Family Members & Your Recovery
In a perfect world, you could count on your parents, siblings, and other family members to always have your best interests at heart and to be supportive of your efforts to build a better future. Unfortunately, many of us have learned the hard way that our families are deeply flawed.
Realizing that your family members aren’t supportive of your decision to seek addiction treatment puts you in a difficult situation. However, it’s important to realize that you still have the power to make positive changes in your life even if your recovery needs to take a bit of a non-traditional path.
Reasons Why Your Family Members Might Be Unsupportive
When determining how to handle family members who aren’t supportive of your recovery efforts, you must first think about the reason for their behavior. Here are some common factors that can affect a family member’s willingness to be part of your sober support network:
- They have their own untreated addiction issues. There is a strong genetic component to drug and alcohol addiction, so it’s possible that those who are unsupportive are still caught up in their own unhealthy behavior patterns. They may be threatened by your success if they are still contemplating getting help or worried that your relationship will change too much if you’re no longer drinking or using together.
- They have mental health issues. A wide range of mental health conditions can affect someone’s ability to support a loved one in need. They may be struggling with clinical depression and feel completely overwhelmed by their own problems. Or, they may have a narcissistic personality disorder that’s marked by a need to be the center of attention and a general lack of empathy for the struggles of others.
- They’re not comfortable expressing their emotions. Some people find it difficult to express their emotions because they grew up in homes where struggles were seen as a sign of weakness or where people were only expected to talk about “happy” things. In this case, it’s not necessarily that your loved one is unsupportive of your recovery efforts—it might be that they simply don’t know how to clearly express their support.
- They don’t understand addiction. The general public often has a poor understanding of substance use disorders and their treatments. A family member who mistakenly believes that addiction is a choice caused by a lack of willpower or that rehabs are nothing more than places to go for a luxury vacation may be much more supportive once they’ve learned the truth.
- They’re angry about your past addiction-related behavior. Addiction often causes us to say or do things that are incredibly hurtful. Sometimes, people find it difficult to forgive addiction-related behaviors even though they logically understand that your illness was making you act in a way that was out of character. In this case, they may be trying to protect themselves from additional disappointment until they feel confident that your sobriety is well established.
Family Therapy May Be Able to Help You Move Forward
In many cases, family therapy can be a beneficial part of the recovery process. Therapy can provide education about the causes of substance use disorders and what to expect from various types of treatment. Therapy can also help families deal with past trauma and learn healthier ways to communicate going forward.
A successful experience in family therapy requires that family members be willing to participate and open to changing their behavior. If your family is reluctant to seek therapy, enlisting the input of a trusted third party might be beneficial. For example, older adults often place great value on the opinions of their pastors or spiritual leaders.
Creating a Different Type of Sober Support Network
When family members are unwilling or unable to change, moving forward in your recovery may mean that you rely on your chosen family to provide the support and encouragement you need. A chosen family is one that is made of people who’ve consciously decided to nurture each other without shame or judgment, even though they are not related by blood, marriage, or adoption.
The concept of chosen families has roots in the queer community since it was once common for LGBTQ+ people to be disowned due to their sexual orientation. However, the idea has merit for anyone who is struggling to feel loved and supported.
For people in recovery who are dealing with toxic relationships in their own families, the friends they make in residential treatment or in 12-Step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous often become part of a chosen family. People who have firsthand experience about what it means to live life with a substance use disorder are uniquely equipped to be part of your sober support network. They can provide advice for coping with cravings, accountability when you’re struggling, and encouragement to help you continue the wellness-focused lifestyle habits that are key to lasting sobriety.
St. Joseph Institute for Addiction Is Here for You
At St. Joseph Institute for Addiction, we realize that everyone’s path is unique. Whether your family is unable to provide your desired level of support due to their own health challenges or they’re working on making better choices, we’re here to provide the resources you need to be successful in your recovery journey. Contact us today to learn more about the services available at our Pennsylvania residential addiction treatment center.