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11 Tips on Recovery for Family Members Affected by Alcohol Problems

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) can affect families and individuals, including children, in many negative ways. If you were affected by a loved one’s drinking problem there are many steps you can take to help yourself heal. You can recover with the help of professionals, mutual support programs, or on your own. The following are some tips to address your emotions and behaviors, make personal changes, and grow as a person.   

Tips for Alcohol Use Disorder Recovery

  1. Be patient: Recovery takes time, so avoid expecting too much, too soon. The problem did not happen overnight, so neither will recovery.
  2. Know your limitations: Although you can help your affected family member, there are limits to what you can do. They are responsible for their own recovery and they have to make the decision to get help. You can influence them, but you cannot recover for them or “make” them change.
  3. Don’t deny the impact of the AUD on yourself: If this has caused you emotional distress, or affected your health or behavior, admit it.
  4. Take care of your physical health: Alcohol problems can create stress and contribute to poor habits that lead to health problems. Get enough rest and sleep, and get regular physical exams. Exercise regularly to stay healthy and reduce stress.
  5. Reduce your focus on the person with the AUD: Try not to let your life revolve around this family member. It is not unusual, especially in the early phases of recovery, to focus more on your loved one and less on yourself or others in your family. This is normal, but work at self-care so you are not always focused on this person.
  6. Accept the ups and downs of recovery: None of us are perfect, and we all make mistakes and struggle. Try not to get too down when things don’t go so well, or too up when things do go well. Appreciate even small changes that you or your loved one makes.
  7. Talk about your feelings and pain: Don’t be held as an emotional hostage to the family member with the AUD. Over time you can reduce anger, bitterness, and worry, and eventually learn to forgive your loved one.
  8. Keep your friendships and be active: Socialize and be active with friends and other family members. Do not focus your life around the person with the AUD, as this will wear you out physically and emotionally. Isolation from others is not good.
  9. Focus on your family members who have no substance use problems: Make sure you pay attention to those in your family who do not have an alcohol or drug problem.
  10. Forgive yourself: Be kind to yourself and have self-compassion. Do not blame yourself for the alcohol problem or its impact on the family. 
  11. Use resources: Take advantage of resources that offer support or information to help you cope with the challenges of having a loved one with an AUD.