• Nicole Arzt

Understanding the Common Family Fears in Recovery




Addiction is a family disease, and its impact can dramatically affect each family member in different ways.

In the throes of active addiction, the family worries about their loved one’s safety. They know that addiction can be a life-threatening situation, and they often feel terrified about waking up to discover that something terrible has happened. Additionally, they often worry about other related concerns, such as you getting arrested, losing your job, or even becoming homeless.

While recovery often brings a much-needed peace of mind, many people still feel afraid. They’re still concerned about something terrible happening. Let’s get into some of the typical family fears in recovery.

They’re Afraid Of You Relapsing

Above anything, the idea of relapse is usually the most significant fear associated with any recovery. This fear tends to be the strongest in the early stages, especially if you struggle with chronic relapse. After all, your family has witnessed the darkest throes of addiction. The thought of that vicious cycle happening again can feel downright debilitating.

To mitigate this fear, many families try to do everything they can to avoid you relapsing. They may engage in potentially codependent behaviors like scheduling all your appointments or reaching out to your treatment team daily.


They might offer you money or a place to live if you promise to stay sober. All these attempts are designed to help you, even if they are, at times, misguided.

It’s important that you allow your family to help you without enabling you. Let them know how they can best support your recovery efforts. Share your feelings with them. Offer them effective tips on how they can hold you accountable.


They’re Afraid You’ll Be Completely Different

If addiction has been an integral part of the relationship for several years, your family might fear that you will turn into an entirely different person in your recovery.

Of course, without mood-altering substances impacting your brain, your connections with people should be more genuine. However, your personality can and will change. Your morals will look different. Your priorities will shift. These adjustments may seem strange to others.

It’s a good idea to prepare yourself for some tension or confusion in your family. Adapting to a life in recovery is an exciting process, but moving through uncharted territory can be a new experience for everyone. Expectations will need to be adjusted, and you will all need to discuss these changes as they emerge.


They’re Afraid They’ll Have To Change The Way They Do Things

Your family might assume they need to change how they do things when they are around you. Indeed, it might be helpful if they adjust certain habits to avoid triggering you.

For example, if you struggle with alcohol, you might not want to be around people who are actively drinking. If your family typically enjoys a beer after work or a glass of wine with dinner, they might need to change this habit when you’re around. This may be hard for them, and some family members will resist the effort. Likewise, you may feel guilty asking them to make these changes on your behalf.

Your recovery and emotional well-being need to come first. To work through this discomfort, communicate what you need to be safe. Consider brainstorming ideas together about how you can succeed in this journey.


They’re Afraid Of Saying The Wrong Thing

Since your family cares about you, they want to support your recovery in the best way possible. However, if this is a new experience for them, they might be nervous about navigating challenging conversations with you.

Some mistakes will inevitably happen, and it's not uncommon for loved ones to unintentionally say things that seem crass or condescending. If they say something that you find offensive, speak up. They probably don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but your feelings are still valid. Explain why they hurt you and offer a suggestion for how they can word it differently next time.

If you are in family therapy, discuss ways to be respectful of each other. Your therapist can teach you appropriate communication skills that convey respect and compassion.


They’re Afraid To Set Boundaries

As you move through recovery, your family needs to learn how to support you without enabling you. This will likely require setting healthy boundaries in your relationship. These boundaries might need to be emotional, financial, or physical. Even though it’s challenging to set boundaries, they are crucial in supporting your recovery efforts.

For example, you might opt to discuss how your family intends to handle a potential relapse. How involved will they be after this? Are they willing to help you get into treatment? The boundaries should be specific to your family’s home environment and your recovery goals.

Working Through Common Family Fears in Recovery

The family is often the cornerstone for success, vitality, and happiness. Family fears in recovery are normal. They are not something that need to be avoided- they just need to be addressed and managed.


At The Resurface Group, we understand these fears. We help families work through them each day. Contact us to learn how we can support you and your loved ones.


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