Your addiction story doesn’t necessarily need to be shared with everyone you encounter, but it’s usually a good idea to make sure your family knows the key details. The prospect of letting your parents, grandparents, siblings, and other extended family know about your recovery may seem daunting, but sharing this important information can help strengthen your relationship. After all, it’s difficult for your relatives to support your sobriety if they don’t understand how hard you’ve worked to get to this point.
Ways of Sharing the News
There are three main ways you can inform your extended family of your recovery efforts:
- Have a family meeting. Gathering everyone together for a family meeting is the most efficient way of sharing your news, but logistics may make this difficult. You may also struggle to keep control of the conversation if certain relatives are known to interrupt or behave unpredictably.
- Talk to everyone individually. This approach may be best if you’re closer to certain family members, but it’s also time consuming and may leave people feeling as though they’ve been left out of the loop if they’re not the first to hear your news.
- Write a letter. If you have a strained relationship with your family, but wish to reconnect, an open and honest letter discussing your recovery efforts may be a good way to begin a dialogue.
How to Approach the Conversation
Regardless of the method you use to share your news, here are some tips to help you discuss your recovery with confidence:
- Consider what they may already know. You may think you’ve been able to hide your addiction well, but don’t forget that your family knew you long before you developed a substance abuse problem. It’s likely that they’ve noticed changes in your behavior, even if they’ve never confronted you directly.
- Offer a heartfelt apology for past mistakes. Addiction can cause people to do things that are completely out of character, such as lying, stealing, or becoming physically aggressive. Taking the time to apologize for any past actions you regret shows your family that you’re willing to be held accountable for your behavior.
- Think of yourself as a teacher. Most people don’t know what addiction treatment involves, so it’s up to you to make sure your family is educated about the recovery process. You don’t need to share every detail of your treatment, but discussing what lessons you learned in group therapy or how holistic treatments have helped you to manage your stress without turning to drugs or alcohol can help your family better understand that a true recovery involves more than merely abstaining from addictive substances.
- Ask for help when you need it. Asking for help makes many people uncomfortable, but learning how to rely on other people is an important part of developing healthy relationships in recovery. If your sister lives nearby and you need transportation to a 12-Step meeting, ask her for a ride. If you’re trying to improve your diet as a way to manage your cravings, don’t be afraid to ask your health-conscious cousin to share a few recipes or cooking tips.
- Keep the focus on the future. People who struggle with addiction often have a history of childhood trauma. Although the link between trauma and addiction is well established, it’s best to avoid rehashing the past. Directing the conversation towards your hopes for the future will avoid causing your family members to feel as though you’re blaming them for your substance use disorder.
The Value of Family Therapy
Addiction affects the entire family, not just the person who is dependent on drugs or alcohol. Family therapy can help all members of the family learn the skills they need for lifelong wellness. This includes healthy communication, conflict resolution, and ways to deal with stress. Therapy can also address the patterns of codependency and enabling that are common in many families struggling with addiction.
You can encourage your family members to be active participants in Mountain Laurel Recovery Center’s family program, but it may also be beneficial for them to seek out their own counseling or self-help groups. For example, Al-Anon uses the 12-Step approach of Alcoholics Anonymous to provide support and encouragement for individuals who have a family member suffering from a substance use disorder.
Dealing with Family Members Who Aren’t Supportive
Ideally, your family would embrace your recovery wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
Although addiction isn’t entirely genetic, it does have a strong genetic component. Family members who aren’t supportive of your recovery efforts may be struggling with addiction themselves. Remember, many people who meet the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder have yet to seek treatment.
When family members aren’t supportive, it may be necessary to minimize contact. Anyone who is actively abusing substances is a threat to your newfound sobriety, even if they are a parent, sibling, or other family member. The same rules apply to individuals who continue to engage in passive aggressive, manipulative, or otherwise toxic behaviors that threaten your mental health. You may be able to revisit the terms of your relationship at a later date, but putting your own wellbeing first is the best way to stay on track with your recovery.
Developing a Strong Sober Support Network
Developing a strong support network is an important part of the recovery process, but your support system doesn’t need to be comprised solely of family members. Friends, coworkers, church leaders, 12-Step participants, and members of your treatment team can offer guidance and encouragement as you work towards your recovery goals.
At Mountain Laurel Recovery Center, we’re committed to helping clients build a support system that allows them to embrace recovery with confidence. From inpatient residential treatment to extended care in a sober living facility, we can provide the resources you need to break free from the burden of addiction.\