How to Support my Child’s Recovery

Working in the field of recovery, I am often asked questions surrounding the role parents take on once they successfully help their child enter a recovery program or sober community. What is their role in supporting their child on this new journey?

We often hear that addiction is a family disease and this is very much the case – there is a growth process that happens not just for the addict, but for the family as well. There are a few important things to consider while your child is getting sober that will not only set them up for success, but also help you appropriately participate in their journey into recovery. Taking a part in Al-Anon, educating yourself about addiction and recovery, and involving yourself in their new sobriety in a healthy way are all important parts of the bigger picture.

Al-Anon and the Parent’s Recovery


Just like your child has an addiction to drugs and alcohol when they get sober, parents are often unconsciously addicted to the drama and issues surrounding their child’s addiction. It can be difficult to let go of the need to control and manage everything in their life – these are learned behaviors that have become rooted pretty deeply as a result of trying to contend with the addictive lifestyle they were living. So it is important to get involved in a personal program of recovery for yourself. Al-Anon is a great way to do this, as it gives the parent or family member the chance to begin his or her own recovering. I’ve worked closely with a lot of different families, I have had the ability to observe the differences between parents who participate in Al-Anon and those that do not. The families that work their own Al-Anon program are happier, less worried and handle difficult situations much easier than do the families that are not involved with Al-Anon. There is a marked difference in their overall sense of ease and acceptance that makes them much more effective at showing up for their children, as well as maintaining their own sanity and emotional well-being through the recovery process.


Educating Yourself to Addiction


Educating yourself to what addiction as well as sobriety looks like is another important part of the parent’s role in their child’s recovery. Understanding the types of behaviors surrounding active addiction will allow you to much more easily recognize when something is off in your child’s recovery. Education also gives parents some more insight into what makes the addict tick. Communicating with other families who have children that have some experience with sobriety and maintaining these types of connections are a great source of experience and information. It is also important to educate yourself to what recovery looks like for young people. Knowing the importance of your child remaining involved with a positive peer group, attending 12 Step meetings, and living their life according to certain principles insures that you can support healthy behavior that is conducive to recovery. Understanding why your child won’t be able to “just have a beer with dad” and other similar scenarios will help you to avoid conflicting with the lifestyle a young person in recovery lives and allow you to be a source of support in their life.


Involving Yourself in Your Child’s Life in Recovery


Participation in your child’s recovery is also crucial. This is also why Al-Anon and education are so important. Either of those subjects can improve your quality of life with a child in recovery, but when you combine them together and utilize the information and tools that they give you in order to actively participate in your child’s life, you are giving your son or daughter a large amount of support that can be extremely helpful. With Al-Anon you learn the types of boundaries that are valuable to set and the healthy independence it is important to give your child. This does not mean to completely disengage from your child’s life however. I see a big difference in the quality of sobriety that guys experience that have families who are involved and engaged in their sobriety and those that distance themselves from the process. Physical distance is not what I am referring to here – there are a lot of families that don’t have the ability to be physically close to their children as they get sober, and this doesn’t have to be detrimental to their recovery. What is important is the level of emotional involvement. Asking your child questions, getting to know what is going on in their world, and showing solidarity when it comes to a life that is focused on recovery has a powerful and positive effect on their sobriety. Let them know that you not only support their recovery in any way that you can, but that it comes before the other issues that families can often get preoccupied with, like careers, schools and finances.

Addiction is a family affair, and so is recovery. Parents that work to take care of themselves through a personal program, educate themselves to what addiction and recovery look like, and involve themselves in their child’s life in sobriety give their children the best shot at staying sober. If you have any experience with a child getting sober or have any input on what that looked like for your life, we would love to hear from you!


  • Tamra B
    Posted at 21:17h, 11 November Reply

    Denial….denial….denial! That ugly word rears its head much too quickly for a parent who does not attend Al-Anon meetings. I have just returned from dinner with a friend who is in total denial. I know this because I sounded just like her about five years ago. I lived in fear, thus, thought I was making the best decisions for my son. I agree completely with this article. Parents must stay active in their own recovery so they can effectively support their son.

  • Debbie O-A
    Posted at 11:14h, 12 November Reply

    Tamra, you are so right! I am not able to support anyone in a healthy manner if I am not emotionally healthy. Great article Howard. We parents oftentimes think we know all the answers when it comes to our sons, because we “know” our sons best. The problem is that once addiction takes over, we find ourselves trying to navigate through waters with blinders on. Our pride, fear, shame, denial…call it what you will, takes over and we are empty. When we learn, just like our sons must learn, how to heal ourselves, how to recover…then we can truly be there to support them in a healthy manner. Al-Anon has given me the tools I need to grow and be a better me, to see the difference between helping and enabling, and has given me a program to work on. When my son speaks of program, I know exactly what he means. I can’t walk in his shoes, I can only walk in mine. But I have found that common ground whereby we can communicate with an understanding that is clear because we are both working our own programs. I know he will never be cured. Nor will I. And it’s okay because we are all works in progress.

    Howard, thank you for pointing out that physical distance doesn’t need to hinder your son’s support. Being far away from my son has made me appreciate our times together so much more.

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