For so many people, family matters a great deal. But, it’s not always good or bad. And, it’s definitely not black and white either. When you’re in recovery, you need to be very aware of the role family plays in your ongoing sobriety.
Join us for Episode 004 of the Addiction Radio Podcast where we discuss how and what to do with the good and the not-so-good. It’s an important listen so let’s dive right in!
Dealing with family and addiction can often be one the most complicated pieces to your recovery. Your family has likely had a huge impact on your addiction and recovery both good and bad. While for some of you – your family may have been the cause of your addiction, others may have family who are there and rooting for your success. Most of you likely have family on both sides of the spectrum. We’re going to talk about how we recognize you don’t get to choose your family – and therefore there are different approaches to those who are supporting you through this process and those who may be hindering your success. I’ll talk about when to walk away, how to regain your family’s trust and what it takes to work towards healthier relationships. Let’s get started.
You don’t get to choose your family
So the title of the course says a lot – you don’t have a choice on who your family is. You don’t get to pick and choose who you’re related to or what family you belong. With that being said, you do need to recognize the different approaches you may take with each and every family member you have.
There’s a specific bond that most people have with certain family members – these bonds are unique in that even when the relationships are put through the wringer the desire to repair and continue a strong healthy relationship is always there.
You may not know where each family member stands and there will be a lot of gray areas as you start to think about your family but just know that while you are taking care of yourself, you might need to make some hard choices in order to protect your sobriety. These choices can range from taking a break from toxic family members to owning up to your mistakes with those who love and support you – neither are easy.
Let’s talk now about how to recognise a good family member.
How to recognise good family
Recognizing good family can often be clouded. Maybe while you were addicted your family cut you off or didn’t agree to enable. That doesn’t mean that their love for you was any less – it just means that their love was so strong that they couldn’t continue to watch your destructiveness.
What I want you to do today, is to make a list of family members who have been there for you through all this – emotionally, physcally, etc. Don’t confuse this though with not enabling. This should be a list of those who you want to make amends with, those who you know would be there for you through thick and thin.
Once you’ve made this list, start working on repairng relationships. The easiest way to start the conversation is to send a text – let them know that you appreciate everything they’ve ever done for you and if they know about your addiction you can let them know that you’re working hard on your recovery. From there – see where the conversations take you.
It won’t be easy but it’s a start. You do have to be prepared for people to be suspicious of your trust and that’s okay! Repairing relationships doesn’t happen over night. Some family members may want to see you in action – and this takes time. For now, just send the text.
How to recognise toxicity
We talked about good family members and now we need to talk about those who are “not so good” and when I say not so good I’m talking about not so good for you. Not saying they’re not good people because that would a little disingenuous for me to presume.
What I am talking about though is that some of you may have family members that have put so much pressure and strain in your life that it causes you to continue to want to use or partake in your addiction.
These could be family members who use or partake in the same addiction as you and just not ready to get help yet or these could be family members who abuse, belittle, or cause so much drama that it triggers you and puts your recovery in jeopardy.
So, for now, just make a list of who those family members are. Don’t hold back on the list or second guess this – nobody’s going to see this so you dont’ have to worry about hurt feelings or needing to take action. This is for your eyes only so trust your gut. We’ll talk in a little bit about what to do with toxic family members. For now, make the list and I’ll see you in the next lecture.
What to do and how to treat those who are genuinely there to support you
Okay so by now you should be thinking about labeling your family in one of two groups: toxic or helpful. In this lecture I want to give you some tips on how to approach those who are genuinely there to support you; your helpful family.
When looking at your list, there’s a reason you put those family members in the helpful bucket. Maybe it’s because they have always been there for you, maybe it’s because they have shown you tough love or maybe it’s just a feeling you have about them, knowing that their presence will help guide you through your recovery path.
Whatever those reasons are, it’s important to hold onto and and cradle what you have. At first, things will be complicated. They always are. But now is the time to start working towards rebuiding those relatinoships and being careful not to push anyone away while doing so.
You have to open your mind and your heart and try to put yourself in their shoes and not get offended if things don’t go exactly how you’d want them to.
For example, let’s say your dad is on the list because you just know deep down your dad loves you and no matter what happens he’ll always be there for you. However, you also might know that you’ve hurt your dad over the years so his trust may not be there. So, let’s say you call up your dad to ask a favor – maybe it’s borrowing money or time. If your dad says no right away, that’s okay and it’s normal. There’s no reason to get upset or mad or expect your dad to just brush off everything that’s ever happened. You’re going to need patience and time to prove yourself reliable and honest again. Now replace dad with whoever else is on your list – the same applies. Mom, aunt, brother, sister.
The best thing you can do is be present, be kind, and always follow through with your word. If this family knows aobut your addiction and knows you’re getting help then let them in on your path – your hopes, dreams, and even your daily struggles. But whatever you do, don’t get upset with them, don’t try to defend your position, just try to be present and calm. I know this is easier said than done but it’s what needs to happen in order for you to not lose the family who is and will be there for you no matter what.
Alright so now we’re going to talk about what to do with those family members who may not be so helpful. See you in the next lecture.
When to walk away
We talked earlier in the course about identifying those family members who are toxic. Now that you’ve identified who those family members are I want to talk to you about when enough is enough and when to walk away.
So there are times when you will have and recognize that family members are toxic and you can just not be around them but some of you may have family where you can’t just distance yourself. In that case, you might have to make hard decisions like walking away.
Here’s how to know when you have to walk away:
- If that family member doesn’t allow you to reach a state of sobriety. For example, let’s say you’re trying hard to quit your addiction and your cousin is coming over every day exposing your or asking you to partake in your drug, alcohol, or behavior.
- If that family member causes you to want to relapse. For example, let’s say you have quit your drug of choice but a family member is emotionally abusing you so much that you feel like you have to use or partake in your addictive behavior just to escape the reality you’re living in.
If you have a family member that meets either of these two scenarios, it’s important to cut ties and walk away. Now I’m not talking forever because everyone has the ability to change but cut ties for a time that allows you to gain sober moments. If you’re unsure of how long that time is – it’s different for everyone – start with a minimum of 30 days.
If it reaches this point, it’s critical – I would call this a crisis – and you must do whatever it takes to walk away. If you have to leave your home – take that leap and do that. If you have to kick someone out then do that. AT the end of the day your sobriety should come first. Without your sobriety you can’t live and function in a way that is healthy, happy or productive.
I know and realize this is much easier said than done. But make plans now and follwo through. Whatever your situation is, always know that your success will be much higher when you take your own self seriously and distant yourself from those who aren’t good for your or your sobriety.
Regaining their trust
Okay so now know what to do with your good family members and know when to walk away from toxic family members. Now, for those who are left, the ones your are opening your hearts to, the family that you trust and know will support you through just about anyhing – how do you regain their trust?
Regaining trust with those who you have lost trust with, doesn’t happen overnight. It’s going to take time but more importantly, your family is going to want to see actionable progress not just hear you say you’ve got this or i’m sorry.
There are two main ways to regain trust.
The first way may seem too simple but really it isn’t. It’s also the way that take the most amount of time. It’s simply not partaking in your addiction. Your family wants to see you present wants to know you’re there, ever single day and the only way to do that is to not use or partake in your addictive behavior. Now there’s no timeline for this as every family is different and there are too many factors that play into this such as history, family dynamics and so on. But if you don’t partake in your addicitve behavior then that part of it will slowly start to disipate over time.
The second way is to have a good attitude. This may also sound simple but in reality it’s much harder when there are so many things thrown your way day in and day out. But if you’re just not using but still treating your family like shit – that’s not going to do anything. So if you really want to regain your family’s trust, the fastest way is to be positive, polite and courteous with them. Step up and help when you can, don’t complain about things even if you’re agitated and there’s stuff to complain about. Think before you say things and know when to back down. Every time you’re angry, upset, or rude it’s just another dig which will then take that much longer to get the trust you need and deserve.
Okay so to recap: don’t use or partake in your addictive behavior and have a good attitude. Next, we’ll talk about working towards healthier relationships.
Working towards healthier relationships
Okay so by now you should have started to really anaolyze each of your family members and know where everyone stands. Some of your family members may be toxic while others you are working hard to regain their trust. But what about everyone in between? Maybe those who have just been there; neither good nor bad.
Part of your recovery process and a way for you to come out even stronger is going to be working towards positive healthy relationships with everyone you come into contact with; especially your family. So here are some tips that you can start using today to strengthen family ties or bonds.
- Understand that it’s not always about you. While yes, you’re the one going through the addiction it’s important to also understand that everyone has their own struggles. A good way to strengthen a relationship is to be genuinely interested in what other family members are up to. So actively listen, ask questions, and have input on their lives too.
- Be present. Whenever you’re with a family member, make sure you are really there. Not just in the room but there and engaged. A lot of people miss stuff that’s going on around them by simply being somewhere else. To do this; the best thing you can do is to put your phone down and take in whatever’s going on around you. Showing up is half the battle.
- Give back. When I say give back, I’m talking about being the helpful person. Offer to help someone move. Offer to babysit, offer to give someone a ride. Do all of these things with no expectation that the favor will be returned to you. Now I say this and I want to be clear about something. We talked about toxic family members earlier and a toxic family member would be someone who is trying to take advantage of you. So for example, if you have a brother who is contatntly asking you to babysit even though they know you’re going through a tough time or maybe you have a cousin is always asking you for rides but doesn’t care to ask about you or be involved in yoru life then that would be someone you need a break form or someone you at least need to set boundaries. When I talk about giving back, I’m talknig about helping out with those who are genuinely there for you each and every day and you know that if you were ever in a pickle they’d do the same for you.
Alright so now you have a solid plan for building strong relationships. See in you in the next lecture when we conclude.
Alright so that’s a wrap. We know you can’t choose your family but we also know that you are free to make things stronger or to walk away. That’s why we talked about recognizing both good family and toxic family members. We talked about knowing when to walk away and how to regain trust and strengthen ties with those who you know are there for you always. I hope this gave you some insight on how this all ties into your addiction and how making those hard choices can often be the reason you succeed in your sobriety.