We’ve all heard the famous Tolstoy line, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Family happiness often feels similar but the trauma that each family carries looks different and manifests in different pain. Some families have a history of addiction and some perpetuate toxic methods of communication. When a family member develops an addiction, it’s important for the entire family to be involved so that the recovery journey is breaking a cycle, not just healing the individual. For many years, recovery was viewed as an individual journey. The addict went to treatment or joined a 12-step program and did the work. Research now shows that a family-centered approach to treatment leads to the highest chance of long-term recovery.

About 95% of people who go through a 12-step program but don’t go through treatment relapse within their first year of sobriety. 70% of people who go through treatment programs relapse within their first year of recovery. The group of people with the highest success rate are those who went through a family-centered treatment program. 90% of people who had family involvement in their treatment are sober for at least 5 years after treatment.

As opposed to approaching addiction as an individual problem, the treatment team at Sabino Recovery looks at how a family system exacerbates addictive behaviors. Inherited trauma can be carried through generations, creating systemic coping mechanisms. Often, a person with an addiction is manifesting a family system’s issues. By that same token, no individual family member is at fault for their loved one’s addictions.

Whether the person who is struggling with substance use disorder (SUD) is a parent, spouse, child, or close friend, their addiction impacts everyone in their life. By taking an active role in their loved one’s recovery, they have the opportunity to heal as well. If your loved one is struggling with addiction, it’s natural to want to help. It’s important for families to understand how to help their loved one without enabling them or becoming codependent. Actively taking part in therapy and support groups give families the tools they need to help their loved one stick with their treatment plan while not developing toxic codependency. Returning home after treatment is one of the most difficult parts of treatment. Old triggers, environments, and people make it easy to fall into old habits. When people in recovery are able to return to a compassionate, educated home, they are less likely to relapse.

An important way to help your loved one is to understand addiction and to take steps for your own mental health. Begin with therapy and develop your own healthy habits. This will help you understand what your loved one is going through and help them feel more comfortable with their recovery process. Addiction and mental healthcare are stigmatized so being met with compassion and non judgemental care are hugely important. At the same time, it’s imperative to protect your own mental health. Helping someone who is struggling with substance use disorder to the point of enabling harms both of you.

One key way you can help your loved one is to dive into your own recovery. Learning about addiction, beginning therapy, and taking care of yourself are necessary for helping someone going through recovery. It’s OK to start small! Look into resources such as Al-Anon. These 12-Step meetings are based on the same model as Alcoholics Anonymous but are created for friends and family of addicts to share their stories and support each other.

Another option for structuring family participation in recovery is using Debra Jay’s book, It Takes a Family. Jay offers strategies and exercises for friends and family members to use to help their loved ones through the early stages of recovery. It Takes a Family helps families develop communication skills and healthier relationships. Your family gathers and leads these conversations independently. The first three discuss topics like identifying anger and letting go of resentment and why recovery is so important. Once you have talked through these things as a family, invite the person in recovery and a member of their treatment team to discuss forgiveness. From there you can meet weekly and dive into recovery and treatment as a family unit.

As part of our treatment program at Sabino Recovery, we offer a four-day intensive family program that was created to bring together the person in treatment and their family to heal, speak to each other honestly and compassionately, and continue to take steps towards long-term sobriety and recovery. As part of the program, your family will participate in group therapy sessions designed to facilitate open communication in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. You will also have the opportunity to participate in group activities with other families. You are not alone at any point in a recovery journey, whether as an individual in treatment or a family participating in our program with other families who are going through the same experience. Our goal is to help family members feel hopeful about recovery and develop the tools they need to heal their entire family unit.

It’s important to remember that your support is an important piece of your loved one’s recovery journey but that you also have support. Recovery thrives in community while isolation gives addiction the space it needs to grow. Don’t isolate yourself, reach out for support from a group like Al-Anon or from others who are supporting a family member in recovery. Sobriety and recovery look different for every individual and every family but the emotions and steps are relatable to anyone who has been through the process. Your family’s pain might be different from others but there are many ways to find and give support.

If you or your loved one is struggling with substance use or addiction, please reach out to our team. We will connect you with the best treatment option available. To begin your treatment journey, call Sabino Recovery today at (844) 286-0516.