Why Do Some Family Members Not Support Their Loved One in Recovery?

Family member supporting a loved one in recoveryWith New Year’s Coming Up, How Can I Talk to My Teen About Alcohol?Whether you’re currently in recovery or you have a friend or family member who is, it can be hard to understand why certain people – those we dearly love – don’t want to be part of the recovery process. For many who’ve struggled with addiction, entering recovery is one of the scariest, most courageous journeys a person could embark on – and to not have loved ones nearby, it can feel as if all hope is lost. No matter your situation, it’s important to remember that everyone heals from the aftermath of addiction differently. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to pushing through to recovery, and while one person may be actively involved in a person’s recovery process, another may be battling their own inner challenges.

A publication by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) emphasizes that family structures can become quite dysfunctional when addiction is present; as a result, family bonds may become unlevel and different roles may be acquired if a friend or family member is no longer able to fulfill their original duties. A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences found that most often, families’ initial reactions to the discovery of a family member who is struggling with addiction takes place in one (or more) of 6 common ways:

  • Anger – often that the trust and freedom they gave their loved one was betrayed
  • Shock – often because family members were unaware of the substance abuse altogether
  • Acceptance – often as an attempt to keep that person from drifting from the family
  • Frustration – especially when the individual struggling happens to be considered the “backbone” of the family or a person in which many rely upon
  • Sadness – for many, this was felt by individuals who believed their loved one to have the religious or spiritual knowledge but still to have “fallen off track” or similar
  • Feeling sorry – believing a person didn’t keep a “close enough eye” on their loved one

By understanding the different emotions loved ones may be experiencing, it’s good to note that it may take some time for them to come around. We can’t control their recovery process, but we can control how we handle ourselves and what we do with our own healing journeys. Remember that.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.