Love As The Bridge to Change

When a loved one is mired in the web of an addiction, a family member can help them wake up and make the decision to move forward in a new direction.

This concept, of family having the power to make a difference in a loved one’s decision is not new. It is borne out by the research that states that when a family gets better, the loved one’s long term outcomes are often better.

The original Alanon’s wrote about 4 C’ s: You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, you can’t cure it, but you DON’T have to Contribute to it. ‘It’ in this case, is the addiction.

Sadly, that fourth C is nowhere to be found in most meetings today.But it was there 30 years ago, when I learned about it and put it into practice. I never took and still wouldn’t take credit for my husband’s sobriety. Yet, he felt the influence of my positive contribution to his decision to change. And when he gave leads, he attributed his sobriety to me.

I’ve been working with families affected by a loved one’s addiction for 7 years professionally (plus the 22 years prior as a 12 step sponsor) and have built the work I do with families on this idea: that families are, at every moment, either contributing to their loved one’s addiction or to their recovery. And that it is possible to learn skills and behaviors to contribute powerfully to recovery.

The work is inner and outer. There is a new way of looking at self, at loved one, a new way of seeing emotional upset, a new way to respond rather than react.

And then there is the new way of communicating — a way that doesn’t judge, doesn’t talk down, doesn’t pity, shares facts in a way that they can be heard — and often are!

The bridge between a loved one’s using and that decision to change can be rickety at first — Yet, it is the family’s love, coupled with new attitudes and communication skills, that holds up the bridge and gives the loved one the ability to cross it successfully.

It turns out, love is the bridge. Only love must be schooled in how to relate to a loved one struggling with issues of addiction. For if it is not, it often breaks the bridge, enabling the loved one to fall off the bridge, right back into their using behaviors.

The work of family recovery coaching turns out to be the work of educating families in a new, powerfully active approach to love, and that work is as gratifying as work gets!

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