Talking to your family about addiction recovery

Five (5) principles to follow as you prepare to talk with your family about your addiction recovery. With a section for your questions at the end.

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How to speak to your family about your recovery

An important part of the healing process as you recover from substance abuse will be to speak to your family about your recovery. This may seem like a difficult challenge. You may carry shame, embarrassment or deep remorse because of your behavior while drinking or using. Family members may have seen you at your worst. But shedding light on your situation may help diminish some of your feelings of shame and clear the path for moving forward. Finding the right time and knowing what to say will be an important aspect of helping your family understand.

So, how do you open up the conversation about the lifelong process of recovery? What kinds of principles can guide you in the process? We review here. Then, we invite your ideas, questions, or feedback in the comments section at the end.

Talking with your family about recovery

Addiction is often a systemic problem, but how addiction affects family members will differ. Regardless, your loved ones CAN help you in recovery. In fact, family involvement can enhance your recovery for alcoholism or addiction, if family members are supportive. If this is the case, be sure to talk openly with family members about involvement in your recovery, even if you are still in rehab. Perhaps your family may even be involved in your treatment plan via family therapy.

5 principles to guide the process

1. Find the right time

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You may want to make an appointment to sit down with specific family members so that you have uninterrupted time. But sometimes speaking to your family about your recovery will be a spontaneous event. You’ll just know when the time is right: Maybe the topic comes up unexpectedly while sitting over lunch with mom, or perhaps a few cousins are asking you where you’ve been for the past 28 days.

2. Find the right words

While it’s not a bad idea to take advantage of situations like these, it’s also a good idea to have something ready to say…a script, so to speak, and have that ready whether you’ve made a specific time or are responding to questions spontaneously. Talk to a trusted adviser about what’s important to bring up and what’s not. You may even want to jot down some notes.

3. Avoid argument or details

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Your family member has been coping with addiction in your family for a while, with or without correct information. Consider that your family members may not understand that substance abuse is a disease, and they may not believe it, either. Don’t try to convince them.  Don’t go into medical details about your disease. Just say you think substance abuse is a disease that you can recover from. Let your loved ones know you have a plan that includes professionals who understand the complexities of addiction. Acknowledge the feedback that you receive, but focus on your goal of moving forward.

4. Outline the treatment plan

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“Knowing is half the battle”. Inform your family of the treatment that you will receive and suggest ways they can help, based on what you have learned in your treatment plan. Appreciate whatever degree of support they are willing to provide, and make sure boundaries are set so that support doesn’t become a rescue mission. You are learning to stand on your own, and sometimes declining help will be the way to show your good intentions.

5. Encourage family members to seek help

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You are not the only one going through a hard time in addiction recovery. Every member of your family was and is affected by substance abuse. Suggesting that family members attend Alanon or Narcanon may help them know where to go if they want to understand what you are going through and the best way to stand in support. But don’t nag. Let them find their way to recovery in their own time, just as you have.

Finally, distance yourself when necessary

If certain family members are toxic and threaten to detail your recovery, it may be best to build a distance between you and those family members, at least temporarily. But remember to detach with love and not resentment, and remember that at some point, you may owe them an apology and not the other way around. On the other hand,

Questions about talking to your family about recovery

Do you have questions about this process? Please send them to us in the comments section that follows. We try to respond to all questions with a personal and prompt response.

About the author
Jake Sandino is a writer focused within the realm of addiction and substance abuse. He achieved his own recovery through a holistic alcohol and drug rehab approach.


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  1. Thank you for your guide, Jake. It’s a help to any one that needs it when fear rises and don’t know how and what to speak in any moment. In my situation, it was my family who convinced me to go to rehab. I thought that would be enough for me not to speak of what’s happening to me inside as they can talk to the specialist of Recovery Place Drug Rehab (the recovery center where I become sober). But as time passed by, I voluntary let them know what I was doing and what I felt during those times. I saw gladness and their eyes and from then on, I didn’t feel ashamed to tell them anything they want to know during my addiction and recovery times.

  2. I just started my own blog from perspective of child of two addicts. check it out. My hope is to make connections with others and learn ways that I can help stop this problem. thank you for your time.

  3. Dilemma? Isn’t the true dilemma marriage itself whoever to? Hasn’t marriage always been a dilemma? Isn’t it still so? Won’t it always be so? As far as I am concerned, it seems to have little if anything to do with an alcoholic, male or female. The Al-Anon membership is 85% female, mostly white of Christian heritage and middle class. Can someone answer that question-dilemma-enigma? Will AFG ever solve the marriage dilemma?

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