Respecting my Child's Early Recovery

Respecting My Child’s Early Recovery

When your child is newly sober or even in their first year of recovery, it can be important to put aside personal wants in order to support them in their recovery. There are a few considerations and safeguards that help them to be successful in the beginning of their sobriety.



Something that gets talked about a lot in the recovery and treatment community is how addiction is really a family disease. This is very true, and the harmful effects of one individual’s drug or alcohol abuse can be a pervasive negative influence in their loved ones lives as well. Keeping with this perspective can be helpful for us to understand our roles in a child’s early recovery as well. Understanding that the beginning stages of recovery are a very tumultuous time and as such, certain precautions and changes being made are very important. Oftentimes, well meaning parents and family members who want nothing more than to include their newly sober child in events and family time are inadvertently jeopardizing their child’s chances or putting them in potentially dangerous situations. Not to fear though! There are some pretty simple and direct guidelines that can be followed and some safeguards that will help you to not only respect your child’s early recovery, but to support them in the best way possible.



 The first few months of any addict’s recovery, especially if they are a young adult, is a very uncomfortable time. Television, movies, music and popular culture are all emphasizing and glorifying drinking and partying. Everywhere you turn, there is a Budweiser advertisement portraying the sexy and fun atmosphere that supposedly comes along with drinking. For a young adult who is trying to get healthy and move away from this type of lifestyle, images like these can begin to take their toll. So it is important to have a show of solidarity in the home. By choosing to not drink or use yourself whenever your child is present, you are taking one more potential pitfall out of the equation. Words are easy, but actions such as these go a lot farther in terms of supporting your child’s new lifestyle. In addition to showing support though, not having drugs or alcohol present around your child removes the potential for relapse. A small, temporary change like this in your own life can go a long way towards benefiting your child’s.



When a child has finally put together a few months of recovery, families are often elated and want to quickly make up for lost time. While the sentiment is nice, sometimes this can get in the way of recovery. A good example of this is a big family trip or vacation. One of the most important aspects of a young adults early recovery is the community that they have to surround themselves with. This group becomes a family and gives them a level of support that can only come from other individuals who are walking the same path and sharing their struggles and solutions with one another. When you remove your child from this community, you essentially remove their biggest support structure and can unwittingly set the stage for a relapse. Big vacations and family trips are also emotionally intense at times, and without the familiar support of a community these types of situations can be difficult for the newly sober addict to handle. In the first year of sobriety, your child is still acquiring and testing out the tools that will serve them for the rest of their life, and it is unwise to expect them to understand how to intuitively deal with the situations that can crop up when distanced from a healthy peer group.



12 step meetings and other recovery commitments are also very important, not just in early sobriety, but throughout an individual’s recovery. There are times when these commitments can seem to interfere with family life and even prevent a child from attending or showing up for certain events. To support your child, be understanding of this aspect of their new recovery. Recognizing that part of the reason that your child is now so active and present in your life is because of their attendance and participation in these commitments can make it much easier to not obstruct their routine. Don’t take it personally if your child isn’t able to be somewhere that you would like them to because they have a 12 step meeting to attend – by showing up to that meeting, they are helping to insure that they will be able to show up for you many times in the future.

None of this means that your child will never again be able to accompany you on family trips, or that you can never have a glass of wine with dinner. Remember, these are suggestions for respecting and supporting your child’s early recovery! If they gain a solid foundation from the start, you will be able to do all of these things without negatively affecting them down the road. Your child’s sobriety isn’t something that is going to force you to stop living your life, but in order to give them the best chances of success it is important to take things slowly and carefully in the beginning. Being conscientious of these different factors will give your child a strong show of support as well as minimize the risk factors that don’t have to be a part of their early recovery. Do you have any experience with making changes to respect your child’s early recovery? We would love to hear from you in the comments section!


  • Debbie O-A
    Posted at 14:04h, 08 January Reply

    Thank you Howard, for addressing this important and sensitive topic. We parents are often ignorant of what “early” recovery means and how best to support it. Because there are so many treatment programs offering varying lengths of commitments, it doesn’t surprise me that parents believe 30 days constitutes “early” and one year is practically cured! Using the word “respect” is fabulous. We do need to respect our son’s recovery and his put our expectations and personal desires on hold. One of the many things I learned during my son’s early recovery was that it was the quantity of time I spent with him but the quality of that time. Not revisiting the past but talking about the present. I enjoyed listening to what he was experiencing now, how his world was changing.

  • Coleen H.
    Posted at 18:30h, 09 January Reply

    Excellent article, Howard. This is a very important issue. Some parents are uncomfortable about having to look at their own relationship with alcohol, mind altering medications and recreational drug use. I’ve watched parents subconsciously sabotage their son’s recovery journey because of their own attitudes or habits. Not necessarily overtly, but in insidious ways. Such as not being supportive of their son’s participation in on-going 12 step recovery or harboring the idea that their son will be able to safely use alcohol some day. Tough issues to tackle. But, just as addiction affects the whole family. Sobriety can affect the whole family, in a GOOD way! As a sober Mother, just celebrating 6 yrs, I know.

  • Ava S
    Posted at 16:53h, 10 January Reply

    Thanks for this, Howard. Those of us who are lucky enough to have our sons in treatment at New Life can always turn to you with questions about what will help, and I am relieved to know I won’t be treated judgmentally for my questions, as I too find my way to my own recovery.

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