How You Can Help a Family Member in Recovery
When you love an addict or alcoholic, you probably have spent a long time hoping and praying that your loved one would get sober. Now he or she finally has made that choice, and for the families of addicts and alcoholics, early recovery is a time of learning new ways of relating. Your family may have lived through many difficult experiences. You may have put up with legal issues, financial problems and loss of trust and communication. You may have felt that the person you have known for years isn’t even there anymore.
The thought that the addict is choosing to learn to live a sober life probably gives you a sense of relief and a lot of hope. You want to believe that all the disruption and uncertainty you have been going through is finally behind you. Your loved one is back. Life might be able to become somewhat normal again. What can you do to help ensure that the addict or alcoholic continues to stay on the right track?
Finding Out What the Addict Needs
A supportive family can be a huge benefit to a recovering addict. There are several ways you and other members of the family can offer support to your loved one. Addiction is a family disease. Not only are all family members affected by the person who has become an addict, but the dynamics of family relationships may have influenced or enabled addiction all along. Family therapy may be beneficial to everyone involved. You will find that the addict isn’t the only person who needs to heal and learn new behaviors.
It may take some time to find your role in the addict’s recovery. Talk to the recovering addict and find out if he or she wants you to attend meetings with him or her. Some recovering addicts may appreciate family involvement while others might feel smothered if you tag along. Be open to conversations about what the addict is learning about how to live sober and what you can do to help. Get to know as much as you can about the disease of addiction so you can be prepared for what lies ahead in the recovery process. Your loved one may experience a wide range of emotions, especially in early sobriety. Relapse is not uncommon, and it doesn’t mean staying sober is hopeless. It just means there are more lessons to be learned.
Things to Avoid
There are certain things you shouldn’t do when it comes to your loved one’s recovery. Remember that the addict is on a journey of recovery, and it’s his or her journey. It’s not up to you to decide which meetings or how many meetings the addict should attend or what tools should be used to recover. Avoid trying to control the addict and avoid getting in the way of contact with sober friends.
There may be family get-togethers where there will likely be alcohol or drugs being used or abused. If your loved one isn’t comfortable attending these for a while, don’t push him or her. The recovering addict is in the process of learning what events and people may trigger the urge to use. Try not to put him or her in risky situations. Be open to other sober activities that you can do together.
Taking Care of Your Own Recovery
One of the most important things for you to focus on is your own recovery. Although you want to be there to help your loved one, you can’t achieve recovery for someone else. Instead, get involved at Al-Anon meetings. Learn more about addiction and how it affects the people who love alcoholics and addicts. Learn about how your own behaviors may have actually made the problem worse, such as bailing the addict out of legal problems or making excuses for unacceptable behavior.
It would be great if getting sober meant everyone would get to live happily ever after, but it’s not that simple. There may be a lot of ups and downs, especially in the beginning. Be ready to offer support to your loved one in any way you can, but remember to keep the focus on your own recovery.