someone in the family has a chemical dependency, everyone
changes under the strain. As the chemically dependent
family member begins to recover, the rest of the family
also needs to recover. To help the dependent person stay
sober, family members need to develop patience,
reasonable expectations and better communication skills.
When Will Everything Be OK?
Life with a chemically dependent parent, spouse or child can be difficult. People often feel hurt and angry about the hard times, blaming it all on the chemically dependent person or the drug itself. They may think that all the problems would go away if the dependent person would just stay off drugs. But getting sober is only the start of recovery. In order to have a healthy and happy family, everyone has to work at it.
There are no magic steps to recovery. The recovering person needs to concentrate on permanently changing his or her behavior. This is not an easy task, and the whole family has to know it. Otherwise, theyre likely to hope for too much, and be angry and disappointed when their hopes arent met. On the other hand, it helps everyone if each family member learns to appreciate the small, day-to-day changes.
Having someone outside the family to talk to can also help, since anger and disappointment tend to grow if theyre locked inside. Seek help from counselors who deal with chemical dependencies, or members of 12-step meetings, such as Al-Anon. Besides talking about your feelings at 12-step meetings, youll have a change to laugh, enjoy yourself and make friends with people who really understand.
Improving Family Communication
More than anything else, most recovering families need to improve the ways they communicate with each other. Here are some suggestions:
You might all write out a "family contract" over several meetings about responsibilities, privileges and consequences of not taking responsibility. An agreed-on contract, signed by everyone and updated every six months, can really help to keep the family peace by making sure that everyone knows whats expected and gets rewarded for doing their part.