Substance abuse does not, unfortunately, draw a lot of sympathy from people. Although addiction is officially considered a disease by the medical community, it is generally seen by most people as a self-inflicted problem, a conscious choice the addict makes rather than a chemical and mental compulsion that is difficult if not impossible to resist while in the throes of the disease.
But for full recovery, it is important the addict not only receives compassion from others but bestows it on themselves. This way, the patient can fully realize the transformative power of compassion in addiction recovery.
The average person is not inclined to show compassion to those suffering from addiction and substance abuse. Media depictions of drug users tend to focus on comedic stoners or criminal gang bangers, while alcoholics are almost always deadbeats or violent. People respond to substance abuse with scorn and cynicism, not mercy or compassion.
But addiction IS a disease, no matter what public opinion might hold. Those in its clutches are caught in a spiral of suffering, often unable to break away without considerable effort and usually a good deal of help. One can sometimes kick a cigarette habit on their own, but almost no one just quits drugs or alcohol without treatment of some kind.
This is why compassion is a necessary component of recovery. Even after a person has gone through rehab and tried to leave substance abuse in the past, it can be a hard road to recovery if they’re confronted with criticism and skepticism by everyone they encounter even after they’re sober again.
This is why a strong support system can be vital to a recovering addict. Friends, loved ones, fellow recovering addicts, support groups, and others who understand what you have been through and respond with compassion and empathy, rather than sarcasm and aggression, are an important part of recovery. They give the recovering addict a release valve, people they can talk to about their issues, who can hold them accountable but with encouragement rather than anger, who are there for them when they are struggling and feel they need help.
Self-compassion is also vitally important. It’s not enough for the former addict to have others show them care and understanding of their own response to their issues and mistakes is cruelty and harshness. Holding oneself accountable is important, but constant self-deprecation and disparagement only lead to discouragement, despair, and ultimately relapse.
The recovering addict must not only forgive themselves for their past addiction but understand they may struggle in the future, and may even make mistakes. They must show themselves compassion and move on, rather than dwelling on these mistakes and doubling down on bad behaviors that lead to relapse and an end to recovery.
At Good Landing Recovery, compassion is a touchstone of everything we do. We work to help patients in an understanding, empathetic way, knowing they are coming from a difficult situation and need help and care, not constant criticism. Mistakes will be addressed but with compassion in all things.
Come check out Good Landing for yourself and discover the transformative power of compassion in addiction recovery.