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.