How Families Can Help, or Hinder, Recovery

Reviewed Mar 27, 2016

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Summary

  • Empower your loved one whenever possible.
  • Celebrate milestones in recovery together.
  • Get help from others.

Recovery from addiction is both a wonderful thing and, at times, a difficult process for everyone involved. No one intuitively knows how to effectively deal with someone else’s addiction or recovery. Without adequate knowledge about addictive disease and its impact on relationships this turmoil can be overwhelming. 

As a result, families, friends, and co-workers “tip toe” around the person with the problem in fear that they may cause him to get angry and relapse. This all-too common behavior is based on the faulty belief that we are somehow responsible for the mood and bad choices of another. The result—everyone stays sick. 

What is recovery?

Recovery from addictive disease—which includes alcohol and substance use disorders, compulsive gambling, and sexual addiction—is a process of learning, accepting, making responsible choices, and letting go of fear. 

For families, recovery begins when the decision is made to quit covering up, lying or making excuses for the person with an addiction. In other words, you can choose to be responsible for yourself and your happiness and allow the other person to be responsible for her choices. If lecturing, worrying, rescuing, screaming, and losing sleep were effective, then every person with an addiction problem would be cured.  

Recovery is much more than stopping the addictive behavior. Some of the most miserable people are those who have stopped an addictive behavior but have not found an ounce of inner peace, forgiveness or joy. They just seem to stay angry. Recovery involves restoration of the body, mind, and relationships, and redemption of the spirit. The same can be said for the family members who have also been hurt by addiction.

How to help

How can those closest to someone with an addiction help him in recovery? First, admit that you do not have the power to cause someone to use drugs or gamble—but you do have some influence. Therefore, there are things that help, and things that do not. As trite as it may sound, you have to start with your own thinking and choices. 

Here are some suggestions for what helps and what does not:  

  • Don’t take your loved one’s addiction, relapse, or even success personally. Remember—you did not cause it, and you cannot cure it. The hallmark of codependency is when the actions of another control how you feel or behave. Remember that those with an addiction choose their way toward happiness or toward relapse—so do you. 
  • Acknowledge and affirm. Recovery can be difficult. In your own words, let your loved one know that you recognize how hard recovery can be. Affirm her good choices and tough decisions. 
  • Empower whenever possible. For those with an addiction, early recovery seems like a long list of things they cannot do or things they must give up. Give your loved one choices about little things, such as where to go for dinner, or about how to handle kids and family life. Ask for his advice or opinion on things in your life. Be aware. This is harder than you think, especially for spouses who, out of necessity, may have spent years trying to control almost everything. 
  • Celebrate milestones in recovery together. Let your loved one know that you are proud of her accomplishments. Thirty days, 90 days, and one year of sobriety are especially big markers. Plan accordingly. 
  • Lose the drama. Creating emotional distance between you and the person’s “drama of the day” will keep you objective and healthy. When a problem or crisis arises, become a nonanxious presence and simply ask what he wants from you. Remember, never do for a person with an addiction problem what he is capable of doing for himself, even when it is hard. 
  • Get help, support, and counsel from others. You can’t do this alone. Isolation from friends and extended family is a common occurrence in families overcoming addiction. Friends, clergy and counselors can help you remain balanced during difficult times because they can look at you more objectively than you can look at yourself. Self-help programs such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and many faith-based programs offer excellent support for families. 
  • Let go of worry. This is perhaps the most difficult hurdle for the loved ones of those with an addiction problem. In this sense, worry is connected to a false sense of control, when in fact, the opposite occurs. Worry keeps you preoccupied with things you cannot change and pulls your attention from other family members and responsibilities. 
  • Be present and future oriented. Addiction brings out the worst in everyone. You cannot change the past. Seek forgiveness from others and forgive yourself—and move on. 

Recovery from addiction offers tremendous hope for a better future, but it is not easy. If you need more help, call the toll-free number on this site and speak with a professional.

By Drew Edwards, EdD

Summary

  • Empower your loved one whenever possible.
  • Celebrate milestones in recovery together.
  • Get help from others.

Recovery from addiction is both a wonderful thing and, at times, a difficult process for everyone involved. No one intuitively knows how to effectively deal with someone else’s addiction or recovery. Without adequate knowledge about addictive disease and its impact on relationships this turmoil can be overwhelming. 

As a result, families, friends, and co-workers “tip toe” around the person with the problem in fear that they may cause him to get angry and relapse. This all-too common behavior is based on the faulty belief that we are somehow responsible for the mood and bad choices of another. The result—everyone stays sick. 

What is recovery?

Recovery from addictive disease—which includes alcohol and substance use disorders, compulsive gambling, and sexual addiction—is a process of learning, accepting, making responsible choices, and letting go of fear. 

For families, recovery begins when the decision is made to quit covering up, lying or making excuses for the person with an addiction. In other words, you can choose to be responsible for yourself and your happiness and allow the other person to be responsible for her choices. If lecturing, worrying, rescuing, screaming, and losing sleep were effective, then every person with an addiction problem would be cured.  

Recovery is much more than stopping the addictive behavior. Some of the most miserable people are those who have stopped an addictive behavior but have not found an ounce of inner peace, forgiveness or joy. They just seem to stay angry. Recovery involves restoration of the body, mind, and relationships, and redemption of the spirit. The same can be said for the family members who have also been hurt by addiction.

How to help

How can those closest to someone with an addiction help him in recovery? First, admit that you do not have the power to cause someone to use drugs or gamble—but you do have some influence. Therefore, there are things that help, and things that do not. As trite as it may sound, you have to start with your own thinking and choices. 

Here are some suggestions for what helps and what does not:  

  • Don’t take your loved one’s addiction, relapse, or even success personally. Remember—you did not cause it, and you cannot cure it. The hallmark of codependency is when the actions of another control how you feel or behave. Remember that those with an addiction choose their way toward happiness or toward relapse—so do you. 
  • Acknowledge and affirm. Recovery can be difficult. In your own words, let your loved one know that you recognize how hard recovery can be. Affirm her good choices and tough decisions. 
  • Empower whenever possible. For those with an addiction, early recovery seems like a long list of things they cannot do or things they must give up. Give your loved one choices about little things, such as where to go for dinner, or about how to handle kids and family life. Ask for his advice or opinion on things in your life. Be aware. This is harder than you think, especially for spouses who, out of necessity, may have spent years trying to control almost everything. 
  • Celebrate milestones in recovery together. Let your loved one know that you are proud of her accomplishments. Thirty days, 90 days, and one year of sobriety are especially big markers. Plan accordingly. 
  • Lose the drama. Creating emotional distance between you and the person’s “drama of the day” will keep you objective and healthy. When a problem or crisis arises, become a nonanxious presence and simply ask what he wants from you. Remember, never do for a person with an addiction problem what he is capable of doing for himself, even when it is hard. 
  • Get help, support, and counsel from others. You can’t do this alone. Isolation from friends and extended family is a common occurrence in families overcoming addiction. Friends, clergy and counselors can help you remain balanced during difficult times because they can look at you more objectively than you can look at yourself. Self-help programs such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and many faith-based programs offer excellent support for families. 
  • Let go of worry. This is perhaps the most difficult hurdle for the loved ones of those with an addiction problem. In this sense, worry is connected to a false sense of control, when in fact, the opposite occurs. Worry keeps you preoccupied with things you cannot change and pulls your attention from other family members and responsibilities. 
  • Be present and future oriented. Addiction brings out the worst in everyone. You cannot change the past. Seek forgiveness from others and forgive yourself—and move on. 

Recovery from addiction offers tremendous hope for a better future, but it is not easy. If you need more help, call the toll-free number on this site and speak with a professional.

By Drew Edwards, EdD

Summary

  • Empower your loved one whenever possible.
  • Celebrate milestones in recovery together.
  • Get help from others.

Recovery from addiction is both a wonderful thing and, at times, a difficult process for everyone involved. No one intuitively knows how to effectively deal with someone else’s addiction or recovery. Without adequate knowledge about addictive disease and its impact on relationships this turmoil can be overwhelming. 

As a result, families, friends, and co-workers “tip toe” around the person with the problem in fear that they may cause him to get angry and relapse. This all-too common behavior is based on the faulty belief that we are somehow responsible for the mood and bad choices of another. The result—everyone stays sick. 

What is recovery?

Recovery from addictive disease—which includes alcohol and substance use disorders, compulsive gambling, and sexual addiction—is a process of learning, accepting, making responsible choices, and letting go of fear. 

For families, recovery begins when the decision is made to quit covering up, lying or making excuses for the person with an addiction. In other words, you can choose to be responsible for yourself and your happiness and allow the other person to be responsible for her choices. If lecturing, worrying, rescuing, screaming, and losing sleep were effective, then every person with an addiction problem would be cured.  

Recovery is much more than stopping the addictive behavior. Some of the most miserable people are those who have stopped an addictive behavior but have not found an ounce of inner peace, forgiveness or joy. They just seem to stay angry. Recovery involves restoration of the body, mind, and relationships, and redemption of the spirit. The same can be said for the family members who have also been hurt by addiction.

How to help

How can those closest to someone with an addiction help him in recovery? First, admit that you do not have the power to cause someone to use drugs or gamble—but you do have some influence. Therefore, there are things that help, and things that do not. As trite as it may sound, you have to start with your own thinking and choices. 

Here are some suggestions for what helps and what does not:  

  • Don’t take your loved one’s addiction, relapse, or even success personally. Remember—you did not cause it, and you cannot cure it. The hallmark of codependency is when the actions of another control how you feel or behave. Remember that those with an addiction choose their way toward happiness or toward relapse—so do you. 
  • Acknowledge and affirm. Recovery can be difficult. In your own words, let your loved one know that you recognize how hard recovery can be. Affirm her good choices and tough decisions. 
  • Empower whenever possible. For those with an addiction, early recovery seems like a long list of things they cannot do or things they must give up. Give your loved one choices about little things, such as where to go for dinner, or about how to handle kids and family life. Ask for his advice or opinion on things in your life. Be aware. This is harder than you think, especially for spouses who, out of necessity, may have spent years trying to control almost everything. 
  • Celebrate milestones in recovery together. Let your loved one know that you are proud of her accomplishments. Thirty days, 90 days, and one year of sobriety are especially big markers. Plan accordingly. 
  • Lose the drama. Creating emotional distance between you and the person’s “drama of the day” will keep you objective and healthy. When a problem or crisis arises, become a nonanxious presence and simply ask what he wants from you. Remember, never do for a person with an addiction problem what he is capable of doing for himself, even when it is hard. 
  • Get help, support, and counsel from others. You can’t do this alone. Isolation from friends and extended family is a common occurrence in families overcoming addiction. Friends, clergy and counselors can help you remain balanced during difficult times because they can look at you more objectively than you can look at yourself. Self-help programs such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and many faith-based programs offer excellent support for families. 
  • Let go of worry. This is perhaps the most difficult hurdle for the loved ones of those with an addiction problem. In this sense, worry is connected to a false sense of control, when in fact, the opposite occurs. Worry keeps you preoccupied with things you cannot change and pulls your attention from other family members and responsibilities. 
  • Be present and future oriented. Addiction brings out the worst in everyone. You cannot change the past. Seek forgiveness from others and forgive yourself—and move on. 

Recovery from addiction offers tremendous hope for a better future, but it is not easy. If you need more help, call the toll-free number on this site and speak with a professional.

By Drew Edwards, EdD

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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