Drug addiction and alcohol abuse have an enormous impact on the addict’s family, and addiction recovery refers to much more than getting clean and sober. Rebuilding a relationship with your recovering loved one is part of that process.
Families feel the strain of addiction in many ways.
- Trust is broken when the addict lies about his behavior.
- You may feel resentment about the addict’s behavior and its effects on your life.
- Routines are disrupted and home life is unpredictable.
- Children’s emotional needs may be ignored while the other parent focuses on the addict.
- Children develop unhealthy coping mechanisms that could follow them into adulthood.
- Home life becomes about keeping the peace rather than exploring interests and feelings.
- Money may become an issue if the addict is not working and is spending money on drugs and alcohol.
- Children may feel like they have to keep a secret about what’s happening at home, and it becomes a source of shame.
It’s not easy to repair relationships that have been put under this kind of stress, but it’s a worthwhile process, and it can be done. Get your family back by starting now.
Before Addiction Recovery
Acknowledge the impact the addiction is having on your family and seek professional help. Substance abuse treatment is probably necessary, and the sooner it begins, the better. It’s important to remember that you are not to blame for the addict’s choices; you are only responsible for how you respond to them. The addict must be willing to admit there’s a problem and want to seek help for himself. Though the intervention gets a lot of attention, it may be better to approach the addict on a one-to-one basis:
“Find a time when you can be alone together and free of distractions or interruptions. Tell them that you’re concerned about their behavior and ask if they’re open to hearing your thoughts. Try to use non-blaming language and avoid raising your voice or getting angry….If they’re receptive to hearing your thoughts and concerns, ask if they would be willing to seek professional help. They may not be open to discussing this option. They may become defensive. If this happens, let it go for the time being. Don’t threaten or shame them.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse points out that there’s no evidence that interventions are effective. Instead, such an encounter could backfire. They recommend trying to get the addict to a doctor in hopes he will listen to the professional advice if emotions and relationship dynamics cloud the concerns shared by a spouse or another loved one.
During Addiction Recovery
Follow the guidance of the substance abuse treatment center. In some cases, a counselor may want to talk with the family to better understand your relationships; in other situations, it may be better for the recovering addict to have some distance. In all cases, you can offer your love and support. The recovering addict may feel rejected or that she has failed; it’s important for her to know your love is constant, and that you want her to get back on track.
During this time, it may also be beneficial to seek counseling for yourself and other family members to uncover any repressed emotions concerning your life with the addict in your home and how to move forward with a successful relationship. Don’t assume your children are too young to notice or be affected. They, too, may benefit from counseling.
After Addiction Recovery
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says it can be difficult for the recovering addict to return to normal life. The triggers that inspire him to use are still present, and he will have to use what he learned in treatment to resist those temptations. If you know what some of those triggers are, you can help by keeping them out of the home or avoiding situations where the recovering addict may be tempted to use drugs or alcohol. However, in the end, the responsibility is his. You can simply offer your love and support. If he experiences a relapse, you can encourage him to seek additional treatment. You may also choose to go to counseling together as you seek to overcome any remaining relationship problems and build a healthy relationship once again.
Addiction recovery is a process for both the recovering addict and the family. Don’t underestimate the time and energy that you will want to devote to getting your family back together.