7 Healthy Habits for Family Members During Early Recovery

family member helping someone get sober
As a family member of someone in recovery, there are a number of things you can do to help them get sober.

Once your family member has successfully completed an inpatient rehab program, she’s probably looking forward to coming home. And after a couple months of seeing one empty seat around the dinner table, the family’s eager to welcome her back.

Despite your excitement to reunite, it’s important to point out that things can be challenging for the whole family post-addiction. The best way to avoid unnecessary chaos and potential relapse triggers is preparation. When the whole family gains a better understanding of predictable issues, there’s a much better chance of avoiding problems in early recovery.

When your loved one was actively abusing drugs, the family unit paid the price for her disease. Memories of childhood or holiday gatherings from decades ago might have been the only things that brought back feelings of love; or maybe those old memories brought up feelings of great sadness, as if you’d lost her forever. Now that she’s sober, it’s time to build some new family memories.

You don’t have to get extravagant; after all, it’s the little things that mean the most in the end. Maybe the whole family could cook dinner together one night a week, or how about making a great big breakfast on Saturday mornings? If your family loves to travel, plan a weekend getaway to a spot that none of you have been before or splurge and take a family cruise.

Maybe the whole family could cook dinner together one night… or how about making a great big breakfast on Saturday mornings?

Making new memories will bring the family closer and help to remind everyone just how precious life – and the love of family—truly is.

Here are 7 family survival tips that will help to make the transition from rehab to home a lot easier for everyone.

#1. Get your feelings out during therapy sessions.

One of the most important parts of the recovery process is therapy; talking openly and honestly about your feelings has a way of lifting thousands of pounds of pressure off your shoulders. While your family member is still in rehab, it’s important for you to attend her family therapy sessions and play an active part. If she is not engaged in a family-oriented treatment intervention, be curious about what treatment she is receiving. Try to understand the behaviors and internal thoughts and feelings she is working through.

Once home, she’ll want to feel understood and empowered; on the other hand, you’ll want to know she understands what’s expected of her. The thing is…nobody’s a mind reader. If no one talks about what they want or you tip-toe around the house rules, there’s bound to be a breakdown. Use your time in family therapy sessions to iron these things out. In the end, you’ll all benefit from it.

If no one talks about what they want or you tip-toe around the house rules, there’s bound to be a breakdown.

#2. Don’t fall back into old patterns of behavior.

Though it can feel like a safety net, falling back into old family patterns is a huge no-no. Truth is, if the old patterns were so good, then things wouldn’t have fallen apart in the first place. Whether you spent time making excuses for your family member’s substance abuse or searching for reasons to point out her flaws, it’s imperative to fight the urge to return to those behaviors.

Whether you gain new insights during family counseling, personal one-on-one therapy or self-help books, everyone must be open to new ways of living. And it’s not a family punishment that has been levied as a result of drug use; it’s an opportunity to have better – and much healthier – relationships with one another.

#3. Make time for you!

To say that you’re no help to anyone else unless you’re taking care of yourself is an understatement. Spending all your time worried about “what ifs” is a great way to drive yourself in the ground. The stress from this kind of negative thinking is unhealthy and all-consuming. Give yourself permission to take care of your own needs first; it’s not a selfish act to protect your health and sanity, you know? Take time to do things you enjoy, whether that’s getting a massage, working out or having dinner with friends.

It’s not a selfish act to protect your health and sanity.

#4. Be open to forgiveness.

Without a doubt, addiction is one of the most selfish diseases on the face of the earth. There’s no doubt your family member did some things that made you angry or cut you to the core. She’s certainly aware of that now that she’s sober…and able to see what a terrible impact her addiction has had on the whole family. The great thing about family is that there’s an unbreakable bond amongst all of you, despite what’s happened in the past. Don’t let feelings of blind anger get in the way of forgiveness. And don’t confuse forgiveness with excusing past behaviors.

The great thing about family is that there’s an unbreakable bond amongst all of you.

#5. Trust must be earned.

Addiction leads people to do things they never would have dreamed of doing beforehand. Your trust has likely been broken, thanks to your loved one’s active addiction. But now that she’s sober, that doesn’t mean you’re automatically expected to reinstate your full trust in her. And that’s something she’s been prepared for during her time in rehab.

As you see her working at home to regain the family trust, compliment her achievements and let her know that what she’s doing is helping to rebuild that lost trust. Talk with her about her goals and future plans, that way everyone understands where they stand and where they hope to be in the future.

#6. Invest in an emotional bank account.

The idea of an emotional bank account was created by author Stephen R. Covey and included in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In a nutshell, the concept is that each time a family member does or says something that is caring or positive, you make a deposit. Naturally, if something negative or hateful takes place, you make a withdrawal.

According to Covey, it’s essential to recognize this is a process. It’ll take time to build up the family bank account and see “numbers” that are in the black. The whole family must be patient with one another; an emotional bank account is one creative way to install “think before you speak” behaviors.

#7. Make new family memories.

Making new memories by engaging in things that the family really cares about- whether big or small – is a great way to strengthen the family bond. For someone who was struggling with an addiction, feeling that they are part of a cohesive, accepting group—especially their family—can be extremely powerful in recovery. Some would even argue that addiction stems for a lack of social bonds.

So consider the past as fertilizer to grow something new, replete with precious memories, that will nourish your loved one’s recovery and the family as a whole.

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