3 Ways to Maintain a Strong Family Bond During Recovery

Family playing with babyRecovery from an addiction can be a difficult journey. In fact, some people that make the commitment to sobriety struggle through relapse after relapse before they finally feel like they have a hold on their sobriety. However, that’s no reason to stop pushing forward with your recovery if you have ever struggled with an addiction.

If you have completed a traditional 12-step rehabilitation program or another type of rehab, or you know someone who has, re-entering the “real world,” can be a challenge. And not just for the person in recovery – but for their family, too! You see, completing a rehabilitation program isn’t always easy, even when you have the constant support from an inpatient treatment facility, or an outpatient group. While maintaining your sobriety under the watchful eyes of a trained rehab specialist is a little easier, staying sober outside of rehab is another story.

What Are The Challenges During Recovery?

After someone completes a rehab program they may struggle with some personal issues. Because recovery is never easy, you may notice changes in the behavior of the person in recovery. They may seem more closed off, shy, irritable, stressed out, or show other strange behaviors.1

These types of behaviors can make it hard for you to feel close to your family member in recovery, and so it could damage your family bond. Behaviors of an addict can include things that hurt your feelings like lying, stealing, or covering up their addiction. So, one of the most important things to remember as you aim to support your family through the process of addiction recovery is … FORGIVENESS.

In traditional 12-step rehabilitation programs, making amends is the 8th and 9th step. However, you do not have to participate in a traditional rehab in order to work these steps in your life. Simply practice forgiveness as a stepping-stone to lasting recovery within your family.

While addiction is a powerful disorder, you can overcome it as a family by making the commitment to supporting the person in recovery. And one of the best ways to do that is by practicing forgiveness. If you have trouble forgiving the addict in your family for harmful, hurtful behavior they may have caused, always remember that addiction is a disease and the healing process is slow.

In The Science of Trust, Dr. John Gottman explains that emotional attunement is a skill that must be developed. So, be patient as the reconciliation process may take time. If you feel like you need extra support for your own wellness, there are many holistic therapies.

3 Ways to Maintain a Strong Family Bond During Recovery

You may notice that recovery can have a taxing effect on your family structure. If you have someone in your family that is working through an addiction in recovery, you may also notice that your relationships can become strained. This may be due in part to the additional stress related to working a rehabilitation program alone in the “real world.”

While those participating in a traditional 12-step recovery program are able to attend meetings to help support their new sobriety, it may not be enough. So, the best approach is to balance the additional stress with the best self-care. Not only for yourself, but for everyone in your family as one, or more members takes on recovery from an addiction.

Start by adding these 3 holistic therapies:

  1. Find Your Spirit. Spirituality can be intimidating to some people, as many adults have bad memories growing up within an organized religion, or have other reasons to shy away from their spirit. However, studies have shown that this is one of the biggest mistakes people in recovery can make. One study on spirituality and substance abuse revealed that people who worked to develop a stronger sense of their own spirit were more successful in recovery. And it didn’t matter what kind of spiritual discipline they used. So, don’t worry about a religion, just find an activity, a group, or a place that makes you feel like a kid again. Anything that makes your spirit soar is an ideal spiritual activity.2
  2. Make New Friends. When someone in recovery completes a rehab program, it can be very difficult to approach life’s many new changes. One of the hardest parts is making new friends and developing hobbies that do not include drugs or alcohol. Studies confirm that peer support groups including others that are going through the same type of addiction treatment program is one of the most effective ways to maintain sobriety.3
  3. Try Yoga. If you are intimidated by yoga mats, and funny smelling incense – you’re not alone! However, yoga doesn’t always include those things. In fact, you can practice one of the simplest forms of yoga called Pranamya (prana) right at home!

Mindfulness meditations including some of the most simple forms of yoga, like breathing exercises (prana) have been shown in clinical trials to actually change your brain. The changes occur in regions within the brainstem. And the changes are known to take place in as little as 8 weeks!4

Further, there is a large body of scientific evidence that clearly establishes the ability of yoga stretching, and other mindfulness practices like breathing exercises to effectively lower symptoms of a number of disorders including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, chronic pain and more! Not only that but people that practiced mindfulness were reported to have a higher quality of life overall.

Practicing the 3 C’s of Self-Care

If someone you love within your family is going through the recovery process from addiction, you may want to educate yourself on the basic 3 C’s of addiction.

  1. You Did Not Create It. If someone in your family is struggling with addiction recovery it is important that you realize you did not create the problem. In doing this, you can separate yourself from the addict’s attempt to make you feel guilty for their behavior. You may find that addicts are really good at manipulating people they love in order to reduce their own guilt, or stress levels. Don’t fall for it. You did not create that person’s addiction.  
  2. You Cannot Control It. Substance abuse disorder, (SUD) is a very real health problem. And so, if you are not a doctor you may not be qualified to reach out to the person in your family struggling with addiction. However, that is no reason to get down about your lack of ability to help. Simply love your family member through their recovery process and realize that you cannot control their disorder. They will have to work through it on their own one day at a time, but by finding ways to talk to them about their recovery process can help them heal.
  3. You Cannot Change It. Addiction is a disease. Just like any other illness, a person suffering with this type of disorder cannot magically change into something they are not. So, never assume that there is anything you can do to change the circumstances of a person in your family with an addiction. If you need help understanding addiction as a disease reach out to organizations like Al-Anon, Alateen, and Co-Dependents Anonymous.

Although it can be hard to face your loved one’s recovery process from addiction they need your support. However, you must realize that the recovery process can be draining on your energy so you will also need a support community in order to learn how to effectively communicate with your loved one. In doing so, you can reduce their risk of relapse and help them achieve what they set out to do: become sober. This willingness can help you keep a strong family bond, even while battling addiction.

 

References:
1. Afsaneh Hassanbeigi, JafarAskari. The Relationship between Stress and Addiction Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. Volume 84, 9 July 2013, Pages 1333-1340.
2. Adrienne J. Heinz, B.A., Elizabeth R. Disney, Ph.D. A focus-group study on spirituality and substance-abuse treatment. Subst Use Misuse. 2010; 45(1-2): 134–153.
3. Kathlene Tracy, Samantha P Wallace. Benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addiction. Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2016; 7: 143–154.
4. Britta K. Hölzel, James Carmody. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Res. 2011 Jan 30; 191(1): 36–43.