The Importance of Engaging Families in Recovery

As an individual pursues recovery from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, the members of their family can be a crucial part of their recovery success. The entire family system is affected when their loved one abuses drugs. When family members are involved in the recovery process, it makes relapse less likely.

Any member of a family can develop a substance use disorder (SUD). Whether it’s a parent, child, spouse or sibling, the burden on the rest of the family can be overwhelming.

Therefore, a program of care that addresses the entire family system is very important. Every member of the family system is linked to key elements that are part of the addictive cycle. When one member of the family system changes, the other members must adjust, or jeopardize lasting change.

Why Family Intervention Matters

Family involvement and education are two keys to achieving a successful addiction treatment outcome. When a family member knows they are not alone in their journey to recovery, to provide support, and helps them adapt to new lifestyle changes. When a family learns about their loved one’s challenges during the treatment process, they will understand the issue better, and how they can support their family member better

While the urge to hide an addiction from the family often carries over to maintaining secrecy about the rehabilitation process, it’s better for families to be involved and educated about the cycle of addiction. For recovering families, knowledge is a powerful tool. Openness like this leads to more transparency and accountability in relationships.

What Families Frequently Ask

When their loved one is in treatment, common questions asked by families may include the following:

  • How can I help my loved one?
  • Is there anything I should change after a loved one leaves rehab?
  • What are my and my family member’s options?
  • What is the best way to start?
  • What could I do better?

These are great questions to ask. Answers to these questions and more actionable items can be gleaned when family members participate in a family counseling process.

Becoming Educated About Their Loved One’s SUD

Learning about addiction, and its status as a mental health disorder removes guilt and empowers family members.  They will realize that they are not to blame for the substance use disorder, but they can play a part in the recovery process. They should also learn that their loved one with an SUD needs their help and support in order to fully recover.

Instead of maintaining unrealistic expectations that the person stops using forever and “life returns to normal,” families should learn that they can support their loved one by taking part in their own recovery plan. This way, they can be there for their loved one ‘where they are currently,’ rather than clinging the hope or expectation that change will be sweeping and instantaneous.

How Can families Help an Addicted Loved One?

Al-anon is a very powerful, widely available, and free support group for relatives of an addicted individual.  This community has been a lifeline for many parents and children of SUD suffering individuals.  There are also other family support groups available for relatives and loved ones of those with an SUD.

Family involvement workshops are often offered by drug rehab centers as part of the treatment program. Conveniently, these workshops are increasingly being offered in a virtual environment as a result to COVID-19. By participating in your loved one’s drug rehab family program, you will learn more about drug addiction and better understand your loved one’s special needs.

About the Author

Scott H. Silverman has been facilitating interventions in San Diego for many years.  He is the CEO of Confidential Recovery, an outpatient addiction treatment program in San Diego.

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