By Beverly A. Buncher, MA, PCC, CBC, CTPC

recovering boy with father

Research has shown the family plays a critical role in a loved one’s potential recovery. In fact, in any given situation, family members are either contributing to their loved one’s recovery or contributing to their use disorder. This article will show you how to contribute to your loved one’s recovery all year long and especially during the holiday season.

If you put these tips into play, you can get your own life back, and give your loved one valuable food for thought that could help set them on a new path.

Tip #1:
Make inner peace a top priority in your own life.

Energy impacts relationships. When your loved one behaves in a crazed, upset, depressed or otherwise imbalanced way, the natural response is upset on your part.

By making inner peace a top priority in YOUR life, you will be better equipped to respond to their problems sanely, rationally, and in a way that helps them move toward a better way of life. PLUS, you will begin to see life through new, more peaceful eyes.

Build your own fortress of inner calm so that you can consciously and consistently act in ways that give you the potential to contribute to making things better.

Tip #2:
Observe their behaviors objectively and jot them down.

Your inner upset distracts your loved one from their behaviors that need to change. So instead of crying or begging before or during the holiday, pretend you are a news reporter and simply observe the facts of their behavior and jot them down. There will be time to share them, just not yet.

Tip #3:
Use the power of your breath to calm yourself down.

Once you have objectively observed your loved one’s behaviors, look within. Are you upset? Is your blood pressure rising? Are you too upset to think clearly? Who wouldn’t be! But if the goal is to be helpful, it is important to bring yourself back to calm.

Use The 4-4-8 breath exercise to return yourself to peace. Here’s how:

Breathe in slowly, naturally, and deeply to the count of four. Then hold it into the count of four. Then let it go, again, slowly and naturally, to the count of eight. If these numbers are not the ones that work for you, experiment with others. The idea is to use your breath
consciously so you can bring yourself back to inner peace.

This does not mean you don’t have feelings to work through. We will save the details of that for a future article. But right now, breathe.

If that is not enough, stretch your arms and legs. Walk around the room or block quickly and powerfully, swinging your arms. When one feels upset, the blood often leaves the brain and goes to the feet. The breath stops and leaves you speechless and at a loss. The key is to return to rational thinking.

If necessary, quietly leave the room to bring yourself back to center. To be optimally useful to another person, and to yourself, calm is essential. There are many ways to use breath and body to increase peace within yourself. Use them!

Tip #4:
Get out of denial and into awareness!

This is important because: Denial is the glue of an active use disorder in a family system.

This is especially important to be aware of if you are finding yourself using all of your resources to cover up for them and bail them out of their problems.

Remember: your loved one must first lie to themselves to stay active active in their use disorder. Then, when you confront and they deny, they need you to believe them. That keeps denial in place and allows them to continue using in a smooth, unfettered way. For change to happen, someone has to break the habit of denial.

This leads us to Tip #5:
Believe your ears and eyes and not their lies.

Stay aware of the facts of the situation and continue to jot them down. Believe the facts, not your troubled loved one’s spin on the facts. You contribute to their use disorder when you allow their lies to push what you have seen and heard into the back of your head.

As you continue to jot down the facts, look for patterns of behavior that indicate a problem.

Tip: #6:
Script and then share what you have seen and heard in a loving conversation, known as a BALM (Be A Loving Mirror) conversation.

Once you know you have facts worth sharing (relevant to your loved one’s challenges), put them into a conversational format as follows:

• start with love
• share the facts
• end with love

Practice delivering this with a tone that is calm, sincere, and objective. Save the drama for another day. Not for this conversation. Then, when you have delivered the love and the facts, either change the subject or walk away. That is all. Nothing more.


Brief intervention is one of the most powerful evidence-based best practices when it comes to helping a struggling loved one consider choosing recovery.

You share it, without emotion, they get a chance to absorb the facts without the distraction of your drama. Powerful stuff. A peaceful BALM conversation is the best gift you can give your loved one AND yourself for the holidays!

Tip #7:
If necessary, set a boundary.
A boundary is something you put into place to improve your own life. It’s not about controlling them; it’s about choosing the life YOU choose to live.

Tip #8:
Stop Enabling!!!

Enabling is when you do anything that makes it easier for your loved one to get their substance and/or actively engage in their use disorder.

Stopping enabling will give you greater freedom now that you are no longer using your energy to protect their use disorder and give them fewer choices about how to get their substance or engage in their active use. Thus, disengaging from enabling makes your life better in the long run AND helps you be their BEST chance at recovery.

It’s a path worth pursuing if your goal is to help your loved one, and get your life back. For more information on how, read the book BALM The Loving Path to Family Recovery and join us at our free support calls during the last two weeks of December. You can learn more at http://balmfamilyrecovery.com or give us a call at 1-888-998-BALM.

Beverly Buncher is the Founder of the BALM® (Be A Loving Mirror®) Institute for Family Recovery Coach Training, and The BALM® Institute for Comprehensive Family Recovery Education. The BALM® Program is designed to make the tools of family recovery accessible to all whose lives are affected by a loved one’s struggles with substance and other use disorders. Her book, BALM® The Loving Path to Family Recovery, tells her own family recovery story and provides tools families can use to keep a loving connection alive while moving forward on their recovery journey.

To sign up for our free holiday support calls for family members, go to https://tinyurl.com/balmfamilysupportcalls

To sign up for our free holiday support calls for individuals with a use disorder, go to https://tinyurl.com/balmlovedonesupportcalls