Relapse Prevention: You Can Change Your Friends But What About Family?

May 22, 2010 — 7 Comments

Every person in addiction recovery has changed their socializing situations in order to avoid the dreaded relapse. We are told that certain people and certain situations can be triggers. What do we do when some of our triggers are also family members?

I have dealt with this situation first hand. I have a brother that I hung out with a lot while drinking and drugging. We are pretty close and have a great time together. I had to be honest with myself though. I knew that if I continued to hang out with him in the same situations in which I did before, I would be back to my shenanigans before I knew it.

So did I just cut all ties with my brother? No, that wasn’t necessary. After all, he is my brother first and my drinking partner second. What I had to do was change the situations in which I was around him. Instead of us hanging out on a Friday night having a few beers, I choose to hang out with him say on a Sunday afternoon. We watch TV and just shoot the shit.

Now is this just as exciting as going out and having some beers? Well, no…I won’t lie. But I do still have a good time none the less. It’s really shocking to me when I start to realize that I can have fun with people without being wrecked. It happens all the time now. I like it much better because I don’t wake up the next morning thinking of all the stupid things that I said the night before and feeling embarrassed.

Don’t get me wrong. When I go to a family gathering or something like that where normally I would consume alcohol I still get an itch to do so. It just helps that I have a lot of support from my family. I wonder if triggers ever go away or if you just learn to deal with them better as you go?

I remember talking about Easter and how I was kind of nervous to be going to a family function without having a few primer drinks “to being out my personality”. It’s amazing to me how in just a short period of time I feel so much more confident about my clean self. I don’t need any kind of substance to bring out my personality.

So although you most likely don’t want to cut your family out of your life in order to stay sober you do need to change your interactions with anyone in your family whom you consider to be a trigger for you. Relapse prevention is an ongoing fight in addiction recovery. Do what needs to be done to keep yourself moving forward.

7 responses to Relapse Prevention: You Can Change Your Friends But What About Family?

  1. I hear you. Early in my recovery I only heard black and white solutions, never hang out with old friends, never go here or there. What I learned about relapse prevention is that there are 2 sets of situations, those you can avoid (peolple,places and things), and those you cannot avoid..m like family and work.

    So what I did is avoided the obvious danger situations and with ones I could not avoid I learned to set limits and boundaries. I remember one long time friend I did not want to cut off, so I told him ‘I love you like a brother but can’t be with you when you’re using. I’m trying to change’ I felt bad doing it, but he understood and respected the deal (after testing the limit once or twice). But it worked out.


  2. I don’t think that triggers ever go away. Instead, I think that those who are recovering from addiction learn to think differently about their addictions and triggers. You start to learn that there is more to enjoy in life than the situations that involve drinking or doing drugs.

    One thing that might also be helpful is family counseling. If your family members care for you, but they are often triggers for bad behavior, you might try inviting them to a few of your sessions. The more they learn about your recovery struggles and efforts, they may start to be more attentive and considerate of the kinds of events and situations they involve you in.

    This may not be possible for everyone, but the family members who do care about your health and safety will find a way to become more involved if you invite them to be. And for those who can’t, just try and do as the author here did and change the situations in which you see them. This may help to separate them from their behavior in your mind so that they are a trigger less and less. And who knows, once you might just be a trigger for them also. If you stop hanging out with them specifically to drink or use, they may start to do it less and less themselves.

  3. Thanks for your post – its great to get your insight. I am a family member as opposed to being in recovery. My sister is a heroin addict and I can tell you hand on heart that our entire family would do whatever it took to make sure we didnt trigger anything for her. The problem is, alot of the times we don’t know what it is. Is it what we do? What we say? Being somewhere you’ve used before? Its great to hear how successful you’ve been at changing your lifestyle but not cutting out your family members.

  4. family counseling is sometimes needed because you cannot solve all your problems `:.

  5. getting ex wife back August 24, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    I savour, cause I found exactly what I used to be looking for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

  6. What do you do when the person you use to use with is your husband, and he keeps dragging you into relapse? We’ve been together for 20 years and I love him more than I could possibly put into words and can’t imagine leaving him, but I’m really tired of this cycle of thinking we’re both “on the same page,” only to have him bring it back into our lives again! I’m beating myself up as well for being so weak. I love life drug-free and am happier than I’ve been in many years, but when it’s put right in front of me, I cave!

  7. This is a follow-up to my post above. I should mention that he didn’t go out looking for this. We’ve changed the people we associate with, returned to church and gotten involved, and tried to take steps to avoid placing ourselves in front of temptation. This, time, the guy showed up at our door with it, described to my husband how good it was, and offered it up. How do you combat THAT?

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