Anyone that has dealt with addiction, either directly or indirectly, knows it affects many people, besides just the addicted person. The family of an individual recovering from an addiction plays a major role in his recovery. The discussion of how the family should behave and what their role should be during recovery is a topic that should be handled with special care.
A person that has battled addiction has a checked past, in most cases. Most of the time, this person has neglected loved ones, treated them unfairly at times, and made poor choices, which have hurt others and left them guarded or fearful of them. As the addict recovers and modifies his behavior, the family too should modify its behavior. This can be very hard for people that have developed certain behaviors or attitudes out of necessity as a result of the addict’s actions.
Change in behavior or attitude is something that cannot be expected immediately. Even though someone is in recovery from an addiction, everything isn’t going to be magically fixed overnight. Improvements will be made, but no one will ever be perfect. The family must realize this and be careful not to expect too much, too soon. Sometimes too much can be thrown upon a person. The weight of that, coupled with a failure to live up to these expectations, can cause him to revert back to his old ways. “The family must realize that dad, though marvelously improved, is still convalescing.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 127)
Another key component families need to address is that checkered past the addict created. While the addict strives to make amends for the past and do everything in his power not to repeat it, closing the door on the past cannot be expected of anyone. The family should be allowed to remember the past, but hopefully, they can do so in a healthy way. Most people in recovery hang onto their past as a way to recognize the stark contrast between what they WERE like in the past and what they ARE like now. It helps addicts stay grateful for the blessings they have received with their recovery. Hopefully, families of someone in recovery can have the same attitude. As we all know, learning from previous mistakes is a great way to improve, not just in recovery, but in all walks of life.
When a person gets into recovery, most times he will become involved with meetings, events, and working with others as a way to ensure his recovery. Some people in recovery state that going to a lot of meetings is like putting money in the bank. You might not use it now, but it is there when you need it. Many people feel this is true of recovery. Storing up on meetings can help when people in recovery get themselves in a situation they would have previously used in, as they feel they are on a stronger spiritual ground. Family members should try to recognize this when their recovering addict seems to choose meetings or spending time with another addict over them. The addict is only doing this as a way to ensure their sobriety and, in turn, maintain the much improved relationship they are all beginning to enjoy. “Even if he displays a certain amount of neglect and irresponsibility towards the family, it is well to let him go as far as he likes in helping other alcoholics. During those first days of convalescence, this will do more to insure his sobriety that anything else.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 129)
These are just a few issues people recovering from addiction and their families struggle with once recovery from the addiction begins. There are many issues and solutions, which are not always black and white. Hopefully, a person in recovery and his family will be able to have open communication about these and any other issues. Communication is the key! It is helpful for the recovering addict to not only tell what he is doing, but why he is doing, and how that will benefit not only him, but the whole family.