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How Do I Support My Loved One in Addiction Treatment Without Burning Out?

Empathy and compassion are two terms used frequently when discussing mental health, treatment for mental health, being in recovery for mental health, and supporting someone with mental health conditions. Compassion and empathy are similar but not exactly the same. Empathy is the “ability to understand and share the feelings of another” whereas compassion is “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” Both empathy and compassion ask us to get out of self and put ourselves into another’s shoes.

We reflect on our own experiences with suffering and misfortune in order to be empathetic toward another and feel compassion for their circumstances. Mindful writes that “empathy is our natural resonance with the emotions of others, where we sense the difficulty someone might be feeling. Compassion is one of the many responses to empathy.” In their article on how to care deeply for others without burning out, they touch on the importance of knowing the difference between empathy and compassion. They also touch on two important realizations, which are essential for any caring relationship, but especially critical when you are loving and supporting someone recovering from addiction.

First, it is essential to be mindful of your own limitations. Noticing the signs that you are becoming overwhelmed by your loved one’s addiction is the way you will be able to avoid lashing out, burning out, or giving up completely. You can only do so much. In fact, you can be a lifesaving person. However, you cannot be a superhero all the time. Though we can love and support our loved ones with addiction endlessly, we cannot actually change them; meaning, we cannot make them stay sober. This is another important realization the article mentions. People do not have the capacity to change other people. We can inspire, encourage, force, and abuse, but we cannot actually change them. We can have an effect or make an impact. We cannot actually change who our addicted loved ones are or what they choose to do. “Compassion also implies a wisdom and intelligence to know that it’s not up to you to fix the world for others,” the article explains. “You can’t function if you’re just taking in other’s pain all the time. There’s balance that’s crucial: You can acknowledge the pain, you can want to help, but you have to recognize that you can’t change other people’s experience of the world.”

Watching our loved ones go through pain and suffering of addiction is difficult. In the beginning of recovery, there can still be a lot of pain and suffering. Thankfully, recovery gets better overtime. You will watch your loved one heal and grow. Recovery can be part of your life as well. It is important to maintain healthy boundaries and take care of yourself in order to take care of others.


Enlightened Recovery Solutions encourages family healing and recovery. Our partial care programs offer family therapy and family programming, giving everyone an opportunity to come together and find serenity. Bringing together the best in alternative therapy, clinical treatment, and twelve step philosophy, our integrative approach to dual diagnosis treatment promotes transformative healing. For more information, call us today at 833-801-5483.

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