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The Importance of Family Support During Recovery

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Family Involvement in Addiction Recovery
Treatment for the Entire Family

Addiction recovery is typically not an easy or straightforward process. When a person makes the decision to tackle an addiction and seek professional treatment, they are performing an immensely brave and commendable act. They are committing to a complete and total lifestyle change; abandoning everything they know about life and how to live it, and essentially starting from scratch. For many people who struggle with addiction, getting sober is the most difficult thing they will ever have to do. Because getting sober is such a feat it helps to have a great deal of support and encouragement during every stage of the process. This is one of the many reasons why family support is such a crucial component of addiction recovery.

Addiction is often referred to as a “family disorder,” meaning every member of the family is affected in one way or another. At Guardian Recovery we believe in the importance of family involvement during every stage of treatment from medical detox through aftercare. We believe the success of each individual client depends heavily on the amount of support they receive from their loved ones, and on the return to a healthy state of family functioning. Addiction devastates the family unit, upturning traditional roles and leaving each individual member in a state of mental and emotional disarray. We have developed a unique, multi-staged program of recovery that focuses on the loved ones of each client, providing family therapy sessions and specially designed Family Workshops during residential inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment. To learn more about Guardian Recovery and our family-oriented program, contact us today.

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How Does Addiction Impact the Family as a Whole?

Addiction impacts the family in a variety of ways. Family members will also react differently to living with someone who is battling active addiction. For example, the mother of an alcoholic might become overprotective and overbearing. She might not let her child leave her sight; she might attempt to sweep up their mess in hopes of protecting them from the consequences of their own actions. The spouse of a person battling prescription drug addiction might turn a blind eye, pretending as if nothing is wrong and carrying on with business as usual.

If your loved one has developed a substance use disorder, you have probably found your own way to cope. Whether you have been ignoring the problem entirely or living in a constant state of stress and worry, your life has been gravely affected, and you undeniably require some intensive healing of your own. The predominant ways in which the family as a whole is affected include:

  • Shifting Family Dynamics – Each member of a family serves an important role. Traditionally, the mother is the nurturer, the father is the supporter, and each child develops and serves a role of their own. Active addiction completely upturns these roles, leaving the family in a state of dysfunction. As the addiction continues to worsen, family dynamics shift to a greater and greater extent.
  • Mental and Emotional Distress – Watching someone you love struggle with addiction is mentally and emotionally devastating. You likely cycle through a range of extreme emotions on a regular basis. Maybe your loved one agrees to seek help, and you feel excited and optimistic. This time feels different — this time, you know they’ll stick by their word and commit to change. Within a matter of hours they are drunk or high yet again, and you feel frustrated, angry and disillusioned. Over time you become emotionally worn down, and you start to neglect your own personal needs.
  • Addiction and Enabling Behaviors – It can be difficult to refuse help to someone you love. Unfortunately, when a person is in the throes of addiction they will continue to take advantage of those around them until professional treatment is sought. Without realizing you are doing so, you might be inadvertently enabling your loved one and exacerbating the symptoms of their addiction. In many cases, enabling becomes a deeply ingrained aspect of family functioning and must be addressed in a therapeutic setting.

The Role of the Family in Addiction Recovery

An article published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine states, “The family remains the primary source of attachment, nurturing, and socialization for humans in our current society. Therefore, the impact of substance use disorders (SUDs) on the family and individual family members merits attention. Each family and each family member is uniquely affected by the individual using substances including but not limited to having unmet developmental needs, impaired attachment, economic hardship, legal problems, emotional distress, and sometimes violence being perpetrated against him or her. For children there is also an increased risk of developing an SUD themselves. Thus, treating only the individual with the active disease of addiction is limited in effectiveness.” In order for treatment to be as effective as possible, all family members must be involved in some capacity.

As a loved one of someone undergoing recovery, you are integral to the success of the overall treatment journey as well as the maintenance of long-term sobriety. Though entering a treatment program is an important first step to achieving long-term recovery, it isn’t the only step. Achieving freedom from the burdens of substance dependency is a lifelong journey that requires love, support and understanding. There are several ways you can support a loved one throughout the addiction recovery process, including the following.

Offering Ongoing Support and Encouragement.

If you are a family member, friend or spouse, your supporting role can be crucial to helping your loved one focus on regaining their full physical and mental health. Especially in the early stages of recovery, family support will require a commitment on your part. It is important for you to accept that you and your loved one may face hardships because of their addiction, even though they have committed to living a life of recovery. It is a good idea to openly discuss the possibility of these hardships and develop a plan for productively dealing with challenges such as:

  • A return to substance use.
  • Dealing with residual legal and financial issues.
  • Mood swings and other symptoms of post-acute withdrawal.
  • Struggling to find and maintain employment.
  • Acting out in other ways.

Committing to recovery is, of course, a major leap in the right direction. But undergoing addiction treatment does not necessarily ensure a smooth ride. You will hit the occasional speed bump, and when you do it is important that you have a set of tools, skills and healthy coping mechanisms to implement. Undergoing family therapy will teach you the tools you need to maintain a calm and collected attitude when things crop up. You will learn how to deal with related frustration in a healthy and productive way, and continue offering support and encouragement despite the current circumstances.

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Holding Your Loved One Accountable.

It is important to hold your loved one accountable should they stumble or fall. Rather than brush it off and say, “It’s okay, dear, nobody is perfect,” consider suggesting a return to a lower level of care or increased individual therapy appointments. One of the kindest things you can do for your loved one is set boundaries and maintain these boundaries when push comes to shove.

An example of a boundary you might set is, “If I find you using drugs in my house again, you will have to find somewhere else to stay.” While throwing your loved one out with no place to go might seem heartless and cruel, the truth is that you will be doing them a major favor in the long run. When it comes to maintaining recovery, tough love is usually the best route to take. If your loved one experiences no consequences as a result of their actions, they will have no motivation to change.

Providing a Safe Space to Heal.

Once your loved one completes medical detox and residential inpatient treatment they will either return home or move directly into a sober living house. If they do return home, it is important they feel supported, safe and heard as they navigate early sobriety. It is important for you to provide a safe space in which to heal. While this does indicate an environment with no immediate access to drugs or alcohol and no active substance use, it also means an environment free from anger and conflict. Early recovery is an especially vulnerable time, and it is crucial a person feels safe and comfortable in their living environment.

In some cases, providing a safe environment at home is simply not an option. This might be the reality if another member of the household is battling active addiction, or if one or several members of the household do not support or understand recovery. If this is the case, moving into a sober living house for a prolonged period of time is always recommended.

Healing Individually and Taking Your Own Needs into Account.

As the saying goes, “One cannot pour from an empty cup.” If you are mentally and emotionally depleted, it will be extremely difficult to show up for your loved one. It is important that you prioritize your own needs and seek help for yourself whenever necessary. If you have been living under the same roof as someone who has been struggling with active addiction, you have likely poured a great deal of your emotional energy into trying to keep things somewhat stable. Maybe you constantly clean up after your addicted loved one (both literally and figuratively), or you frantically attempt to keep up appearances as far as the rest of the world is concerned.

Remember to heal yourself. Take time to seek the help you need to restore your mental and emotional health. Doing so might seem selfish at first — how can you take the time to go to therapy when your loved one requires constant attention? Rest assured that tending to your own needs will better equip you for the road ahead.

Working Through Family Dysfunction.

There is really no way around it — once addiction develops, healthy family functioning will inevitably be compromised. The household likely seems messy and chaotic; everyone is on edge, and tensions seem to constantly run high. This is normal. The good news is, with some intensive therapeutic intervention and with the participation of each individual member of the household, family dysfunction can be successfully worked through. Reach out to a licensed professional for help and guidance.

Guardian Recovery & Our Family-Oriented Recovery Program

At Guardian Recovery we have developed a comprehensive treatment program which takes the unique needs of each individual family member into account. We do not just treat our clients — we treat their entire support structure, ensuring they are returning to a safe living environment which is conducive to lasting sobriety. We also know what a serious toll active addiction can take on the lives of those it touches. We want to ensure you have the tools you need to heal alongside your loved one.

About Our Family Therapy Services

If you have no prior experience with family therapy, you might be wondering just what to expect. The prevalence of family therapy depends on the level of clinical care. For example, clients who are in residential treatment have access to more family therapy sessions than clients who are in an intensive outpatient or outpatient treatment program. The frequency of sessions also depends on the availability of the family. In some cases, family members live in a different state, or they may have conflicting schedules. For families who live far away we offer virtual therapy sessions, facilitated by one of our licensed family therapists. If you are able to make it to the treatment facility, you can expect the following from our family therapy program:

  • All family therapy sessions are facilitated by a licensed therapist who has extensive experience treating the family as a whole.
  • Family therapy sessions focus on the role that each individual plays in the family unit, and how active addiction has impacted this role and led to dysfunction.
  • One of the main focuses of family therapy is learning how to effectively communicate in a calm and productive manner. The therapist guides the conversation, making sure that all points are made and that conversation never devolves into angered yelling, blaming or accusations.

About Our Family Workshops

Our Family Workshop Retreat was developed by our team of dedicated and licensed therapists and clinicians who have combined decades of experience in the field of substance abuse and mental health. The Workshop takes place over the course of three full days, and focuses on understanding the existing family dynamic, breaking down and understanding the role of each individual family member, and ultimately restructuring the family dynamic into something healthy, functional and beneficial for all involved. Contact us to learn more.

Seeking Additional Help

Actively engaging in our family-oriented recovery program is a great place to start. We encourage the loved ones of our clients to participate in family therapy sessions as well as our Family Workshop. However, outside help and support are often required. Below are additional steps you can take to ensure you are receiving the help you need to heal on a mental and emotional basis.

  • Join a support group for the loved ones of an addict or alcoholic.
  • Seek individual therapy.
  • Prioritize your own needs and develop a solid self-care routine.
  • Find a holistic treatment method that works for you, like yoga therapy.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out for help or advice.

If you have any questions about helping a loved one through the early recovery process, Guardian Recovery is available to help. Many of our staff members have either helped a loved one through the process or have been through the process themselves. Contact us to learn more or to get started with our simple admissions process.

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Addiction is a chronic, progressive medical condition, and there is no quick-fix solution. While your loved one may have successfully completed a program of inpatient or outpatient treatment, healing from addiction will continue well after they come home because the consequences of substance use are so far-reaching. It is crucial to remember it may be necessary for your entire family to commit to specific lifestyle changes after your loved one returns home. This often means family members agreeing to maintain a drug- and alcohol-free home environment. Creating a healthy, sober and stable atmosphere at home will reduce the chances of a relapse, especially during the early days of recovery. Those in early recovery can feel especially isolated, but having understanding and encouragement from close friends and family can lay the foundation for continued success in sobriety. Achieving long-term recovery requires wholehearted family support.

If you or someone you love has been struggling with substance abuse or dependence, Guardian Recovery is available to help. When it comes to addiction recovery we believe in taking an integrated approach, tackling the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual consequences of active addiction simultaneously. We focus on comprehensive healing and individualized care. Each of our clients is assigned a case manager, who works with the treatment team in developing a unique, personalized recovery program. In most cases this program includes a short stay in an inpatient detox center, followed by an immediate transition into a higher level of care. While residential inpatient treatment often comes recommended, a client might opt to transition into a partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient treatment. One of our main priorities is ensuring everyone who needs professional treatment has access to the care they require. In order to make our treatment options as accessible as possible, we have developed a treatment program that is simple, straightforward and can be completed over the phone in minutes. Simply contact us today, either over the phone or directly through our website, and we will take care of the rest.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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