Recovering from alcoholism is challenging for anyone. If your family member is trying to quit drinking, your support is more important than you realize.
Recovering from alcoholism is one of the most challenging things a person can do. Alcohol use disorder is a serious, chronic disease that often affects nearly every area of someone’s life. When they finally reach the point where they’re ready to get sober, the support of family is one of the most important things they can have.
But it isn’t always easy to be on board when you’re the family member of an alcoholic, especially if this isn’t their first time trying to get sober. It’s painful to watch your loved one build up their life around them and then tear it down again during a relapse.
How can you support a family member who is recovering from alcoholism? If you’ve waited years for your family member to get sober it’s easy to be supportive. Can you do the same if it’s their second, third, or fourth time, though?
Continue reading to find out the importance of family when recovering from alcoholism and what you can do to support your loved one.
How Recovering from Alcoholism Affects the Family
No matter whether your loved one drinks for a few months or many years, it isn’t an easy task to quit drinking. Removing alcohol from their life removes their go-to method of coping with their life. Once that coping mechanism is gone, they are often at a loss for what to do. Having a solid family support system during early recovery makes a world of difference.
But have you heard the saying, “Alcoholism is a family illness?” Unless you have a family member who struggles to control their drinking, it’s difficult to understand just how true it is. The exact effects of alcoholism on a family might depend on which family member is doing the drinking but the sharp pain feels the same.
If you have someone in your family trying to get sober, they need to know you’re in their corner. It’s difficult to get sober in the first place; it’s even harder to get sober without having family support during the process. When you’re the family member of someone recovering from alcoholism, though, it isn’t always easy.
How does alcoholism affect the various roles in a family?
Parents of an Alcoholic
Every parent has dreams for their child when they’re born. They have ideas for how they want to raise their child, the values they want to instill, the activities they want to participate in. At the end of the day, though, all a parent wants is what’s best for their child.
No one wants their child to have a difficult life. Parents want to provide a loving, supportive environment for their kids as they grow up. And every parent’s worst nightmare is something bad happening that is out of their control.
And having a child with alcoholism is the perfect example of a situation that’s out of their control.
Are you the parent of a child who struggles to control their drinking? It’s painful to watch your child go through something that you have little ability to help them with. You want to protect and save them like you did when they were young but you can’t save them from their drinking problem.
You can show up for them when they’re ready to get sober, though, and support each step of their recovery process. Make yourself available to listen and love them, but also to provide space when necessary.
Children of an Alcoholic
Alcoholism affects every member of the family but it’s especially challenging to grow up with an alcoholic parent. Children rely on the support of their parents while growing up but alcohol often removes their ability to be present. Many children with an alcoholic parent blame themselves for the way their parent drinks.
If you’re the child of an alcoholic you might have a harder time supporting your parent. You might feel their lack of support while you grew up keeps you from supporting them now. Resentment and frustration are common feelings for children with alcoholic parents and you aren’t alone if you feel that way, too.
Even though it was their responsibility as a parent to provide for you as their child, they were struggling too. No parent wants to see their child struggle, although it doesn’t seem that way when growing up in an alcoholic home. Unfortunately, alcoholism is a powerful disease. It’s often stronger than their ability to show up as a parent.
Recovering from alcoholism puts them one step closer to finally being able to be present. Your support during their early recovery will mean more than you can imagine. If you can make yourself available, you’ll make a huge difference in their process.
Siblings of an Alcoholic
Although it isn’t quite the same as having an alcoholic child or parent, the siblings of an alcoholic struggle, too. Having a brother or sister who cannot control their drinking shifts the entire dynamic of a family. They tend to become the center of attention which draws attention away from other siblings who need it.
If you grew up with a brother or sister who struggled with alcoholism, you might feel like your problems are less important. Your parents likely focused on trying to get your sibling to stop drinking which kept them from being present for you. Maybe it kept you from being able to participate in activities or your family wasn’t able to show up to things that meant a lot to you.
It’s understandable to feel frustrated when your sibling is recovering from alcoholism. Now that they’re sober it might seem like the attention is still on them. No matter what you do, your parents are attentive to them before they’re attentive to you.
The dynamics between siblings are different than those between parents and children. Sibling relationships differ depending on each family. Still, your brother or sister will likely appreciate your support more than you realize. You might not think so, but supporting them during early recovery will help them immensely.
How to Show Up For Your Recovering Loved One
You might struggle to show up when your loved one is recovering from alcoholism, whether you’re the parent, child, or sibling of an alcoholic. Understandably, you’re likely to have mixed feelings about supporting your loved one. They often don’t realize the profound impact that their drinking had on the entire family.
There are a few tips for parents and families of someone struggling with alcohol addiction. It isn’t always easy to be supportive so there are a few ways you can take care of yourself during the process.
Find Some Support for Yourself
First of all, you need to find your own support system. Hopefully, your family comes together to support one another during this time. Maybe you have a smaller family, though, and there isn’t as much internal support as you could hope for.
Finding a therapist or a support group for families of alcoholics will help you learn to support your loved one who is recovering from alcoholism. You can share your struggles and hear from others who worked through the same difficulties.
Even if it feels like you have to deal with your loved one on your own, there are plenty of people who understand. Al-Anon Family Groups are a great place to start seeking that support. These groups are filled with family and friends of alcoholics and addicts both active and in recovery. They understand exactly what you’re going through.
Attend Family Group if Possible
If your family member is in treatment while recovering from alcoholism, there are usually family groups as a part of their program. Try to attend those family groups if their treatment facility is nearby.
There are multiple benefits to attending family groups. Firstly, it allows you a safe space to honestly communicate your feelings with your parent, child, or sibling. Honest communication can be difficult but having a mediator present makes it possible.
Perhaps the most important, though, is it shows your family member that you love and support them in their recovery process. The importance of family when recovering from alcoholism is almost impossible to explain. When they know you’re there for them, though, it gives them the encouragement they need to keep moving forward.
Involve Yourself in Their Recovery Process
Some facilities offer additional ways to support your loved one outside of family groups. You may be able to take them out for an afternoon or they might offer remote support like alcohol monitoring tools. Facilities that offer options for alcohol monitoring technology, such as BACtrack View, equip family members with a new way to build trust.
If this isn’t their first time getting sober, you might have a hard time trusting your family member again. They’ve broken their word before and it’s difficult to believe them every time they say they’ll stop. Tools like BACtrack View help rebuild that trust. They allow your loved one to continue proving their sobriety without you having to check in on them regularly.
Whether or not they admit it right away, your loved one will appreciate having you as a part of their recovery. Finding support for yourself allows you to support and show up for your loved one. You might not realize right away the impact your presence has but it speaks louder than you might ever know.