As a mental health care professional, I often have long, heartfelt conversations with family members of those struggling with addictions, and I’m here to say that I’m okay with that!
Having been on both sides of the equation, I recognize the importance of validating and encouraging families that they have a right be exhausted and frustrated and that their efforts are having a positive impact on the person in recovery, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Addiction is a very selfish disease. It hijacks a person’s ability to act as a compassionate human and the families are often the hardest hit. Nobody else would take the kind of abuse they are often subjected to and stick around for more. In many cases, the outer shells of support have already fallen away, leaving only the core members to pick up the pieces because they are the ones who will never totally give up.
As professionals, we are often too caught up in the concept of “confidentiality” to spend the time speaking with the people who support our client after he or she leaves our office. Confidentiality is certainly important, but the experience of caring for someone lost in the battle of addictions is so sadly universal that it is possible to have conversations that are meaningful and helpful without ever mentioning the client’s name. Kindness and compassion take so little time to dish out, but the impact is tremendous and long lasting.