The people's voice of reason

I Need to Support My Family Member and His or Her Recovery

Staying sober is a life-long journey; it is helpful and easier with the support of friends and family.

1. Alcohol and drug free climate – One of the biggest indicator of long-term sobriety is whether or not the person of recovery has a substance free environment. In the beginning stages of recovery loved ones can assist the recovery process by removing any triggers for the person dealing with the addiction.

2. Actively listen – One of the biggest things you can do for a family member working on sobriety is listen, don’t judge or be critical, and be available.

3. Encourage healthy lifestyles – There are a myriad of ways to do this: exercise, playing games, yoga, spiritual enlightenment, church, and reading bookings. All can help with healthy, new living.

4. Be patient – Recovery is a lifelong endeavor and a complicated process at times. People often make mistakes in sobriety, so it’s important for them to know that their family and friends love and support them.

Food for Thought

Supporting a family member with sobriety can be very arduous at times. Because drugs or alcohol may have damaged the relationship for such a long time, making that individuals presences during the addiction process limited or qualitative time sparse. It is the norm for the person with the alcohol or drug addiction to have their proprieties out of whack by virtue of the disease. When the family member who has the addiction begins his or her sobriety journey, they seem very absent emotionally and physically. They may have to participate in counseling, in an inpatient program or outpatient setting for a period of time. A person of recovery may have to address, mental health issues, childhood unresolved issues, relational issues, abuse and all its forms, and, of course, guilt and shame that has gradually pilled up over the years. In addition, the family member with addiction simultaneously embarking in some type of support group that has been recommended by a counselor, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholic Anonymous (AA), making them less available to everyone. The family members who do not have the alcohol or drug addiction, who have been negative effected by the alcohol or drug addicted member, may now feel threatened by the scope of events that the alcoholic or drug addict individual has to participate in to maintain sobriety. There is a feeling sometimes of resentment to the process of sobriety by the non alcohol or drug addicted family members. However, the family members in time, will see the benefit of supporting and encouraging the attendance of the person struggling with the addiction on a regular basis. If the support is there the transition in recovery usually is smoother, creating a safe environment for all family members. This allows the person struggling with the addiction to be fully present in the family or individual settings. I have personally had to deal with a family members with addictions issue and I can tell that this will take some time to get used to, however I can express to you the lasting outcome that sobriety has on all the family is priceless. I can further clue you in as a family member, it took me years to fully comprehend the importance of supporting my loved ones need to regularly attend AA/NA support groups and knowing the life changing positive effects that going to meetings has on my loved one. As a clinician, support groups such as NA/AA are essential for recovery as it provides a kinship and normalizes a lot of their experiences. It also gives the person with the addiction issues a venue to verbalize his or her struggle in an environment that others can relate to. I strongly encourage those effected by the addiction to attend meetings and get a sponsor .

For the non addicted family and friends, there is also a support group to help them as well. The disease of addiction effects the people it touches. Al-Anon Family Groups is a fellowship of relatives , coworkers, peers and friends of alcoholics who share their experience, strength, and hope in order to solve their common problems. Al-non believes alcoholism is a family illness and that changed views and attitudes and can aid the family in the recovery lifetime process. Other groups that can aid the family through the process is Alateen and Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families (ACA).

Hector Oswaldo Chavez, MS, is a Marriage and Family Therapist, Professional Counselor, and Substance Abuse Counselor. He serves on multiple boards and has worked in a variety of clinical settings such as with the Army, Navy, Hospital Inpatient and Outpatient, Community Mental Health, and Private Practice. His professional views may not necessarily reflect the views of other mental health or medical professionals. If you have any personal or family concerns about the topic discussed, please seek professional assistance.


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