To make it easy for you to remember. I'm going to use the acronym, CARD:
C is for Curiosity.
You want to be curious about what's going on with them. Ask questions, but this next part is crucial for you to understand;
You're not asking questions to ensure they did what they said or went where they were supposed to, etc.
That is not an accountability kind of curiosity. I know you've been doing that and it's not very helpful. What you want to do is be genuinely curious about their experience. You want to understand their situation.
Instead of saying, "Did you go to your meeting?"
Say, "What are those meetings even like? Do you ever talk, and who talks? Is it ever annoying? How'd it go in there?"
Ask questions in such a way that lets the person know that they can answer honestly, that they don't have to say, "yes, I went to my meeting, and yes, I did everything I was supposed to."
When you understand their experience, you'll know what motivates them, what doesn't and what roadblocks they might face.
A is for Acknowledging
Acknowledge any difficulties that they may be facing. Acknowledge their challenges. Let them know that their frustrations are understandable. Let me give you an example I run across all the time. Let's say, for example, someone is sitting in my office, and they're talking to me about going to meetings and complaining about it.
When they're complaining and fussing, it's natural in my mind to think you better figure out because this is life or death. But I'm not going to say that.
What you want to do at this moment is acknowledge what is happening and let them know that you probably feel very similar or you've had a similar experience, or that you understand. That will help to create a connection with you.
R is for Reinforce
Now that you're curious, you understand the experience, and you acknowledge where they're coming from... now is the time to reinforce the positive steps they're taking. That's how you get them to overcome the frustrations, obstacles, and challenges they're conveying.
You want to say,
You want to validate their courage, their willingness, and their humility.
They may think I don't want this sponsor anymore or I don't want to call this person or I don't want to talk to my counselor, but when you validate these positive steps, they will be more likely to continue to do it because they'll start to see themselves as the hero of their story.
WE WANT THIS!
We want them to see themselves as the hero because they'll realize how strong they're becoming and the positive progress they're making. This little step right here goes a long way. You don't want to skip it.
D is for Damage Control
If or when your loved one has some struggles or a misstep. Your job is to do damage control.
Inside, you're going to feel reactive and frustrated, and you're going to want to get angry and yell and scream, and you may want to run away. I know you're mad. I don't blame you, but if you're still in the game and you're still trying to help your loved one get better, your job is to do some damage control. I know you're thinking, how do I damage control it?
They're going to be thinking that anyway, so you don't need to say or reinforce that. Instead, say, "Dude, you had 93 days sober. You got one little step backward. You'll be able to get right back on track because you are doing incredible!"
You want to remind them that they are the hero in this journey and have what it takes to beat this.
Now, I know I'm calling this step five in our series on how to get your loved one sober, but you should always use this CARD method. These are the key ingredients.
Watch Step #1 on How To Get Your Loved One Sober: