Could you be inadvertently sabotaging your loved one's chance at getting sober? As a counselor, there are a few ways that I regularly see family members do that can undo all the work the counselor is doing to help a person who's trying to find sobriety.
Families, I'm about to call you out here, but before I do, let me say I've done every one of these. As I said, we don't inadvertently do these things. We're not trying to sabotage their recovery in any way. The things that we say are natural things to say. When you say these things it can be counter-productive. Not only is it not helpful, but it is pulling everything in the wrong direction.
1. Negative forecasting. I get why you'd want to do this. Negative forecasting is kind of like making future predictions that the person's going to fail or it's never going to work. Let's look at some different ways this might show up. Maybe you have it in your head that your loved one can never get better.
The problem is if you have that in your head, you're sending those messages out. Even if you're not saying it directly, you're not very hopeful that the situation can get better. You're probably looking for evidence that fits with what your theory is, and because you're looking for that evidence, you're probably accidentally reinforcing that evidence.
The second way that this shows up is when you're constantly reminding your addicted loved one about their failures. The reason why you do this is because you want them to see, Hey, you've tried that, it didn't work. When you're constantly reminding them of their failures, guess what gets implanted in their brain? They believe they are never going to get better. How can they get better if they can't even imagine themselves getting better?
2. Another way that families sabotage people trying to get sober is they're constantly reminding them that it's genetic or that it's a disease. You're trying to have empathy and make them feel less shameful. In some ways, it's another form of sending messaging that says you can't help this. You're doomed. You're cursed with these genetics or this disease.
3. A fourth common way that I see families sabotage is they ask this question, "So what's going to be different this time, or what are you going to do differently?" As you can see, the question comes across as sarcastic, like yeah, yeah, yeah. I heard it all before, same old story. Nothing's ever going to change. Instead of saying something like this, maybe what you could do is you could find what's different this time.
Sometimes with a client, I might say something like, "you know what? You have a lot more conviction in your voice this time than I heard in the past."
What I'm doing then is I'm sending a message of "Hey, I'm hearing something different this time. I think this time is going to have a different outcome." When you can plant those kinds of seeds in someone's mind, you're setting in motion positive changes that can happen.
Everything you say and every way you interact has an effect, and it's pulling in one direction or the other. Not only that, but when you say these things kind of negatively to your loved one, they're going to feel defensive.
They're probably going to respond to you negatively, which will reinforce your negative belief about what the outcome is going to be. Can you see the cycle here?
You can positively reinforce that change, even if they've tried that a million times before. If the person's still alive, they're still in the game.
Now, if you struggle with some of this negative thinking, don't worry, it's natural, and pretty much anyone in your situation would think and feel the same way. Albeit not very productive.
Try to replace some of these negative thought patterns with some of these positive strategic steps, and you're bound to see some positive movement going for your family.
Are you tired of arguing with your loved one about their addictive behavior?
Motivation Masterclass is designed to teach you the highly effective motivational techniques addiction counselors use when working with people in denial.