iStock_000018046348XSmallAddiction and alcoholism affect everyone in the family. Your family member is starting the recovery process in treatment. Spending some time on your own well-being can help them- and you- continue recovering successfully. Here are six things you can do while they’re in treatment:

1. Make a list of lessons learned.

Consider your experience with your loved one’s drug or alcohol use — is there anything you wish you’d done different in response? Perhaps you acted from good intentions but somehow suspect you may have contributed to the problem. This is a good time to take stock of the past.

2. Identify your own worries and resentments.

Let’s get them out in the open where they can be discussed. By the way, a resentment is defined as anger resulting from your belief that you’ve been manipulated, taken advantage of, or treated unfairly. Dealing with resentments is central to recovery — for family members as well as the recovering person.

3. Seek help for your own needs and problems (we all have them.)

As the saying goes: you know what addiction has done to your loved one — but can you see what it’s done to you? Too often our own hopes, dreams, and aspirations have been shunted aside. What could restore a sense of hopefulness and optimism? Is there anything we’d like to change about ourselves?

4. Set reasonable expectations for the near future

Treatment is the beginning of recovery, not an end-point. We don’t want to rush things, or expect too much too soon. Make a list of reasonable expectations for yourself and your family. Discuss with others. Do they agree?

5. Practice managing your emotions.

We don’t want to be ruled by our negative feelings. That’s not good for us, or for those around us. We can all learn skills to improve our emotional control. Ask the counselors for suggestions Do some reading on the subject.

6. Consider the possibility of relapse.

It’s not the end of the world. People sometimes backslide. No need to give up. What about developing a plan, just in case?


[…] This short article helps family members of addicts or alcoholics in rehab start healing. Addiction is a family disease- recovery can be a family process too. (#Addiction is a family disease- #recovery can be a family process.  […]

Pingback by 6 Things You Can Do While Your Loved One's in T... — December 7, 2013 @ 12:11 am

Couldn’t agree more, Darlene. Well-put. Pretty much every program I’ve ever worked with has had a ‘family program’, but only two or three genuinely dealt with the needs of the family in early recovery, and as a result, only those few actually seemed to make a real difference in the quality of the treatment experience. And you could immediately tell the difference in those satisfaction surveys we made them fill out.

I think based on experience that this is an area where the smart program director invests enough time, attention, and money to recruit a very skilled and committed clinician.

Comment by C. Scott McMillin — November 16, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

These are excellent and essential guidelines for loved ones of those newly sober. They need support as much as the addict to learn to focus on themselves instead of the addict, to find pleasure, and to begin they’re own recovery. Resentments about the past are common. It’s helpful to talk about them, but not initially with the addict, who is already is full of shame and guilt, and needs support and to rebuild confidence in his or her sobriety. It’s a great idea to prepare for slips and know how to handle them.
Darlene Lancer, MFT
Author of “Codependency for Dummies”

Comment by Darlene Lancer, MFT — November 16, 2013 @ 12:07 am

Many family member believe that they have to be strong and therefore will not admit they need help and healing. I love that you point out that those closest to the addict may not be able to see what the addiction has done to them. Thank you for sharing that!

Comment by drugrehaborg — October 7, 2013 @ 8:20 am

[…] 6 Things You Can Do While Your Loved One’s in Treatment (RecoverySI) […]

Pingback by Best of The Week: 2-22-13 - The Treatment Center Blog The Treatment Center Blog — February 22, 2013 @ 10:31 am

I would be honored.Send me the preferred length and title (if you have one). Please send me an email.( Off the record: I think it’s a little easier for me as a coach (vs. treatment center). I approach the task with a simple question: Are you happy… right here, right now? If the answer is “no” and it usually is, I suggest they have some work to do. I think this is why I love the coaching approach to recovery.The individual is fully responsible and if I ask the right questions they get to see that for them self. They get to hear the words uttered straight from their mouth—not mine.

Comment by Lisa Neumann — February 17, 2013 @ 1:54 pm

Lisa — since you do workshops for families– here in New Mexico, particularly in smaller communities, there’s a real problem getting family members to participate in treatment. The staff say it’s partly due to stigma — “I don’t want to be seen going into that clinic, it’s nobody’s business” — in towns of 15,000 where there are many old families and half the population is related. Clients are Court-mandated so they don’t encourage family involvement either. The treatment is free so that’s not a barrier. Any thoughts on the subject? Maybe you’re interested in doing a short piece on the topic of engagement?

Comment by Scott McMillin — February 16, 2013 @ 10:47 am

This list is great. I see, often, that people put all the focus on the addict and the changes they are (hopefully) going to make. I have a new coaching workshop I do with “the family” … like a mini retreat of sorts. It has been so powerful to watch the dynamic of the co-dependent and the addict both taking responsibility for “whatever” they brought and continue to bring (or not bring) to the communication. It’s great how you address the family and loved ones on your posts. We get sick together, and we heal together too.

Comment by Lisa Neumann — February 15, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

Those are great points, Angela. Although we know that if you’re not familiar with them, Al-anon and other support groups for families can seem intimidating at first. We hope the article “12 Step Programs for Families” can help those curious about the possibilities to learn more.

Families willing to work with the treatment staff and undertake the challenge of educating themselves on addiction/alcoholism benefit themselves as well as increasing their loved one’s chances of stable, lasting recovery.

Comment by Cecile — February 14, 2013 @ 5:28 pm

A couple of other things families have found very helpful while their loved one is in treatment are:

Participating in the treatment center’s Family day/weekend
Al-Anon and Families Anonymous meeting attendance
Work with treatment staff to plan for and encourage aftercare
Educating themselves on addiction/alcoholism

Comment by Angela Utschig — February 14, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

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