Dr. Cali Estes - The Addictions Academy ®

The Importance of Family in Addiction Recovery. Guest post written by Trevor McDonald.


The Importance of Family in Addiction Recovery

familyFamily plays both an interesting and important role in the life of an addict. It’s common for addicts to numb emotional trauma with drugs or alcohol. And many times, family is at the root of an addict’s choice to abuse substances. So, family can play a role in creating an addict. And they also have a role to play in helping that addict recover.

Some families unknowingly have a system of dysfunction that contributes to addiction and stunts recovery. In order for the entire family, the addict included, to heal, they have to address the dysfunction.

There are also many cases where addicts develop from healthy, functional families. In these cases, the addicted person can lean on their family’s support to help them through recovery.

The importance of family in recovery

If you’re watching a loved one struggle through recovery, it can feel quite helpless. But you should know that you aren’t powerless. There are things you can do to help, but your role is more supportive than active.

The first step is to think about which type of family you are (or were). Did the addict in the family grow up in a dysfunctional environment or a healthy one? This isn’t about blame. Dysfunction can stem from many things, and it’s not always within your control. Regardless, it’s time to move past those damaging patterns. If your family has issues to work through, consider group counseling. This will help each family member heal, and the family unit will become stronger.

Once these things are addressed, there are a few other ways you can help a loved one through recovery.

Strengthen your connection

Addiction takes a major toll on the entire family. By the end, your relationships aren’t what they once were. In fact, you may never get back to your previous relationship. But you can still work to make your relationship stronger than ever. Make an effort to communicate daily and talk about what’s going on in the recovering addict’s life. Talk about your own life. Share experiences. Do whatever you can to get back to a family unit.

If possible, get out of your comfort zone together. These experiences create new lasting memories to replace some of those you’d rather forget. It’s all about reinventing your relationship as you work on fixing hurt feelings from the past.

Avoid judgment

It’s so important to avoid blame whenever you’re dealing with addiction in the family. It’s not the addict’s fault, and it’s not your fault. We all handle things differently and placing blame will not help anyone. Instead, do your best to show support for your loved one. And remember to take good care of yourself. Addiction affects the whole family, and everyone will need time to process what’s happening in their own way.

Whenever you feel like you’re investing all you have towards your loved one’s recovery, it’s time to take a break. Spend a day or even a few hours to do something for yourself. Keep it productive (e.g., meditation over binge drinking), so you can recharge and get ready to get back into the swing of things.

Become a gatekeeper

Emotional support is so crucial during recovery. But oftentimes, family members want to do something more tangible. If this sounds familiar, consider managing your loved one’s schedule to ensure he makes it to every appointment. This job may involve helping him get rides and make appointments, but it can help you feel like you’re playing an active role.

If you’re planning to go this route, be sure to get permission from your loved one first. There’s a fine line between helping and being overbearing. If your help isn’t welcome, it will just end up causing more stress for you both. Have a talk about how involved you can be before you start helping. If your loved one wants you to keep your distance, just let her know that she can call for help whenever she wants.

No one gets through recovery without support of some kind. Familial support is the best when it’s available, so try to come together and rally around the problem. When one family member is addicted, the whole family is affected.


Trevor is a freelance content writer and a recovering addict & alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.

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