How Educating the Family About Addiction Can Aid During Recovery

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Recovery isn't solely about staying sober but about an overhaul in lifestyle choices that will undoubtedly affect your family. Including family in your recovery means educating them on your substance abuse, recovery growth, and the effects your actions may have had. Educating the family on your recovery will be beneficial to you and your family members. It can decrease the chances of relapse, provide extra emotional support, and improve your overall health.

Addiction as a Family Issue

Families create ecosystems. People use their families for emotional support, social acceptance, and financial security. Addiction changes your family ecosystem, causing it to become dysfunctional. It changes your loved one's environment and influences their behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. Ignoring the effect your addiction has on your family is failing to take responsibility for your actions.

When addiction is not treated as a family issue, it weakens the support your family can provide you. If your family is uninvolved in your recovery, they won't have the necessary information to provide helpful support. Being uninvolved in your recovery also prevents family members from learning coping mechanisms for their own emotional needs. Educating your family on your addiction can help them learn healthier coping mechanisms and re-establish a healthier family ecosystem.

The Effects on Children

Exposing your children to substance abuse puts them at a higher risk for developing substance use disorder (SUD). Genetics and environmental factors will also play a role in your child's emotional behaviors, which, when managed poorly, can develop into a mental health disorder. Your substance abuse can have negative impacts on a child's communication skills and ability to trust others. However, educating your children on your recovery can mitigate some of these risk factors.

How to Educate the Family on Addiction

The best way to educate your family on your addiction and recovery is to involve them in all stages of your recovery. Talk to them about your experiences before, during, and post-treatment. Be honest about your feelings and lend a listening ear so they can be honest about theirs. Create an emotional support system where you make habitual efforts to check in on each other. The more open you are about your recovery, the more secure you and your family will feel in your relationship.

You can also educate your family by referring them to material that helped you understand your addiction. Try encouraging family members to attend an Al-Anon meeting which provides emotional support for friends and family of those struggling with addiction. If appropriate, you can educate your family through the use of family-focused treatment practices like family therapy.

Family Therapy

Your family isn't responsible for your substance abuse. However, they may be partially responsible for creating an environment where you feel like you can't manage your feelings without substances. Family therapy can help you address some of these issues. It can improve the functioning of your family ecosystem by opening a dialogue for healthy communication.

This can benefit you and other members of your family who may be struggling to cope with your addiction. Family therapy also allows you to show your commitment to your recovery. During a family therapy session, you can demonstrate emotional management and communication tools that you've learned, which will help you strengthen your family relationships.

What to Educate the Family On

You might not feel comfortable sharing every detail of your recovery with every member of your family. Recovery is a personal experience, and depending on your relationship with the family member, it's okay to keep some things private. The most important aspects of your recovery you should share with others are signs of relapse, coping strategies, and your recovery goals.

Signs of Relapse

Educating your family on the signs of relapse will help them take a preventative approach. If they notice you are exhibiting signs of potential relapse, they can confront you before you enter a physical relapse. This can also help them identify the signs of substance abuse in themselves or others.

Coping Strategies

Sharing your coping strategies will help your family understand your emotional growth. Understanding what you find helpful when you're distressed can help them provide better emotional support. Everybody finds comfort differently, and knowing your coping strategies will prevent them from incorrectly assuming that they're providing comfort when they may actually be exasperating the problem. Knowing your coping mechanisms can also provide your family with ideas for coping with their own overwhelming emotions.

Goal Sharing

Telling your family about your recovery goals will make it easier for them to support you on your journey to achieving them. They can motivate you by helping you implement a reward system or joining your attempt to complete a specific goal. Your family can also provide you with accountability when you become sidetracked and cheer you on when you reach one of your goals.

Your addiction does not live in an isolated bubble. Including your family in your recovery journey can help you both heal and strengthen your relationship. Pathways Recovery Center understands the lasting impact addiction has on family members. Our facility offers the opportunity to heal family relationships with Sunday family therapy. Our mental health professionals can help you manage family stressors and give you the tools to healthily communicate your wants and needs to one another throughout your recovery journey. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, call (888) 771-0966 to learn more about how Pathways Recovery Center can help you in your recovery, one day at a time.

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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