26 Sep How To Navigate Family Relationships After Treatment
After initial treatment for addiction, there is still plenty of healing that needs to happen. Family relationships can be particularly difficult to navigate because not all family members are on the same recovery journey together, and everyone requires different types of healing. While some families are very supportive of treatment and recovery, other families suffer from severe dysfunction and need to set significant boundaries to maintain recovery. Addressing your family relationships can require a lot of effort on your part.
Addressing Your Relationships With Your Family
Addiction affects every member of your family. Your substance use will impact your relationships with your family members, and the changes you have made in treatment will now also affect your relationships with family members. Even for families who are supportive of your recovery choice, they were not in treatment with you and did not have the same accelerated healing process as you, so consider that they will likely be stuck in the relationship as you left it before treatment.
A big part of addressing family relationships is forgiveness and re-establishing trust. While you may seek those things and be worthy of them, your family members have their agency and can choose whether or not to offer you their forgiveness or trust again now, in the future, or ever again. This falls under the category of what you do not have control over. What you do have control over is offering open communication, asking for forgiveness, making amends, and offering your love to them.
Accessing Healing as a Family
When you can have open, honest discussions with your family members, you can access healing as a family. Addressing relationships both individually and as a group, you can discuss the changes you are making and what you can do to improve your relationships with others in the family. Likewise, you can address issues within the family that may have been difficult or harmful to you in the past and talk about ways the family can work together to improve and heal.
The Value of Family Therapy After Addiction
Most families benefit from some form of therapy after experiencing one or more family members with addiction. While you should have your own individual therapist and other family members may have individual therapists as well, sitting down with a family therapist can help to foster positive discussions and offer practical therapeutic treatment, goal-setting, and counseling for the family as a whole to help with the healing process. Getting everyone to sign on for family therapy can be a challenge, but even when you can get some family members to participate, there will be added value.
When Dysfunction Necessitates Boundaries
Within some families, continued dysfunction such as active addiction, mental health disorders, abuse, neglect, and other serious issues can require you to set emotional or physical boundaries with these family members. While most cultures and families advocate for close family relationships, the dysfunction in some families may require you to step back emotionally or physically and decrease contact with or even remove yourself entirely from toxic family relationships.
Your mental wellness in recovery is your number one priority. While this may sound selfish, if you do not prioritize it, then you can return to active addiction, meaning you are back in dysfunction, and it will be your family members who need to set boundaries with you. When the dysfunction of your family members puts your recovery at risk by triggering you or causing you excess anxiety, you need to set boundaries to protect your recovery.
How to Set Boundaries With Family Members
Setting boundaries can be difficult in general but can be even more challenging with family members and loved ones. Too often, people let family ties and history of relationships get in the way of their needs. When you advocate for yourself with your family, remember that you can be kind and still ask for what you need to protect your mental health and well-being. You can love someone and still ask them to respect you and your boundaries.
Be prepared for the possibility that if they are not willing to stop or change their behaviors and respect your boundaries, you may need to limit your contact with them or even walk away altogether. This can be very painful, but it can be more painful to continue being hurt and disrespected by toxic family members. Loving family members will offer you respect, even if they do not agree with you. Those who are living in dysfunction may not be capable of offering you respect or love at this time.