Recovery allows the space to cultivate empathy. During active addiction, your brain changes so that you may seek out the substance above other things in life. When alcohol or drugs are no longer your main priority, it often follows that you’re less self-centered. You are better able to understand other people’s experiences.
Still, sometimes we get so caught up in our own recovery, we forget that not everyone with addiction is where we are. Each person is on their own path—in recovery, and in life.
When You’re in Different Places Emotionally
Let’s say you’re far along in recovery and have done a lot of work. Your friend is newly sober, and you feel like they don’t have the same amount of insight or emotional sobriety as you do. It’s okay to offer them resources if they want them. But also understand that recovery is new to them. Try to remember where you were at that time.
When They Are in Active Addiction
Empathy for people in different stages of recovery includes those who are not yet sober. In the Stages of Change model of addiction, three of the five stages are pre-sobriety, and they may last a while. You can be in the contemplation stage—where you’re thinking about making a change and open to receiving resources—for years. I was in this stage for more than six years before I got sober for what I hope to be the last time.
I can say from personal experience: the people who get through to you when you’re ambivalent about sobriety are those who approach you with empathy. It’s understandable to be fed up with someone who clearly has an addiction and isn’t ready to do anything. There were people in my life who went that route, but there were also those who expressed concerns lovingly and showed me empathy. They let me know that I would have support when I got sober, and made it possible to consider taking that huge step.
Supporting Someone Who Started Drinking or Using Again
This is also true for someone in your life who relapsed (which, in some versions of the Stages of Change model, is one of the stages). We shared some tips for supporting a friend who relapsed during quarantine here, but these can be relevant regardless of the situation.
Allowing Recovery to Be What it is
The work in recovery is consistent and rewarding. Allow the people in your life to figure out what works for them on their own time. It may take longer than it did for you; however, there are bound to be things you’re still working on that others in your life have moved on from. Their recovery is theirs, and your recovery is yours.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for mental health disorders and addiction in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build a great life in recovery. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.