How to Be a Voice for Recovery in Your Family
This September marks the 28th year of “National Recovery Month.” It’s an annual celebration, sponsored every September by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is meant to increase awareness of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate the people who recover.
As part of this year’s theme, aptly titled “Join the Voices for Recovery: Strengthen Families and Communities,” I’ll be reflecting on what it means to be a voice for recovery, starting with (in this post) your family.
Anyone can be a voice for recovery. Whether or not you’ve personally struggled with a substance abuse problem, there are things you can do to support a recovery-friendly culture that strengthens your family and the relationships of love and support that define it. What follow are thus some tips for doing just that:
- Remember and abide by the mantra that addiction is a “family disease.” Addiction is a chronic pattern of compulsive thoughts and behaviors in relation to drugs and/or alcohol that typically develops over time as a means of coping with stress (including an experience of trauma), dysfunction and/or other unhealthy dynamics in one’s environment. Immediate family can therefore play a critical role in either facilitating or discouraging a continuing bad habit, and every member has responsibility in the recovery process.
- Get educated about substance abuse and other issues relating to mental health. Do your research, by consulting credible and authoritative sources on issues related to substance abuse prevention and treatment. There are many, but the following are good places to start:
- SAMHSA, including the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) and Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP)
- National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse
- National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Drug Abuse Warning Network
- American Society of Addiction Medicine
- “Monitoring the Future” Survey by the University of Michigan
- Be mindful of your own patterns of substance use and your own modes of relating to your family. Be especially attentive to potentially problematic behaviors for you or your loved ones, and address them proactively. For example, “codependency” is an issue frequently seen in families affected by substance abuse.
- Join a recovery support group like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotic Anonymous or Families Anonymous. Getting regularly involved in a local meeting will build your self-awareness about any unhealthy patterns of behavior, and will give you tools and support for constructively addressing them.
- Do what you can to take the stigma out of addiction. Research shows addiction may be the most stigmatized condition in the U.S. and around the world. Even healthcare professionals fall prey to stigmatizing people with alcoholism and other substance use disorders. One way to combat that stigma is to talk openly with your or a loved one’s physician about your/their condition (where appropriate). Another way is to get regularly involved in helping others in your community — and to be willing to share, when appropriate, the positive impact of recovery.
- Build shame resilience. “Shame resilience” is a term coined by Brené Brown to describe the ability to recognize an experience of shame and constructively move through it. From her clinical fieldwork, Brown concluded that shame resilience consists of at least four components. These are summarized in an article in PsychCentral (which is worth a read):
- Recognizing shame and its triggers
- Practicing critical awareness
- Reaching out to others
- Speaking shame
How have you been led to be a voice for recovery in your family? Do you have a story, experience or question to share with the rest of us? Leave it in the comment section below! I love hearing from readers.