When living with the effects of someone’s addiction for so long patterns of behaviour and thinking become engraved in the psyche. When recovery comes into the home life can be much different than expected. Deciding to overcome an addiction it is a wonderful step which needs to be respected and supported. In recovery families need time and patience to adjust and heal, and this can sometimes be wrought with problems. Family support counselling, groups and programs often help family members deal with any issues or concerns they may have.

Family Relationships in Recovery.

When someone goes into recovery they can transform their personality and lifestyle. This, in turn, means family members may need to adjust to these changes. This can be difficult especially if family members are still hurt from the consequences of addiction. Addiction destroys everything and everyone in its path, so family members often struggle to rebuild their lives in recovery while trying to resolve conflicts and recover from the damage. Ironically family members who offer support to a loved one’s recovery impacts the wellbeing of the entire family.

How does the family adjust to life in recovery?

Initially, when someone stops drinking or using, family members may feel relieved and experience a honeymoon period, where it seem like conflicts are gone and all is going well within the home.  As time goes by this may change and more complicated feelings may come to the surface. This is completely normal in early recovery. You have been through a lot as a family and each member will adjust to the new situation in their own way and their own time.

Both parties may need to get to know each other again. The person in recovery may become more serious, quiet, cautious or private and others in the family may feel unsure how to relate to this ‘new’ person. Family members may struggle to share duties of childcare or finances again, withhold responsibilities, resort to old behaviors, start arguments or make decisions excluding the person in recovery. The family may resent the recovering person going to fellowship meetings feeling this is now taking over. When someone goes into recovery they are continuously adjusting and are eager to redeem their place in the family. They may need extra support to process feeling of guilt, remorse, shame or anxiety in a healthy way.

Both parties may fear the possibility of relapse and don’t talk about feelings or concerns for fear causing upset and triggering a relapse. This can lead to family members ‘walking on egg shells’ to avoid any conflict. This, in turn, can lead the family back into a situation of denial and dishonesty similar to the active addiction days. It is important that family member’s feel they can be honest with each other, discuss and assess high-risk relapse situations and plan ways to cope with them. Maybe alcohol needs to be removed from the home, for now, maybe the person in recovery is uncomfortable going to parties or the pub, maybe time apart from each other is what is needed. These decisions need to be made as a family with the person in recovery included in the process also.

How can the family get healthy in recovery?


Even though your family member has finished treatment, the consequences of addiction may continue to affect you for some time. You may be facing ongoing relationship, financial or health difficulties and your family may need to take steps to resolve these issues.

The entire family needs to be involved in the treatment and recovery process. Most addiction treatment facilities provide family education, support and counselling. The whole family needs to learn healthy communication skills and ways to express feelings and needs without resorting to blaming or bringing up the past. For this to happen family members may need counselling and support separate to their loved one. Family support groups and self-help groups can also offer support while you cope with the changes that accompany recovery. If you find it difficult sharing your experiences in a group, one to one counselling with a trained addiction counsellor can help you understand addiction and how to support and nurture recovery in yourself and your home.

How can counselling help?

Through counselling you will learn to:

Recognise how your behaviour may have enabled the addiction.

Be comfortable with putting your own needs and recovery first.

Concentrate on improving relationships and supporting sobriety.

Work on developing communication skills.

Learn how to trust again.

Include your loved one in the decision-making process for the family.

Identify and plan for high-risk situations for relapse.

Be comfortable talking to your loved one about their recovery (without been invasive)

Be comfortable establishing boundaries around relapse.

Support the person back into recovery, if necessary.

Consequently, when your family member sees you getting support for yourself they may, in turn, be more likely to seek support for themselves.

For information on my family support counselling service click here