It is not always about having the right words to say, but asking the right questions and giving the space to answer with vulnerability.

Recovery can feel extremely isolating and discouraging even for those with supportive loved ones who want to help. If someone you love is having a hard time opening up to you on their recovery journey, you can try supporting them by phrasing your conversations sensitively and promoting positive responses. They may want to share something with you without knowing how to articulate a difficult feeling. Maybe they simply need the time and space before they are ready. Here are some ideas to help guide your conversation so they can be vulnerable and communicate at their own pace.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Questions that allow for deep thinking and introspection help your loved one feel like you truly want to hear them. “Yes” and “no” responses can seem shallow, especially when discussing something as traumatic as addiction and mental illness. Practice to structuring your open-ended questions to support their feelings and direct your conversations.

Stimulating questions can include:

  • “How are you feeling right now?”
  • “What is one of your recent wins we can celebrate?”
  • “What is something you are excited about?”

Ask What You Can Do for Them

Asking for help is a skill many people recovering from abuse or addiction need some time to master. Your loved one might need extra support but struggle to ask clearly, or perhaps they feel like a burden. Showing them you are willing and available to support them is a powerful way to increase trust and their openness to receiving it. Get creative with ways you can ask them to tell you exactly what they need.

Consider asking:

  • “What is one thing I can do to make your day better?”
  • “What would you love me to do more or less of to support you?”
  • “How does it make you feel when I do ___?”

Reinforce Their Wins

Recovery is a journey full of everyday challenges and wins that need celebrating. Because moving forward from addiction requires relearning self-esteem and building habits from scratch, reinforcing your loved one’s small wins can make all the difference. Let them know you see how hard they try even if something goes wrong. Show them you are genuinely excited when they make progress or share it with you. Having you in their corner can be the extra push of motivation that supports their healthiest recovery.

Celebrate recovery wins by:

  • Asking how they feel or how they would like to reward themselves
  • Explaining why exactly their efforts matter in the long term
  • Telling them how it makes you feel when they accomplish ___

Being a strong support system for your loved one in recovery can look like whatever type of support they need most. It is not always about having the right words to say, but asking the right questions and giving the space to answer with vulnerability. Do your best, communicate clearly, and most of all, simply let them know you are there no matter what. After experiencing your unconditional support, your loved one will open up when they are ready.

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. Patrick is currently a writer for Mountain Springs Recovery as well as on his own blog.

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