Q: If your loved one has sought help, how can you support her on her journey to sobriety?

A: There are many changes that occur when one family member gets sober, and it takes time for a family to adjust even to these types of positive changes. Therefore, it is ideal for you to become educated about alcoholism and the recovery process in order to be prepared for the ups and downs of your loved ones' journeys. It is vital that you take care of yourself so that you will have the emotional energy support your loved ones (e.g., self-care, therapy, Al-Anon, etc.). Working through your own anger, fear, trust issues or resentment toward an alcoholic loved one is imperative if the family unit is going to truly heal.

It can be helpful for you to observe or take part in some aspect of your family members' recoveries, whether it is through family therapy or by attending their mutual-help group "open" meetings (e.g., AA, SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety) in order to gain a better understanding of their experiences. In addition, you can make an effort to engage in sober activities, particularly during the alcoholic's first year of sobriety. Alcoholics in early sobriety experience changes in every aspect of their lives, and it can be helpful for you to allow these individuals the space to grow, struggle and to find their true selves. Simply asking your loved one how you can be of support to them without compromising your own needs can open the lines of communication and be a symbolic act of caring.

Relapse can be a huge fear and concern of loved ones and often, but certainly not always, a part of the recovery process. Find balance between setting healthy limits to prevent enabling, should this become an issue, and letting your loved ones know that you are not giving up on them can be a difficult but integral part of healing within a family.


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