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Four Strategies for Incorporating Family Into the Recovery Process

Family members who positively engage in a loved one’s recovery process can significantly increase the odds of a successful outcome, according to multiple research studies. One such study, published in the International Journal of High-Risk Behaviors and Addiction, found “the perceived social support of addicts to increase the success rate of addiction treatment.”

Conversely, the lack of family and social support can have a detrimental effect on the recovery process.

Negative social support may reinforce a person seeking recovery’s own anger, confusion, and belief that recovery is impossible. Environmental factors can also be key in determining whether or not the recovery process is successful; as negative emotions and dysfunctional family dynamics could derail their loved one’s recovery.

While a lack of support can keep someone seeking recovery mired in feelings of isolation, positive support can help increase their confidence in their recovery.

There are many ways family members and others with close emotional connections to a person battling a substance or alcohol use disorder can help increase the potential for success in the recovery process. These include:

Strategy 1 – Begin the conversation about treatment

Family members are often desperately concerned about a loved one’s drug or alcohol use but don’t know how to begin the conversation about addiction.  Yet, for many people struggling with addiction, they are often motivated to seek treatment by the care and concern of their loved ones. It’s important for these family members to push through any discomfort they may have about initiating a dialogue about their loved one’s substance use.

By speaking with a trusted doctor, therapist or addiction specialist, family members can be guided to resources and professionals that can help them better plan their approach to this conversation.

Education about addiction and recovery can help family members to better support their loved one’s recovery process. Often, family members don’t understand that addiction is a disease and may become frustrated that their loved one simply doesn’t stop this destructive behavior. By educating themselves about substance use disorders, family members can learn why it is so difficult to break the hold of addiction.

Results of a study on Family Support as an Intervention Strategy in Drug Addiction Recovery found that “family support in the intervention process, enhanced by psycho-education, contributes to a higher rate of recovery success among addicts.”

Whether a one-on-one conversation or a more formal intervention is best for family members, the Mayo Clinic suggests the following actions when initiating a conversation:

  • Be supportive and nonjudgmental.
  • Be specific about behavioral patterns you’ve observed.
  • Be encouraging. Reinforce the belief that your loved one can recover.
  • Be prepared to offer help. Be ready to share specific information, including local 12 Step support group meeting schedules, contact information for a local clinicians specializing in addiction, as well as information on treatment programs that are appropriate for their loved one’s issues.

Strategy 2 – Family involvement during treatment

Family support is vital before, during and after treatment. When a loved one is in treatment, continued family involvement can help them successfully maintain their recovery. Whatever the treatment model may be, regular family interaction is beneficial and encouraged by most treatment specialists.

The Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) says the presence of those who believe in “the person’s ability to recover; who offer hope, support and encouragement; and who also suggest strategies and resources for change” can be a key factor in the recovery process.

By participating throughout treatment, family members can gain a deeper understanding of their loved one’s addictive behavior and how their own family dynamic may have played a part. Together, the person in recovery and their family learn to improve communication skills, recognize and manage triggers, and identify and overcome negative behavior patterns.

Strategy 3 – Recovery isn’t just for the person with a substance use disorder

Addiction is a family disease. A family member with a substance use disorder can adversely impact the health of those closest to them. As a result, all of those impacted by addiction need help with recovery. The structure of the family remains weakened unless all members become healthy.

People seeking recovery and their loved ones can benefit from regular attendance at 12-step support groups, family counseling and other individual or group counseling programs. While AA and NA help those recovering from alcoholism and addiction, programs for family members include Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, Alateen, and Narateen. These programs help build a stronger understanding of alcoholism and addiction, enhance communication skills within the family, provide a better understanding of triggers to addictive behaviors and educate family members on how to manage triggers. They also provide a strong emotional support system for family members involved in their loved one’s recovery.

While certain lifestyle changes are necessary for a person in recovery to succeed, these changes are often beneficial for family members as well. Adopting a healthy lifestyle with regular physical exercise, a nutritious diet and relaxation techniques that reduce stress and promote healing can improve physical and mental well-being. The happier and stronger family members feel, the better able they are to support their loved one through the recovery process.

Strategy 4 – Family life after treatment

Addiction is a chronic disease that can be managed, but not cured. Simply completing a treatment program does not mean a person in recovery will never drink or use drugs again. Managing the disease takes life-long attention and, once again, the family can play a vital role here. Some techniques for supporting a loved one’s long-term recovery include:

  • Maintain a healthy home environment. Don’t personally use alcohol or drugs in the home.
  • Practice techniques learned in treatment for maintaining a calm environment, for stress management and for open communication.
  • Continue to express belief and support for your loved one, reinforcing the idea that they’re not alone.
  • Help ensure that your loved one is taking prescribed medications, keeping doctor and therapy appointments and attending support group meetings. Keep them accountable for their recovery.
  • Help your loved one find healthy recreational activities and encourage them to develop a healthy network of friends.
  • Continue your own involvement with your loved one’s treatment team and regularly attend family counseling and support groups, if appropriate.

Quality treatment centers recognize the importance of family involvement in the recovery process. The findings of a study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine underscores the value of direct involvement of family in treatment, stating, “Despite the potential for family members to move the needle on the country’s current addiction crisis they remain an underutilized resource.”

Turning Point of Tampa’s goal is to always provide a safe environment and a solid foundation in 12-Step recovery, in tandem with quality individual therapy and groups. We have been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987. If you need help or know someone who does, please contact our admissions department at 813-882-3003, 800-397-3006 or admissions@tpoftampa.com.