When someone struggles with addiction, their family members suffer too. In fact, addiction is commonly described as a family disease. It’s difficult to watch your loved one’s life fall apart and feel helpless to stop it; you might also find yourself feeling angry or frustrated with your addicted family member. The good news is that involving family members in recovery is a valuable role that assists in the recovery process.

Go to Family Therapy

One of the most important things you can do to help a recovering family member is to get involved with family therapy. Studies show that treatment approaches that feature family involvement have better success rates than treatment plans that don’t include family members.1 Addiction can cause serious damage to relationships, but family therapy can help heal the wounds and allow you to move forward. In therapy, you’ll learn more about the chronic and relapsing nature of addiction, which can help you support your loved one more effectively.

Be a Source of Social Support

Social support is crucial during early recovery, as it reduces stress and feelings of isolation during an otherwise difficult period. With a little effort and thought, you can be a key source of social support to your recovering family member. Keep the lines of communication open, and use the communication skills you learn in family therapy to reduce any tension or friction in the relationship. Make an effort to spend time with your loved one doing fun, positive activities to help them stay busy and engaged. Most of all, just be sure to let your family member know that you care.

Encourage Support Groups or 12-Step Programs

Support groups and 12-step programs can be immensely helpful, both in the early stages of recovery and beyond; however, a newly recovering person may need a bit of encouragement to participate. Help them find local meetings in your area and be supportive as they “shop” for a group that works for them. You can also show your support by modifying the family schedule to accommodate regular meeting attendance and learning the philosophy of the group your loved one has joined.

Recognize the Warning Signs of Relapse

Addiction is a chronic disease, and the rate of relapse hovers between 40 and 60 percent.2 Those figures might be daunting, but you can help your recovering family member avoid relapse by knowing the warning signs. A few behaviors that may signal an impending relapse include:  
  • They stop attending support groups or 12-step meetings, believing they no longer need the help
   
  • They seek out friends and acquaintances that they used to drink or use with
   
  • They’re dealing with some form of stress or sadness that might drive them to self-medicate
   
  • They get defensive if you point out any changes in behavior or attitude
 

Family Members in Recovery

Family can have a big impact on a loved one’s recovery from addiction. The early weeks and months of recovery aren’t easy, but your support can help your family member weather the tough times. Addiction may tear relationships apart, but family therapy can bring families together again.
References:
  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-adolescent-substance-use-disorder-treatment-research-based-guide/evidence-based-approaches-to-treating-adolescent-substance-use-disorders/family-based-approache
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery

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