If you are fortunate enough to have moved beyond drug addiction and into addiction recovery, at some point in your recovery process you will be confronted with the uncomfortable requirement of telling your family and loved ones about your addiction and your recovery efforts. Many recovering addicts find this confrontation to be difficult because it generally requires them to admit to family members that they have been lying about their drug use and have been taking other actions to cover up their drug problems. Individuals who are only in the beginning stages of recovery may need to disclose their drug habits to their family members to gain their support and assistance in that recovery process. An addict who wants to kick his or her drug habit or someone who is in recovery will inevitably assume the worst, namely, that family members will be angry or disappointed, or that they may reject a recovering addict altogether out a feeling that the addict has betrayed a trust or taken advantage of the family relationship. In the vast majority of cases, however, a loving family will take a prodigal son or daughter back into its folds and will provide whatever assistance is necessary to help that person through his or her recovery.
Talking to Your Family about Addiction
Addiction treatment counselors and addicts who have disclosed their problems to their own family members might tell you that there is no one way to talk to your family members about your addiction, but you can find common threads in all of their recommendations and personal stories. First, you should try to find a good time to have a discussion about your addiction recovery. You should expect your family members to have questions and concerns, and your discussion with them should take place when you and they have ample time for a thorough discussion. If you are taken into a rehab facility by someone else after a particularly nasty drug or alcohol binge, you might not have the luxury of delaying your discussion to a good time. Still, if your family members have no clue about your circumstances before you tell them about your addiction, you should do whatever you can to find a good time to talk to them in order to allow your disclosure to settle in.
Next, have a plan for what you will tell them. If you can, write down a script and read from that script when you contact your family. Rehearse your script beforehand and try not to deviate from it when you do contact them. Be honest and straightforward when you answer their questions and stick with facts. Do not try to justify or rationalize your actions, and avoid arguing with your family or accusing them of being the catalyst for your addictions. Telling your family about your addiction will bring them into your recovery support circle and will help you as you assess the damage that your addictions have caused both to you and to your family relationships. Your addiction recovery program might include recommendations that you offer your apologies for that damage. Telling your family about your addictions in the first part of making those apologies.
As part of your disclosure, tell your family about the efforts you will make to overcome your addictions. Describe whatever treatment plan you are in and invite them to help you in that recovery. Make sure they are aware that they have resources to help them understand your addictions and attempts at recovery.
All Families are Different
No two families will react the same way when they find about your addictions, and even within the same family, some family members will be more supportive than others. If you find that your first attempts at talking about your addiction are falling on deaf ears, or if one or two of your family members are offering a cold shoulder to your attempts to reach out to them, you may need to defer your discussions with those family members to a later time. Addictions are not well understood, and some family members might conclude that your addiction is a sign of a weak will or some other personal fault or failing. They may need additional time and knowledge to understand that chemical substance addictions are diseases in which the abused substances have co-opted your willpower. Above all, do not let their seeming reluctance in the face of your disclosure prevent you from getting the addiction recovery help that you need.
If you have questions or would like more ideas about how to talk to your family about your addiction recovery, please contacting the counselors and therapists at the Last Resort Recovery Center near Austin at 512-360-3600. We have extensive experience in working with recovering addicts and their families and we are ready to stand by you as you reach out to your family members.