How Do You Address a Family Rift After Treatment?
Addiction is a disease that affects the entire family – not just one person. When someone develops a chemical dependency, their priorities change, and they behave differently. Often, the way an individual acts in active addiction is completely different from how they normally behave; they may lie, cheat, or steal in order to keep drinking or using. This can be extremely upsetting for family members and close friends. After you return from treatment, it’s important to begin repairing the family rift caused by addiction. Here are a few steps to leave the past behind and foster growth in your relationships.
Bring Everything to Light
When a member of the family is addicted to drugs or alcohol, secrecy abounds. The addict hides their behavior from other people in the household. Family members may suspect that something is amiss, but never acknowledge it. If they are aware, they’ll do whatever it takes to protect their loved one, as well as their family’s reputation.
Addiction is a disease of secrets; it relies on the family to enable their loved one and protect them from the consequences of their actions. Living in that environment is challenging. It’s no wonder that addiction is such a uniquely stressful experience, for the addict and their family alike.
To begin repairing a family rift caused by addiction, you have to do the opposite of what harmed everyone for so long. Honesty and openness should rule the house. Be transparent with your loved ones about what you’ve been through and how you’ve changed. If you’re having a difficult time, don’t bottle up your emotions or withdraw – seek support and be proactive. By taking care of yourself and opening up to your loved ones, you’ll slowly dispel the oppressive atmosphere created by years of secrecy.
Overcome the Family Rift: Make Amends with Everyone
The key step to repairing your relationships after treatment is to make amends. As we work the 12 Steps, we will eventually arrive at this point. It is important to note that making amends isn’t just saying you’re sorry – it’s going out of your way to make things right. Not only are you admitting that what you did was wrong, but you are promising to act differently moving forward. You are taking the steps to fix your situation.
Have an in-depth conversation with each of your family members, one at a time. Let them express how your addiction affected them. Then, you can begin to address their concerns and assure them of a better future.
In some instances, a person may not be willing to let you make amends with them. They may have cut you out of their life or have refused to stay in contact. Don’t be discouraged. Instead, consider making “indirect amends.” If you took money from a person, for example, you could donate to their favorite charity instead. You can also make “living amends” by treating the people who are in your life the way you wish you could have treated your other loved ones. Don’t underestimate the power of this step in the recovery process.
Be Reliable and Accountable
When a person becomes addicted, they can think of little else. Their priorities shift completely. An addict in the grips of substance abuse focused on obtaining, using, and recovering from their drug or drink of choice. There doesn’t seem to be room for anything else. This is all explained by the disease model of addiction; as this condition progresses, the brain’s reward system is rewired to seek those artificial dopamine boosts. The ability to think rationally and choose something else is severely limited. This can be distressing for family members.
For example, a consider a man who was once a very involved parent. He suddenly begins to disappear for a few hours here or there, neglecting to answer his phone. He returns without a good excuse every time. As his disease progresses, he forgets to pick up his daughter at school and stops attending her recitals and soccer games. Eventually, his behavior shifts; instead of just drinking or using at specific times, he starts earlier in the day. He even lashes out at his spouse and child in the midst of withdrawal. These behaviors are uncharacteristic and almost universally frightening. In order to restore the family unit, serious work must be done.
To address this issue in recovery, practice doing what you say you will. Fulfill your promises and be the reliable person your family deserves. Show up for them and answer their calls. When possible, sit down and catch up with some long conversations. By demonstrating that you have changed – not just saying so – your family will begin to rebuild their trust in you after treatment.
Lasting Recovery Support for You and Your Family
At Lakeside-Milam, we understand the importance of family involvement throughout the treatment process. Whether you are an alumni or new resident, our clinicians and staff will go out of their way to educate your loved ones about the disease of addiction. Through an improved understanding and evidence-based treatment model, it is possible for everyone to recover.
For more information about Lakeside-Milam’s family programming, please contact our admissions team today.