Staying on the Right Path: Tips for Families in Recovery

Families in recovery face their own sets of challenges in dealing with an addicted loved one as well as in dealing with addictions’ effects on the family. According to the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, when one person in the family struggles with addiction the whole family suffers.

Besides the physical and emotional turmoil the addict goes through, addiction leaves a psychological imprint on the addict, which inevitably affects his or her interactions with loved ones. Consequently, those closest to the addict learn to adapt and live with addiction’s effects.

Fortunately, families in recovery can make use of a range of options to improve their quality of life while supporting the addict’s recovery efforts. Over time, families in recovery can benefit from learning how to support and nurture the family as a unit, while letting the addict take responsibility for his or her recovery.

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The Family Unit

Families in Recovery

Families struggling with addiction should take time for themselves and time for the family.

More oftentimes than not, the family unit marks a starting point along the addict’s path to substance abuse. While other factors may well be responsible for introducing a loved one to drugs, somewhere along the way the addict learned how not to communicate difficult emotions, which ultimately lays the groundwork for drug abuse to take hold.

Once the addict completes drug treatment and returns home, an unchanged home environment will likely place him or her at high risk of relapse. Likewise, family members can fall back into destructive behavior patterns that harm the family as well as the addict’s recovery efforts.

In effect, families in recovery have their own baggage to deal with in terms of addiction’s effects on each family member. For these reasons, families in recovery must take the necessary steps to eliminate destructive relationship patterns and develop healthy ways of living and dealing with addiction in the home.

Tips for Families in Recovery

Connect with Other Families

The emotional turmoil addiction brings often drives families to isolate the problem and in the process isolate themselves from the world. Addiction naturally breeds feelings of shame and guilt that both the addict and his or her loved ones share.

Connecting with other families in recovery can go a long way towards breaking down the walls of guilt and shame. Support groups such as Families Anonymous, Al-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics provide a much needed outlet for families living with the effects of addiction.

Drug Education

Addiction works in much the same way as a disease, eating away at the addict’s personality, character and power of choice. These effects inevitably seep into the family system, creating an environment ridden with conflict and distrust. Understanding how drugs affect the addict equips families in recovery with the knowledge needed to make informed choices when the addict’s behaviors threaten the stability of the home.

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Responsibility for Self

It’s not uncommon for relationships between family members to unknowingly foster the addict’s drug-using behaviors. Addicts quickly learn how to manipulate the powers that be to their advantage, developing codependent relationships with certain key family members. As hard as it may be, families in recovery must learn to detach from the addict’s tactics and take responsibility for their own actions rather than being swayed by the addict’s demands.

Engage the Children

While children may not fully understand why the addict acts the way he or she does, they are no less affected by the destructive relationship patterns that addiction brings. As substance abuse problems tend to run in families, helping children understand what’s going on can prevent addiction from impacting the next generation. For this reason, families in recovery should make it a point to include the children in the recovery process, be it through family counseling and/or child therapy treatment.

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Setting Boundaries

During the course of addiction, the addict’s life loses all sense of structure and order. In turn, the addict imposes his or her “new world view” on loved ones, making unreasonable demands for the sake of getting and using drugs.

Families in recovery must become experts in setting boundaries and meeting consequences in terms of what the addict can and cannot do. Setting boundaries not only protects and strengthens the family as a unit, but also supports the addict’s recovery efforts.

Engage in Personal & Family Activities

Much like the addict must develop new outlets and pursuits to overcome addiction’s pull, families in recovery must also engage in new outlets and activities that nurture closeness and resilience. Likewise, individual family members can benefit from expanding their horizons in terms of developing new interests and pursuits. This can take the form of:

  • Family activities, such as picnics or walks in the park
  • Volunteering
  • Sunday dinner get-togethers
  • Extracurricular pursuits, such as book clubs or joining a gym
  • Joining a church

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Consider Family Therapy Treatment

According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, families in recovery can benefit from the support and direction family therapy treatment can provide. This form of therapy treats addiction as a family problem rather than singling out the addict as the source of the family’s problems.

Through family therapy the family can work through the hurt caused by the addict’s actions while at the same time taking responsibility for the roles they play in enabling the addict’s behavior. In the process, family members develop healthy ways of managing addiction’s effects in their day-to-day lives.

Relapse Preparation

While addicts in recovery may have every intention of staying on the straight and narrow, relapse is often a necessary part of the recovery process. The same goes for families in recovery.

Preparing for times when the family or a family member falls back into old behavior patterns offers the best way for getting past difficult periods. By developing strategies for dealing with relapse events, families in recovery can avoid drastic setbacks.

Addiction Recovery is a Process

Addiction recovery entails a process of growth and change that families in recovery must go through along with the addict. Much like the addict may require months or even years to overcome addiction’s hold, families in recovery may well require at least as much time to heal old wounds and develop the type of lifestyle that supports a drug-free home environment. For help finding addiction treatment call 800-934-1582(Who Answers?) toll free.

the Take-Away

When there is an addict in the family, other family members often end up struggling with their own emotions and well-being. It’s important to make time for yourself and your family.