What is the family’s role in a recovering person’s path to sobriety? How can they get involved in the rehab process?

Mar 31, 2021

Addiction doesn’t just affect the person who abuses, it affects everyone in their orbit – family, friends, and co-workers. Family members play a vital role in a person’s recovery, but they often feel at a loss when trying to figure out exactly what to do or say. Not knowing how to help can be frustrating to both the family member and their loved one. In light of how important family support is in the rehabilitation process, we asked our readers for some effective support strategies.
Martin Jon

Martin Jon

With over 20 years clean and sober MartinJon is putting his experience to good use and is focused on supporting caregivers. Bringing a wider conversation to the fore by focusing on “RecoveringTo,” he is including all of us into a previously closed conversation.

We can be true support

Family plays an important role in being a support. However, that can quickly devolve if the family wants to get overly involved in their family member’s program.

Most of us have pain, some of us use drugs and alcohol to cope with that pain. The rest of us use pacifiers of some sort. For some of us, it is cleaning, working, reading, exercising, the list of things we do to cope with our feelings of inadequacy, or pain that we alone carry, is endless. This is where family members can look to help those on a journey to recovery. Adding awareness and understanding to our own lives will then get extended to our loved ones unconditionally. As family members, we have to realize that it is not our fight but, when it is healthy and safe to do so, we can be true support. If a family member wants to get involved in a recovery process, I would suggest they start looking inward.

If we are determined to offer help to another, we can easily be manipulated, creating codependency, or enable those who we are convinced we are helping. Without true clarity, we can help no one. We need to examine where we escape, add awareness to our lives and extend the love we learn from doing that to those that we love who are struggling. By doing this we can begin to support those we love, and accept them as they are before any problems arise.

Keep open and honest communication

Family serves as the support system to every individual who’s recovering, [and is] essential, especially in the early stages of recovery. Everyone needs a family that they can count on, they can rely on and who won’t easily give up on them most especially during this difficult phase.

It is important to keep open and honest communication within the family in order to rebuild the trust and relationship that has been affected by addiction. Family’s love and support will always be the greatest aid during the toughest days anyone can go through.

Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson, founder of Sawinery.
Joanne Ketch

Joanne Ketch

Joanne Ketch is a multi-credentialed professional serving professionals, executives, medical workers, business owners, and first responders in Katy, TX, who have or think they may have a substance use disorder (and those who love them). Find her at Joanneketch.com

Encourage and support recovery

  • Participate in the process if the person is in professional treatment that includes a family program. Do the assignments, and engage as much as possible.
  • Work with the person in recovery to agree with what is “ok” and what is “off-limits” in terms of what you can share about your concerns and observations. For example, “Sue, when you start staying in your room a lot, I notice that your mood is more irritable and that has been a path to use in the past.” Or, Sue might ask that you do not inquire about her meeting with a sponsor or if she is keeping up with her yoga or meditation, but she might welcome an invitation for a walk after dinner. Regardless of the details, the key is to discuss them explicitly.
  • Remember it’s more powerful from a neuro-cognitive standpoint to be encouraging than to be discouraging. In other words, humans are more motivated by moving towards goals and positives than away from negatives. Most people will be motivated by improved relationships than “don’t get into more trouble at work.” Help your family members work toward and embrace the positives.
  • Don’t impose YOUR way of recovery onto them. Let your family member create their journey. There are many reasons addiction develops, and there are many pathways to recovery. Encourage and support recovery, not an exclusive pathway to it.
  • Celebrate wins, such as sobriety through a tough event, a triggering setting, [or] a stressful day.

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