Family Recovery: A Clinician’s Perspective

David “Fritz” Vogt, LCSW

Every Wednesday evening from 5:30pm until 8:00pm I have the privilege of leading a group of families on their journey of recovery. I have facilitated this group since 2010 and have worked with hundreds of families since beginning this work. The group is comprised of the female clients of The Recovery Center of Baton Rouge and their family members. It should be noted that “family group” is not just limited to family members. Often times, clients have close friends, employers, co-workers, spiritual advisors or other important supportive individuals attend this group.

Here are some insights I wish to share based on my experiences:

  • The more effort a family system puts into their own recovery and wellness the more likely their loved one is to recover. This is a common theme I have witnessed time and time again. I cannot emphasize this point enough!!
  • Family recovery is as unique as an individual’s substance abuse recovery. Try different groups or approaches to figure out what works for you and your family. Some suggestions… Al Anon, Families Anonymous, CODA, family and individual psychotherapy, faith based support groups, meditation and the list goes on and on.
  • Loved ones should abstain from all mood-altering chemicals while their loved one is in treatment. This does not mean you have to give up drinking forever. In the beginning of the recovery process it is important to have a substance free environment for the recovering person. When a family abstains together it sets a healthy precedent that we are now a family in recovery together.
  • Healthy boundaries and consequences are an appropriate way to express care and concern for your loved one. By protecting them from experiencing consequences related to their substance use you are not allowing them to learn valuable lessons. This behavior is often referred to as “enabling”.
  • Continue to live your life. Keep going to work, attending school or tending to other commitments. If a family system is going to heal itself, it has to resume some degree of “normal” functioning.
  • Educate yourself about addiction and recovery. Learn about what your loved one is going through. Attend all groups and sessions that you are able to and ask a lot of questions. This can enhance empathy and understanding.
  • Ask for help when you need it. You are not alone in this journey despite feeling like it at times. Addiction thrives on isolation and secrecy.
  • Take a break every once in a while. Sometimes families can become too focused on recovery and they can risk “burn out”. Talk about other topics and current events. Do not focus all of your extra time and energy on recovery. It is very important to find balance.
  • Take things “one day at a time”. This popular expression in 12-step recovery is so valuable for family recovery. Some days are going to be tough and regression will happen. This can cause frustration and lead to loss of hope. Change is not easy and patience is required during this process. Just get through the day!! Often times things will brighten up the next day.