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What It Means When a Loved One Goes Silent In Recovery

Josh Billings once said that “Silence is the hardest argument to refute”. Though, as Lao Tzu would say, “silence is a source of great strength,” silence can also be “..one of the great arts of conversation,” as Marcus Tullius Cicero said. Silence isn’t always comfortable. When you are supporting someone in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, silence an be an eerie reminder of days past. You would lose track of your loved one, go days without hearing from them, only to receive a desperate call for help some day later. You are rightfully concerned when your loved one goes silent. However, silence is a tool they are learning to use in order to effectively regulate their emotions. Silence is an opportunity for reflection, introspection, integration, and restoration. Learning to communicate the need for personal quiet time can take time, which isn’t a convenience to you. Here are some things to keep in mind when your loved one goes silent in recovery:



  • Your loved one has relapsed and doesn’t know how to tell you
  • Your loved one is thinking about relapse and doesn’t want to tell you
  • Your loved one has experienced something traumatic and isn’t able to talk about it yet
  • Your loved one is working through old resentments which could involve you and they need to create some distance
  • Your loved one is isolating in order to avoid interaction because they do not want to feel intimate or close to others. This can be a warning sign of relapse.
  • Your loved one is losing sight of reality and could be struggling with their dual diagnosis issues



  • Your loved one doesn’t have to tell you everything about their lives, all the time
  • Your loved one is entitled to their privacy and alone time
  • Your loved one might need a period of isolation and introversion in order to reboot themselves
  • Your loved one can have their own emotional experiences without your interjection
  • Your loved one does know the right thing to do
  • Your loved one simply needs to know you are there for them when they need you



  • Pushing your loved one to talk if they aren’t ready
  • Making threats in order to get your loved one to talk because you’re uncomfortable with their silence
  • Turning the focus of your loved one’s silence on you and how it makes you feel
  • Telling your loved one that they are going to relapse if they don’t talk
  • Proposing ultimatums which include that you will not be available to talk once your loved one finally is



  • Take care of your own needs rather than put all of your energy into your loved one
  • Examine any discomfort about your loved one’s silence with a therapist
  • Recognize your limitations in supporting your loved one
  • Accept the things about your loved one you cannot change
  • Lovingly let your loved one know they can come to you any time


The family can heal. At Enlightened Recovery Solutions, we encourage family healing through family therapy and family weekends where everyone can be involved in recovery. For information on our integrative partial care programs for addiction and dual diagnosis issues, call us today at 833-801-5483.

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