For any frequent reader of this blog, you know that we focus a lot of time and attention dedicated to the family. We believe that educating the family on addiction and their role in an addict’s recovery gives the best chance of success in sobriety. But what exactly is the role of the family in recovery?
For most families, the want and need to support a child in recovery is almost automatic. But often they are unsure of what to do, or their idea of what they should do may be incorrect; possibly even harmful. Yes, it IS possible to be harmful by doing what you perceive as helping! This may come as a surprise to many, but it’s a reality. It’s called co-dependence.
By far, the easiest yet most important thing that a family member can do is educate themselves. Knowing more about addiction as a disease and how it not only affects the addict but also the family members is a key component in providing help and support to someone in recovery. You can do this simply by reading. Blogs such as this one, books written by other parents and professionals, attending Al-Anon meetings (this is very important!) and asking questions to those with more experience are all great ways to educate yourself.
Often times, family members will do this long before their loved one ever attempts to get sober, simply because they no longer know what to do and have exhausted all other options. At this point, it is often best to let the addict make their own decisions and let them achieve their “bottom”, rather than being taken advantage of by always offering help at every junction. This brings us to our next step.
Hold The Line
It is important to distinguish your role to your loved one when they are new in recovery. Often this means doing things that you may perceive to be harmful, possibly even the opposite of what your intuition tells you. But I assure you; you’ll be doing the right thing.
Usually this means setting boundaries. State that you are willing to help your child only if they are willing to help themselves. Make it clear that you are comfortable helping them only if they agree to meet you half way. Every situation is different, but this may entail them making a decision to get help by entering a recovery community, detox center, or treatment. Typically, all three!
Helping by Supporting
Letting the recovery process take place by taking a back seat does not necessarily mean you should not be involved. Attending therapy appointments or family-centered events provided by your loved one’s recovery community as a show of support can help both you and them directly. More than likely your bond of trust has been shattered by months, or even years of drug addiction and broken promises. Being there for them while they put in the work to rebuild your relationship can help make it better than ever.
Another benefit of attending your loved ones to therapy appointments is that a good therapist can teach you strategies to help you succeed. This is where all that honest communication will really benefit you; you can help your learn your loved one’s signs of stress and possible triggers that may tempt them to relapse. Oftentimes you will be able to spot these potential problems earlier than even they can.
We know that watching a sibling, son, daughter, or loved one attempt sobriety can be a stressful and tumultuous time. It is important to remember that you are not alone. Addiction affects millions of people every day and there is always somebody out there willing to help you if you put yourself out there. If you have any questions about addiction at all and you are reading this, please do not hesitate to leave a comment!