Family Member Recovery – Reactions and Responses

family member recovery beach reunion

In my article, When Loved Ones Enable Addictive Disease,I discussed the idea of family member recovery and battling a person vs. the disease of addiction. I said, “When we battle an addictive disease process, we engage in purposeful and strategic behaviors to disrupt the process of the addictive disease progression.”


Referring to family member recovery, I also said, “We feel less captive to the chaos and uncertainty presented by the addictive disease process.  We feel hope for our future.”


These are words to grow on for family recovery!


Family Member Recovery – Reactions and Responses

Recovery from the impact of addiction starts when everyone involved owns their own unique set of thoughts, feelings and values. (“Everyone involved” means the person with a substance use disorder (SUD), family members and loved ones.) This leads to less reactivity to someone else’s behavior. Only then can real communication begin to occur between the parties involved.


And before any of the above can begin, family members must become very aware of their own thoughts, feelings and values. This takes a good deal of practice!


For starters, family members should try this exercise, paying very close attention to:

What you are regularly thinking and telling yourself about your loved one with the SUD.

The things you believe to be true about addictive disease.

Your experience with addictive disease in the past.

And what you believe about yourself and your role in your loved one’s addictive disease process.


family member recovery beach scene


Family Member Recovery

A few instructions as you begin this exercise.  Be very curious about your thoughts and feelings and how and when you came to believe these things to be true. Also, be prepared to remind yourself often, this is about me and my thoughts and feelings, not my loved one with addictive disease.


Do this exercise when you believe you won’t be interrupted. Have a pen and paper available to write down your thoughts, feelings and values. Ask yourself the above questions or at least 1 or 2 of them to start, and just see what comes to mind. Do this for about 10 minutes and then write it down.  After writing down what came to mind, return to your regular daily activities. In a day or two, set 20 minutes aside. Go back and read over what you wrote. Ask yourself is still true for me? Have I changed my mind about my thoughts, feelings or values?  If, I did change my mind, what factors caused this to happen? Write these things down. Follow this same 20-minute practice until you have answered all the questions proposed.


Sharing Reactions and Responses …

The next step is to share these questions and answers with a support person. And let them know how you believe your thoughts, feelings and values influence your behavior towards the person in your life with addictive disease.  After sharing and discussing your thoughts and feelings, pay attention to what you feel right then. Is there a sense of surprise about yourself, some shame or clarity or relief?


This is how your family member recovery will begin, by owning and sharing yourself.  It only gets better, once you start and this leads to hope for yourself.


What I have presented here are some of the starting questions and answers for family member recovery. This begins the process of being strategic and purposeful in a family member’s actions towards a loved one with addictive disease. Often, we do not appreciate certain beliefs and feelings that we possess. But, we need to know these things before we can go forward and stop being reactive.


family member recovery on the beach together


Family History of Addictive Disease

Many people that have loved ones with addictive disease in their adult life, lived with addiction as children. This experience has likely impacted our thinking and feeling as adults. As adults, we are not in the same position as we were as children and many of our beliefs are inaccurate to our current reality. We must learn to differentiate and take new, more personally accountable actions.


As those with the disease of addiction are unable to heal on their own, neither can those family members with co-addiction or codependency. We all require support and feed back from other human beings! This is why at Sanford Addiction Treatment Centers, we encourage family members and friends to attend our family program, family sessions with our client’s therapists during treatment, and follow-up with professional counseling and informal support groups.


This is a start on a life-long family member recovery process for everyone involved!



Caroline (Carli) Parmelee-Noffsinger has 20 years clinical experience including: primary therapist and case manager for residential, IOP and outpatient therapy. Carli’s primary role at Sanford House is facilitating the Family Program. She is currently updating and revising the program design and content and hopes to improve upon an already successful approach to family intervention. In her free time, Carli spends time with her horse. She has been a horse lover and owner for most of her life and has facilitated equine therapy sessions. She says, “The back of a horse is good for the inside of a person.” You can reach Carli with questions about The Sanford House Family Program at