+ When do we stop being supportive of a struggling loved one? - BALM

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When do we stop being supportive of a struggling loved one?

BALM | April 22, 2017

Wendy was frustrated. Her daughter had been in treatment 14 times and just dropped a syringe on the bathroom floor. When her mom pointed it out, she said it belonged to a friend. At first mom believed her, but then we talked and she snapped out of it.

Is it time for mom to stop being supportive?


Stanley is ready to walk out the door. His son just od’ed again. 911 got him to the hospital on time. Stanley’s Alanon friends told him to turn away and ‘let his son hit bottom.’

Is it time for him to stop being supportive?


Corrine’s son was arrested and kicked out of college. Should she let him come home and fight his lawsuit as her husband requested? Should she turn her back and let him just figure it out for himself?

No. No. and double No.

The old days of ‘let them hit bottom’ are truly past.

In today’s world of fentanyl laced drugs, bottom = death.

So what is a parent or other family member to do?

Keep being supportive

What can support look like when a family member sees evidence that nothing they are doing is stemming the tide of their loved one’s use?

Just as in the early days of a loved one’s use, there is NO guarantee that anything a parent will do or say will ‘work’ to get a loved one to stop using and get their life ‘back on track.’

Support has many faces.

Just as a family member at one point needs help with self care and at another needs support with how to have loving conversations, a loved one needs different types of support at different times.


For Wendy, whose daughter was in 14 treatment centers, and whose heart had been broken so many times she could no longer count them, support meant having a heart to heart conversation with her daughter, letting her know she would be there to discuss her next steps when she was ready but she had to give up being a part of family parties and coming home when things got really bad just to get strong again, as it was too painful for her to see her each time, knowing that each visit could be the last. Wendy’s willingness to share exactly what she was seeing (just the facts!) with her daughter, coupled with giving up seeing her for awhile and focusing on self care turned out to be the one thing that helped her daughter see it was time. And when that time came, Carol was ready. She worked with her coach to find a long-term facility for him and used the leverage of full re-entry into the family to help her daughter make the decision to go back into treatment. Once she was in treatment, Wendy did the following for the first time after 14 times:

    1. She decided to allow the treatment center to run the show and to work with them, not with her son.
    2. She let go of the dream that her son would one day come back to their home town to live and did the inner work necessary to let go of that desire as well.
    3. She got to work with her coach so she could begin the hard work of her own recovery and thus had little energy or time to focus on her son’s ups and downs.
    4. She began a sincere review of the BALM principles and took the 7 steps class again so she could strengthen her knowledge and resolve as a loving supportive parent who helps without enabling, stays out of denial, and allows the professionals working with her son be the leaders in his recovery process.


For Stanley, whose daughter Sally used again at the hospital, two days after an overdose, being supportive meant staying the course. Though his friends in Alanon told him things would not get better if he stayed in the picture, he stayed. He got his daughter safely to treatment, and did the following:

    1. Made an appointment with the treatment center the next day to discuss Sally’s history.
    2. Let them know he was a BALMer, and as such would partner with the treatment professionals as an advocate for his daughter’s recovery.
    3. Stayed the course with his own recovery work, continuing to work with his BALM coach, taking part in the 7 steps class each week and listening to the Daily BALM expert interview recordings on his way to work each morning and on the way home each evening.
    4. Shared what he was learning in BALM about being lovingly involved even when things seem hopeless at his Alanon meetings.
    5. Taking excellent care of himself so he could handle the ups and downs of what his daughter’s illness might bring.


For Corrine, whose son had been caught in college using, arrested and thrown out, it meant turning off the money faucet, using treatment as leverage and then using her son’s desire to get his car and college back as continued leverage during two years in a sober living environment. Corrine’s strength in sticking to boundaries, not handing out any money to her son, providing powerful coaching and sober living for her son AND getting her own all came together as she learned how to turn her anger into loving support for her son’s recovery. Corrine learned to support his recovery by:

    1. supporting the professionals in keeping him on track
    2. supporting his recovery by ending all opportunities of entitlement in his life – including setting boundaries for her husband for whom enabling was a way of life
    3. supporting her son’s recovery by being there for loving BALM conversations that she worked with her coach to perfect and then was able to develop and use on her own at will
    4. supporting his recovery by listening to her son, asking deep questions, and allowing him to work out his recovery
    5. supporting his recovery by not giving into his desires (money, early release from treatment, getting his car back too soon, etc)
    6. supporting his recovery by ignoring the “he’s an adult” talk rampant in the field and in his son’s vocabulary while she still had the financial strings and the ability to use it as leverage to help him choose recovery
    7. supporting his recovery by letting go of an unhealthy desire to do whatever he asks for ‘so he would still love her’.(otherwise known as enabling)

Support comes in all shapes and sizes and a million varieties.

Crucial to being supportive is TONE and vocabulary.

Loving someone who uses is neither stupid nor is it ridiculous.

Whatever the addiction, you love this person because you are connected to them on a level much deeper than the brain disorder they are struggling with.

The key is to know and act on:

  1. what will help you give them the BEST chance to recover
  2. what it will take for you to ride the tiger of a relationship with addictive behaviors without harming yourself
  3. the difference between helping and enabling and always choosing helping NOT enabling
  4. staying out of denial
  5. Working your BALM program
  6. Staying connected to your BALM community.
  7. Speaking to and about your loved one with dignity and respect. They are not a pariah! They have a brain disorder.
  8. knowing the difference between treating someone with dignity and respect and giving into their whims and desires.
  9. the importance of taking care of YOURSELF so YOU can have a life worth living while loving and supporting someone struggling to recover themselves.

Know that love and peace are the foundation of every aspect of your BALM work and acting from the quiet loving place within will allow you to be their BEST chance of recovery. As we always say, each person has their own journey, and there is NO guarantee of your loved one’s recovery. But this path of peace and love will give them their best chance and increase the peace in your heart and your home along the way, and that is a form of support that can be there for you and them at every point in the journey.

Be A Loving Mirror!