Coping Mechanisms for Families of Recovering Addicts

The process of recovering from addiction can be very challenging. It generally requires learning new coping mechanisms, and getting help and support from health care professionals as well as family and friends. While there are a variety of resources available to aid individuals in recovery from addiction, help and support for the family members of addicts is not as easy to come by. Families of recovering addicts often experience many of the same difficulties as their loved one who is in recovery. During the recovery process, family members may also face issues such as emotional and physical stress, financial difficulty, compromised interpersonal relationships and medical problems. In fact, statistics show that family members with loved ones who are addicted, also have higher rates of depression, and more medical costs and claims. Consequently, it is equally important for families of recovering addicts to learn and use coping mechanisms that can help them, and help them support their loved one’s recovery.

Learning to Cope

Family members of recovering addicts often benefit from the same or similar coping mechanisms used to treat addiction. Learning positive ways to cope with stress can help family members better manage the range of emotions related to challenges experienced when dealing with a loved one in recovery. Here are some tips for family members:

  • Focus on self. In many situations, family members of addicts in recovery can get so wrapped up in helping their loved one that they forget about themselves. It is important to engage in self-care to remain healthy and in a position to help loved ones.
  • Problem Solving. Learn skills to appropriately problem solve stressful situations and challenges in a manner that reduces, rather than increases, stress.
  • Open Clear Communication. Continue to communicate in a clear and open manner with a loved one in recovery. Stress can cause tension in relationships and a desire to “shut down.” It is important to keep communication open and learn to express feelings and emotions without blaming or labeling.
  • Cognitive Therapy. Learn techniques to help combat negative self-talk and retrain the brain to influence behavior in a positive manner when dealing with stress.
  • Exercise. Physical exercise is one of the easiest and most natural ways to cope with stress. Any activity that can be sustained for 20-30 minutes a day, such as walking around the neighborhood, can provide enormous physical and mental benefits.
  • Mediation and Mindful Breathing. Focus on being present in the moment. Acknowledge and accept emotions rather than avoiding them. Self-awareness practiced through meditation can affect neural and psychological processes and help control emotions and stress.
  • Support Groups. Resources for family members of recovering addicts are limited. But there are a number of support groups dedicated to assisting families in recovery such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, Adult Children of Alcoholics and others. It may be helpful to participate in group therapy with other individuals who have experienced similar life challenges related to a loved one’s addiction.

The recovery process can affect families as much, if not more, than addiction. This is often because the family dynamic is changing. Change can cause its own type of stress and should be addressed in the same manner as the addiction itself. Developing good positive coping skills can help family members better manage stress and challenges during their loved one’s recovery. Though the recovery process can be challenging for both the person in recovery and their family, a plan to reduce stress, communicate and obtain support from each other and groups can help make the process less difficult.   Sources: Web-based Coping Skills Training for Women Whose Partner has a Drinking Problem Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy Families in Recovery: Share Experiences to Support Recovery  

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