The impact of substance use disorder is not limited to the individual involved, but reverberates across the entire family. When a loved one is struggling with substance use, family members may end up utilizing maladaptive coping techniques. For example, they may try to ignore the substance problem, micromanage their loved one or avoid them altogether.
However, when the loved one enters recovery, the family has an opportunity to become an important source of support. This is why treatment centers include family involvement in their programs — to educate family members about the disease of addiction and guide them toward developing a healthier family dynamic. This prepares the family to be a rich source of support during their loved one’s recovery.
Why family support is important during recovery
For most of us, it is within the family that our deepest bonds are formed. The family unit is our first social network, and remains a significant source of support throughout our lifetimes. It isn’t only the individual with the substance use disorder that will be healing, but rather the entire family unit that will heal together.
So, when one member of a family enters recovery for a substance use disorder, their relatives — who may be parents, siblings, a spouse, adult children or grandparents — will play an important supportive role. By providing family support during recovery, the family becomes a partner in a loved one’s journey, thereby increasing their chances of recovery success.
5 ways the family can support a loved one in recovery
As a family, you are likely very relieved and happy that your loved one has chosen to get treatment for a substance use disorder. You want to be there for them while also being careful not to fall into enabling or codependent behaviors. The goal is to support their recovery aspirations without hindering their progress.
Here are five ways families can help a loved one in recovery:
- Offer encouragement and emotional support: Your loved one needs to know that you are in their corner, that they have your love and support. Make sure you communicate these words of encouragement often as they go through their recovery journey.
- Provide space for open communication: Your loved one will need a safe, accepting place to communicate their emotions, struggles or fears they experience during early recovery. When inevitable setbacks occur, they will benefit from your input and counsel.
- Offer logistical support in early recovery: Many times, the loved one in recovery has to pick up the pieces of their lives and start over. They may need a ride to work, meetings or legal appointments or someone to pick up or drop off their kids at school. The family can pitch in and help out with these logistical needs early on.
- Set healthy boundaries: Establishing realistic boundaries helps both the family members and the loved one in recovery. When all parties understand the need for boundaries and clearly articulate them to each other, including any consequences if boundaries are breached, it becomes a safeguard against family dysfunction.
- Include them in family events: Strive to rebuild cohesion in the family by including your loved one at your family gatherings. You can also show them your support by excluding any substances from family events or gatherings.
Family support during recovery is invaluable every step of the way. When the family honors a loved one’s recovery goals and is there for them, it boosts their confidence and sense of self-respect, which helps them to succeed.