The Family’s Guide to Supporting a Loved One in Recovery

In 2017, Kevin Simmers, a former narcotics officer, did everything he could to combat the opioid epidemic. He arrested many people who’d been struggling with addiction because that was his goal; but he was in for a major lesson. According to WAMU 88.5, at 18 years old, Kevin’s daughter began battling addiction, too – and suddenly, Kevin learned that it’s much more than simply putting away people who needed help. He stated,

“At Christmas we had a conversation. Her addiction had grown and she was now shooting up with heroin every day.”

Even after having had years of experience as a narcotics officer, Kevin learned through this experience just how complex the disease of addiction is. After a few brief attempts at treatment, his daughter passed away of a heroin overdose, and his heart shattered.

Addiction is a Family Disease

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) explains that for family members, a series of ups and downs can affect nearly every aspect of their lives. The family system is disrupted when addiction is involved, because family members typically must take on new roles and responsibilities to make up for that of their loved one. Family members often go through a variety of stressful situations where it’s hard to determine what the most appropriate action would be – especially when that action directly affects their addicted loved one. In 2016, writer Howard Weiss-Tisman wrote about the stories of many family members who shared their experience via State of Recovery, an effort of VPR Radio to shed light on addiction and recovery. He stated,

“One woman’s not sure if she should continue supporting her son or cut him off. She’s worried that he’ll end up on the street, or worse. Another woman says her son is in a rehab clinic in Florida, and she’s hoping for the best. A third says she finally had to call the police when her son started stealing from her.”

Family members may experience a number of painful emotions and situations when their loved one is addicted, such as:

  •    Depression – because their loved one isn’t acting like their loved one; suddenly the person they thought they knew is completely different
  •    Anxiety – regarding how to act, how to handle situations and what to say to their loved one in order to convince them to seek help
  •    Anger – with themselves and with their loved one for having to go through these upsetting situations
  •    Guilt – for feeling as though it’s their fault that their loved one is struggling with addiction. Typically thoughts with this are: “I should’ve been more involved in his/her life,“I didn’t tell them I loved them enough,” “I can’t believe I let them get this bad,” etc.
  •    Stress – between trying to manage their relationship with their addicted loved one, in addition to managing other responsibilities and attempting to keep the family dynamic afloat

Dr. Tian Dayton, an expert on addiction, explains that the dynamic of families becomes disturbed when addiction is involved; oftentimes, family members do not feel free to express themselves, and children may begin taking on added responsibilities in order to try and maintain the functionality of the family. Dr. Dayton mentioned several other effects that addiction can have on the family, such as:

  •    Genuine feelings become hidden under strategies for pleasing or withdrawing
  •    The family becomes organized around trying to manage the loved one’s addiction
  •    Unhealthy communication strategies may occur between family members as stress rises: yelling, withdrawing, criticizing and even domestic violence can enter the family situation if stress swells too far out of control
  •    Family members may feel they’re “walking on eggshells”
  •    Certain topics may stop being discussed as a family, especially if family members don’t want to confront the pain with one another
  •    Those family members who dare to confront the disease may be viewed as a “family traitor”

Writer Brian Neese from Alvernia University highlights several roles that family members may take when a loved one is addicted:

The Hero: This person tries desperately to make the family look good; they always seem “put together,” but they do not feel comfortable expressing how they feel with other members

The Mascot: This person tells jokes and tries to turn the focus away from the painful truth of the situation. They may feel embarrassed, fearful or even angry

The Scapegoat: This person engages in negative behavior to turn attention away from the loved one who is struggling with addiction; they themselves may even turn towards substances

The Lost Child: This person withdraws from the situation altogether. They care deeply, but they “check out” to avoid drama

The Caretaker: This family member feels personally responsible for keeping the family together, but they end up enabling their loved one as they take over their responsibilities



Burning Tree Lodge is a 90-day addiction treatment program that specializes in helping clients who have tried multiple times to recovery from substance use disorders. We offer an individualized treatment approach and a continuum of care to help clients successfully transition from residential treatment to leading healthy, substance-free lives. Contact us today for more information.

90 day treatment programs

If you or someone you know needs professional addiction treatment but is delaying help due to fears or preconceived notions about the process, it’s time to lay anxiety to rest. People who have been through alcohol and drug addiction treatment programs have only positive things to say about their experiences. Many even credit treatment programs with saving their lives. The time to fight for a better life is now. Don’t let the following fears or misconceptions delay your recovery. Professional help can enable you to achieve lifelong sobriety.

Treatment Is too Expensive

One of the main deterrents standing between many addicts and recovery is fear of the price of treatment. No price is too high, however, to get your life back. An addiction treatment program could be your door to sober living, mental well-being, and the power to resist relapse. It could be your ticket to new job opportunities, repaired relationships with loved ones, and physical health. Don’t let the price tag on a program stand in your way if it’s the right one for you. Staff members at Burning Tree Lodge help clients with costs through insurance benefits whenever possible.

Everyone Will Judge Me

Fear of what others will think can be enough to stop some people from seeking professional help. Instead, they attempt to get sober “quietly,” on their own. There is a reason treatment centers exist. Self-recovery has a very low success rate. Even if you manage detox and stay sober on your own, your odds of relapse are higher if you don’t have the strong support system and foundation you receive during professional treatment. In many cases, trying to self-detox can be fatal. Seeking treatment won’t sully your reputation with people who truly care about you. In fact, it often earns loved ones’ respect.

I’ll Lose My Job or Custody of My Kids

Joining an addiction treatment program means explaining to your boss, your friends, and your family members where you’ll be for the next 30 to 90 days or longer. Making this commitment can be a tough and scary decision. If you don’t seek help, however, you could lose your job and your family anyway. The Family and Medical Leave Act gives you permission to leave your job for medical reasons for up to 12 weeks without fear of job termination. You have a much higher chance of retaining child custody by seeking addiction treatment than you do continuing substance abuse.

It Won’t Work

Finally, a common fear is that a rehab program simply won’t work. If you’re afraid of spending a great deal of time and money on an inpatient program, only to relapse the day of your discharge, talk to a professional. Speaking with an expert on the subject can help you realize that you’ll have a team of people dedicated to your long-term recovery. During a long-term rehab program, you’ll learn important tools you can take with you long after you leave. The right program will have support systems and therapies that stick with you for life. Call (877) 874-8695 for more information about our 90 day drug and alcohol recovery program today.

length of stay improves success rate

When first researching addiction treatment and recovery centers, pay attention to how long the program lasts. Sometime in the 1970s, the typical length of stay for an addiction treatment program became 30 days. The origins trace back to the U.S. military, which permitted active-duty soldiers to seek treatment without getting reassigned if they returned to duty within 30 days. However, times have changed. Studies have shown a correlation between longer treatment programs and higher recovery success rates.

What’s Wrong With the 30-Day Setup?

A traditional 30-day program might not be right for you. Although this short-term setup might be enough to detoxify the body and introduce someone to treatment techniques, it’s not enough to effectively treat an individual or give him/her the tools to achieve long-term recovery. Instead, it acts like a Band-Aid, patching up the problem without getting to the source of the injury. Someone struggling with a serious addiction requires more time and professional assistance to get to the other side.

Although a 30-day program is better than nothing, research tells us the average person needs at least three months (or 90 days) of addiction treatment to stop drug or alcohol use. It takes about three months for the brain to “revert” to the way it used to think prior to the drug or alcohol dependency – or for the individual to reach a point where he or she can truly stop substance abuse. Discharge after just 30 days means the individual is still battling desires and compulsions to use and has high odds of relapse.

Relapse can occur regardless of the length of stay in addiction treatment. Relapse isn’t a failure, but a sign that the person needs to adjust his or her treatment strategy. It’s up to the individual to do things that will minimize the risk of relapse, such as signing up for at least a 90-day treatment program instead of a short-term one. Longer treatment times can achieve better outcomes by consistently measuring progress and tailoring a long-term plan for permanent recovery. Ongoing support from professionals for at least three months can make all the difference.

Where to Find a 90-Day Rehabilitation Program

If you know a 30-day program just isn’t right for you or a loved one, research options for longer treatment plans. Burning Tree Lodge has helped chronic relapsers since 1999. The facility’s 90-day course of treatment deepens its commitment to helping others obtain permanent sobriety. The Lodge 90-Day Program includes services such as psychiatric evaluations, mental health counseling, individualized treatment planning, relapse prevention, daily therapeutic activities, and more for people with all types of substance abuse disorders and dual diagnoses.

The Lodge firmly believes in the superiority of the 90-day program to short-term 30-day ones when it comes to achieving permanent recovery. It also understands that economic shortcomings could get in the way of someone’s ability to sign up for a 90-day program. The staff at the Lodge always strive to maximize insurance reimbursement and benefits to ease the cost of long-term treatment plans. It is their mission to provide effective treatment to everyone who needs addiction recovery. Learn more during a confidential discussion.


tips for supporting a family member or loved one in recovery

Recovery is an individual journey, but not one a person must trek alone. The support of family members and loved ones can make all the difference in a recovering individual’s motivation to remain sober. If you have a loved one who recently joined a treatment or rehabilitation program, there are things you can do to facilitate long-term recovery. While you must let your loved one forge his or her own path, you can offer support from the sidelines with a few proven tips. Try these seven techniques to support your loved one during addiction recovery.

Voice Your Support

Don’t assume your loved one knows he or she has your support. Recovery is a difficult journey that involves a lot of self-reflection, analysis of past mistakes, and asking forgiveness from people the addiction hurt. Your loved one might not know that you’re willing or able to help or may be too embarrassed or afraid to ask. Make your views known by voicing your support and desire to help during recovery. Make the first move. Say: “I’m here to help in any way I can,” and see what comes next.

Assist With Independence

Learn the difference between support and enablement. Enabling refers to a loved one encouraging a drug or alcohol dependency, usually unintentionally, through acts such as giving the recovering individual money, food, or shelter. Show your loved one you care about his or her recovery but encourage independence. For example, help your loved one get a job instead of just giving him or her money. Visit a support group for friends and family members of addicts for tips on how to avoid enabling.

Plan for the Future

Give your loved one something to look forward to by helping him or her create a plan. This plan can include finding a job, getting housing, taking up hobbies, and building or repairing relationships. Your loved one’s treatment or rehab center should have given him or her ideas and tips for an aftercare plan. If they didn’t, however, create the plan yourself with help from a counselor.

Promote a Healthy Lifestyle

Encourage the sober individual’s physical and mental well-being if possible. Cook healthy meals, encourage exercise, stress the importance of good sleep, schedule doctor appointments, and help with social interactions as much as possible (without becoming codependent or telling the individual what to do). The line between guiding and ordering can be a difficult one to walk but do your best to support without commandeering the person’s recovery journey. All choices must be the individual’s own, but you can promote healthy choices with gentle pushes in the right direction.

Attend Al-Anon Meetings

Meetings with professionals aren’t just for the person struggling with addiction. Al-Anon is an organization that hosts meetings around the world for people just like you – friends and family members of people with addictions. Becoming a member can give you the support and tools you need to better facilitate long-term recovery for your loved one. Al-Anon meetings can help you feel less alone with your own personal struggles and feelings. It can also lend proven tips for helping someone close to you achieve long-term remission.

Get Help

If you believe your loved one is on the verge of relapse, get help. Urge your loved one to return to treatment or at least speak to a counselor. If this isn’t your loved one’s first relapse, consider a program that specializes in helping chronic relapsers, such as Burning Tree Lodge. Our 90-day treatment program helps people with multiple relapses obtain permanent remission. Contact us today for a confidential discussion.


help loved one stay sober

Your loved one has committed to a life of sobriety. He or she has completed rehab and you’re ready to celebrate. You may think the hard part is over, but your role as a friend or family member has only just begun. Now it’s time to show your support in this lifelong journey by helping your loved one through each 24 hours. There are things you can do to make sober living easier for your loved one. Start with these four strategies for helping someone stay sober after treatment.

Avoid Pitfalls

Learn your loved one’s struggles and help him or her avoid bad situations, especially immediately after leaving rehab. Rehabilitation facilities are safe spaces that facilitate healing and sobriety. Out in the real world, it can be more difficult to avoid situations, people, places, or emotions that bring back the need for drugs and/or alcohol. Do your best to support and encourage the individual in the right direction, away from pitfalls that may interrupt recovery.

Create Goals and Plans

One of the mental barriers people often encounter while adjusting to sober living is the fear of missing out. After treatment, people who are new to sobriety might feel bored or restless in some situations – especially at times where the individual would previously have used drugs or alcohol. Create healthy, positive goals and plans with your loved one to give him/her something to work toward. Create a plan for healthy eating, regular exercise, and fun, productive hobbies. Setting goals for the future can make it easier for your loved one to manage temptations.

Prevent Codependency

Codependency in this case refers to an excessive reliance on a partner who requires support due to alcoholism or drug addiction. Codependency often comes with enabling. Although you should demonstrate your love and support after addiction treatment, consciously try to avoid becoming codependent. Signs you could be codependent include:

  •       Providing money for things other than treatment
  •       Only finding satisfaction in life by satisfying your partner
  •       Remaining in the relationship despite harm your partner causes
  •       Feeling anxious when you can’t fulfill your partner’s wishes
  •       Making excuses for bad behaviors

Being in a codependent relationship with someone who struggles with addiction can interfere with both of your emotional needs. Don’t make excuses for addictive behaviors. If your loved one relapses, provide support by telling him or her to return to treatment, not by offering money or food. You aren’t responsible for ensuring your loved one doesn’t relapse. Seek help from a therapist for more tips on breaking a habit of codependency and/or enabling.

Stay Positive About Recovery

One of the most important things you can do to facilitate long-term recovery is to stay positive. Remember, there is no “cure” for addiction. It is a lifelong process. A positive, healthy home filled with people who love and care about the individual can facilitate good physical, mental, and emotional health – and help eliminate the need to use. If you wish to help your loved one stay sober for life, a 90-day program can be a strong foundation. Learn more at (877) 874-8695.


show dont tell

Alumni: Megan Souther

Someone with a drug and/or alcohol problem has one goal, to continue to get high or drunk at any cost. Addicts will say things they don’t mean and manipulate any situation to get their desired result. Anyone who stands in the way of them getting their next fix or drink is considered an obstacle. People closest to them are the ones who get hurt the most. How do I know this? Because I am one.

In my addiction and early recovery, I would tell friends and family what they wanted to hear, if it would get them off my back.  I would go to different treatment centers and tell the counselors and my family that I was doing well. I was compliant, which came off as surrendered to the process and getting sober. That was far from the truth. At one of my rehabs, I even had the name “4.0 Rehab Student”. I worked the steps and tried to be an example to other clients. I said a lot while really saying nothing about what was really going on inside. The truth was that nothing was fine. I would get out of treatment and immediately relapse. While everyone was surprised, I was not. I knew I had been faking it and I had everyone intention of getting loaded the day I left treatment. The reason this happens is that addicts are very skilled at manipulating and being dishonest.

At Burning Tree, we understand the nature of the disease, which is why we don’t focus on what they are saying. Their behaviors speak loud enough. Addicts are skilled at saying a lot, without really saying anything. An example of this would be someone telling us they want to be sober, but are breaking rules, not doing treatment work, and not being honest about what is going on inside them.  Their actions are telling us they are not willing to do something different to be sober.  Not only the staff, but other clients at Burning Tree hold their peers accountable for their behaviors daily. At Burning Tree, we hold up a “mirror”. This is how you are showing up and this is what you are saying. From there, we can help the client see what is really going on and begin to rely on a Higher Power rather than their sick mind.