A Framework for Discussing Recovery With Your Family

A Framework for Discussing Recovery With Your Family

You were not the only person your addiction affected. Your family, friends, and loved ones have all been impacted by negative behaviors that your substance use disorder (SUD) has caused. Part of your recovery may involve making amends with the people in your life who have been affected by your substance use. 

Some of your loved ones may not be ready to confront you about your past, or you might not be comfortable discussing parts of your recovery with them. If talking about your recovery causes discomfort, you might have to create boundaries for yourself and respect boundaries put up by others. People process their emotions at different rates, so it’s essential to understand where people are emotionally before talking about such a complex subject.

Talking About Recovery

It’s important to have an open discussion about your recovery to let others around you heal, invite them into your support network, and educate them on your SUD. Some people may be unfamiliar with the trauma you’ve faced and the control that substance use had over your life. 

Talking about your recovery with your friends and family differs from talking to your mental health professionals. Your friends and family may want to speak to you about how your substance use has affected them or about a shared traumatic memory. You do not need to talk about anything you aren’t ready to discuss. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries if discussing a specific topic or part of your recovery makes you uncomfortable. 

If you feel like you’re avoiding a meaningful conversation that may affect one of your relationships, work with your mental health professional so that you can get to a place where you emotionally feel comfortable having the conversation that you’ve been avoiding. This may involve analyzing why you’re avoiding the conversation you think you need to have and involving a family therapist.

Talking to your friends and family about your recovery isn’t just about healing old wounds. It’s also about moving forward with your relationship with them. Think about how your loved ones can take part in your recovery. Tell your friends and family what you need from them. Discuss how they can support you moving forward in your recovery journey. 

You might also want to discuss any potential trauma triggers that may have caused you to use substances in the past or that cause you incredible discomfort. The more they understand about your recovery—and recovery in general—the easier they will be able to help you when you’re in a difficult or triggering situation.

Explaining Your Recovery to Children

Explaining your recovery journey to children in your life, whether close nieces and nephews or your daughters or sons, may feel like it’s an impossible task. If the children in your life aren’t yours, it might be best to explain your recovery journey with their parents present. Always talk it over with the parents first. They probably know their child better than you do and will be able to help you explain your journey in a way they know they will understand.

When it comes to your children, talk to your partner or someone else who is close to your kids so that you can get another perspective. You want to be honest with children, but depending on how old your kids are, there may be details that you’ll want to leave out. Educate your kids on addiction and make sure they know that SUD is a disease that you can not control. Let your kids know that if they have any questions about your recovery journey, you will try to answer them to the best of your ability.

Approaching Struggling Loved Ones

Addiction has genetic components, which means that someone else in your family is likely struggling with substance use. Suppose you suspect that someone close to you is struggling with substance use but are not comfortable talking to the person about the problem. In that case, you could choose to share your concern with a friend who is also close to this person to lift some of the responsibility off your back. 

If you decide to talk to the person yourself, think about the type of language you will use. Express your concern for the person, and make sure to make it about them, not you. If the problem progresses, you may have to present the person with ultimatums or cut the person out of your life if they negatively affect your recovery journey.