It’s no secret that having a solid support system of family and close friends makes a big difference in a substance abuser’s recovery journey. Several studies in alcohol abuse treatment show that marital and family therapy helps people reluctant to seek treatment and contributes to the abuser’s ability to stay sober.
But what happens when your family relationships are so strained that they don’t want anything to do with you? Or perhaps you don’t have family members around, as is frequently the case with kids aging out of the foster system. And in some cases, your immediate relatives may abuse substances, and that environment could easily trigger a relapse. What do you do with little or no family support?
Contrary to what you might think, you can do much to repair your broken relationships with estranged or openly hostile family members. Our addiction recovery center counselors recommend the following:
1. Try to Make Amends In Words/Actions
When you were active in your addiction, you most likely said and did very hurtful things to those closest to you. Some of those things you may not necessarily be able to take back. Just because you have gone through drug rehab and are sober now doesn’t mean all is forgotten. There is a healing process you both need to go through, and depending on the severity of your addiction, that could be lengthy.
Ask for forgiveness and offer to make restitution for those things for which you can. As a faith-based recovery center, Renaissance Ranch utilizes the 12 Steps as a primary vehicle in recovery. Step 9 calls on the substance abuser to make direct restitution, wherever possible, to those they have harmed. This is a formidable task but also a necessary one.
The Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book states, “Although these reparations take innumerable forms, there are some general principles which we find guiding. Reminding ourselves that we have decided to go to any lengths to find a spiritual experience, we ask that we be given the strength and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the personal consequences may be. We may lose our positions or reputation or face jail, but we are willing. We have to be. We must not shrink at anything.”
Maybe you stole money or raided the family bank account to feed your habit. Begin to pay that money back as you are able. Even if your spouse or other family members don’t forgive you and refuse your efforts, put that money into an account for them when they are ready. Maybe you failed to keep promises or commitments. Make and honor them now.
2. Offer to Connect Family and Friends to Helpful Resources
Sometimes, a lot of the anger directed toward family members who are recovering substance abusers is exacerbated by a lack of understanding. Offer to accompany them to a family-oriented support group or send them links to informative podcasts on addiction. Explain that you’re not trying to get them to excuse your behavior. Instead, you’re trying to give them insight into addiction, the challenges you face in recovery, and how you can work together to rebuild your relationship.
The Ranch offers a Family Addiction Recovery podcast series and a comprehensive, free family education program that includes access to classes, groups, and other helpful resources.
3. Be Patient
While your family and friends may not accept your attempts at restitution right away or believe your commitment to recovery, the fact is you do. You know who you are and what you’re working toward, and at some point, they will, too.
In situations where you don’t have any family or your current home environment is triggering, here are some options you should consider:
4. Keep Your Distance
This is especially important in situations where members of the household still use or abuse drugs and alcohol. Your family may agree that you have a problem but still refuse to admit to their own struggles with substance abuse. In addition, it’s not a good idea to be around people who refuse to adjust their drinking or recreational drug use habits so they can provide a less triggering environment for you.
Continue to reach out to make amends, but keep yourself at a safe distance. Communicate to them that you want to be more present in their lives, but you struggle with sobriety when they continue to drink and do drugs in front of you. Find neutral places to meet and work on rebuilding connections, such as a coffee shop or the mall.
5. Create Your Own ‘Surrogate’ Family
Seek out friends in your therapy and peer groups. Many drug rehab organizations also have alumni associations to keep you involved and accountable to someone after treatment. You can also go to activities and mixers organized by your local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Another great idea is to start attending a religious congregation. As a Christian-based rehabilitation center, we believe having a strong faith community behind you is invaluable in addiction recovery.
You’ll be surprised at how many surrogate brothers and sisters you can find among your rehab peers, mentors, and pastoral leaders.
6. Volunteer in Your Community
Give back. Our trials and challenges don’t take center stage when we serve others. We are free to focus our efforts and talents on helping people instead of wallowing in shame and self-pity. All of us have various skills and gifts that our addictions have suppressed. Rediscover them. Use them to create beautiful things, or moments, for the people around you.
The big lie of depression, which is often a co-occurring feature of substance abuse, is that your little life doesn’t matter; nobody will miss you if you drink yourself into oblivion or overdose on street drugs.
The reality couldn’t be more opposite. Everything you do matters and causes rippling effects in your family and community. Getting sober will make a lot of difference in creating a better world, starting with your corner.
7. Consider a Sober Living Facility
Sober living facilities offer a unique opportunity to continue to live in a substance-free, residential setting without the strict constraints of a drug or alcohol rehab. You leave to go to work or school, and you participate in your community. Still, you also don’t have access to substances in the house, your social activities are more limited, and you are held accountable by the manager and others in the home.
Choosing to stay in this type of recovery housing eases the transition back to ‘real’ life with all its temptations, helps keep you connected with your therapy and other peer groups, and gives you opportunities to share your daily emotional ups and downs with those traveling a similar road. You also learn life skills together and, in many ways, relate to one another as a family.
A sober living program offers a safe place to land for those without a robust family support system or who need a bit more structure to ease them into their recovery.
We hope you know that however, your family operates, and whether they support you or not, you have several paths forward in your recovery journey. For more information on how we can help you achieve life-long sobriety, call us at (855) 736-7262.