Meet the Where Therapy, Recovery and Family Meet Forum Leaders
Aryeh Buchsbayew is a New York State licensed clinical social worker and has worked in the field of substance abuse and addiction since 2005. Aryeh is trained in CBT, DBT, and EMDR and specializes in trauma work. Currently serving as...
Menachem Poznanski is a New York State licensed clinical social worker and has worked in the field of substance abuse prevention, addictions treatment, and recovery support for the past fifteen years. Since 2004, Menachem has served as director (and now,...
(This represents a commonly asked question on this forum topic. Yakov Horowitz.)
Dear Aryeh and Menachem:
Please describe the most effective role family members can play supporting a family member who is in recovery.
Is it different than dealing with someone in the throes of addiction?
Thanks very much
Dear Rabbi Horowitz
The answer we often give people to this question, is to begin to imagine themselves as a mirror.
What we mean by this, is to focus any interaction in the relationship to be responsive to what the loved one is putting forward. This is not the same as being reactive.
It means allowing our loved ones to feel the outcome of their bad choices and continued reluctance to seek and receive help.
This doesn’t mean to create and manufacture consequences so they learn their lesson. Instead it means to be straightforward and honest without a demand that they do it your way.
It’s to admit when they have disappointed you, but also admit you aren’t going anywhere. It’s to let them know you wish you could give them money, or let them use the car or any other variation but the situation they mostly have created doesn’t allow it. To let them know your heart is broken for them, because you love them and that’s what love entails sometimes. To let them know when they are being dishonest with themselves, but not demanding that they agree.
This is what we mean by “be a mirror”, be responsive. To be a reflection of what they are doing to themselves and those around them, because not doing so only enables and protects them from facing the reality of the hopelessness of their current course.
This is critical because addiction is a disorder of control and dependency, and that often entails manipulation. When loved ones try to out manipulate an addict it’s the equivalent of stepping in the ring with a heavy weight champion. He or she is going to “win” every time.
You can’t make him get it. You can’t manufacture her rock bottom. They know manipulation and control way better then you can ever know it, mostly because they believe their own denial and dishonesty.
The best thing to do is to “step out of the ring” and show them the truth. “I love you deeply and unconditionally AND I’m deeply sad about what you are doing to yourself and our family.” “I am committed to you all the way AND I am sick of how you are treating me.”
All of this kind of matter of fact talk and action requires context and right attitude, and having a functional perspective requires support and faithful dedication to self care and development. All of that often requires prayer, meditation and a relationship with God.
Wishing you much strength
Menachem and Aryeh