I need to be careful.
Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
I totally agree with the list thing. When Kyle was in rehab I'd write letters to make him not feel so homesick. One of the things I sent was a list of 100 reason why I love him. I found he mostly didn't want to talk about rehab when he already had 4 to 6 hours of therapy, he just wanted to laugh.
Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
Juliette, Reason has given me-us, some of the most clear and deeply thought out wisdom on the "meth addict" and I have done a lot of thinking on his posts as well. I think he has given a peak into the addict's mind that we couldn't have gotten without him being clean and thoughtful. My addict has listened to me read his parts of understanding an addict and I saw the recognition and feeling of being alike in his usually downcast eye. When I read him Sfj's and Spacemonkey's and Suze's and a few others posts, he also seems to "relate" so I think after my pseudo scientific experiments with communication with the addict in the contemplation of recovery stage, I think Reason has hit the nail on the head...

I know that having people just tell you to "focus on you" and "leave them alone" doesn't quite make it in the advice department. I am finding that if I include my addict bf in my recovery as just "a small part", I feel much more complete-much more whole at the end of the day....When trying to help, support, communicate with the addict we love, it is so easy to get sucked in and down.
It's like opposites of what we think are good are best. Insanity really. I often have to actively tell myself that I am sick and I don't know best-weird how surrendering even my emotional intelligence works best to give me peace.
I pray before I speak to my addict-or at least I try to remember...usually real communication is so sporadic and I swear the meth demon enemy controls the timing. keeps me waiting until I just want to scream...then sometimes I wonder if it's the angels preventing me from saying things that should be left unsaid. If I give my feelings to God, then He can be responsible for passing them on....I try to stop trying. Reason put that into words much better for me.

I have seen the opposite response from what I thought I would get from my many attempts at "building up the addict who is still using"-Oh my gosh! Being kind and positive and complimenting has seemed to chase the guy away-even down to the simplest things seem to evoke shame and guilt in him-Yes, it's STUPID! but so is meth addiction-making a wonderful healthy meal with all the love and care of serving has gotten me 3 days of silence and hide and seek...there are sooooo many things that my guy feels pain from that he has no idea how to explain that it's impossible to even begin to interpret and it's better that I not try-for me and probably for him as well.

For your peace and health, listen to your heart-intuition, if you have even an inkling that you aren't being received the way you think you should, stop and give your loving kindness back to yourself or to your group. Works for me more than I like to admit.

in SF
Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
I've said it before, and I'll say it again...

Reason, I really think you should write a book. I have printed and kept every one of your posts because they are so helpful to me as I try to find and walk the thin line that is compassion, caring and support for my addict, without stepping on either side of that line.

It's difficult...When I talk to him, I don't want to sound condescending, superior or judgmental; rather, I want him to know that I still love him and respect any decision he makes whether it be to keep using an denying his use or getting help and getting clean. He has to do what works for him, just as I have to do what works for me.

Right now he is in the denial state. He has never been in recovery; I don't even think he has considered it. It may never happen. But he did call while I was reading Reason's post, and, for the first time in a long time, we had a "normal" conversation, mainly talking about the fog and the special significance it has for us. But I made no suggestion that we get back together; nor did I indicate that it is over for good. The subject never even came up. We just talked...

For now, I am comfortable in being a touchstone in his life. I think that's because I have finally reached a place where I am confident I will NOT drawn back in. It took weeks of ignoring his calls and weeks of reading and writing the posts on this board, to reach this point.

I have to keep reminding myself that letting go, and finding the appropriate way to do so (i.e., the way that works the best for ME), is really a process and not an event (my new mantra), and as individual as each of us.

Anyway Reason, please write a book!
Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
I love all of you guy's posts. It really puts a different light and reflection on a difficult dilemma of how to support an addict that hates himself at the moment.
Reason's post was like thunder and lightening, was exactly what I needed. That's what I call God-sent.

Prayers for all.
Re: How to support an addict without sounding sorry for him?
Reason, did you know that God was using you a lot lately?
just wondering.....

Have you been eating something different lately?? Praying? Getting out into nature? Are you in love or something-with someone other than yourself? Just wondering and want you to know that you are very special to many-uh oh, that won't make you relapse or something...ok, scratch all that. thanks

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