Reconnecting Families in Addiction Recovery


Substance use disorder (SUD) is a family disease. Most of the over 19 million people who currently struggle with alcohol or drug use have whole communities of loved ones who suffer right alongside them: the mother who no longer recognizes her child; the sibling who has completely lost trust in their brother or sister; the spouse who can no longer find the loving and vibrant person with whom they exchanged vows on their wedding day. Just as family usually experiences the worst impact of addiction, they must also be especially involved in the lifelong process of their loved one’s recovery. The Recovery Unplugged Family Program was developed to lay the groundwork for healing as a family and helps clients gradually integrate back into their homes.

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The Family Program at Recovery Unplugged helps people who are embarking on recovery reclaim their seat at the family table. It makes family holidays possible; rebuilds trust and helps to erode the malignant feelings that have built up in the wake of active drinking and drug use. It’s a resource to help families overcome the lying, manipulation, aggression and hurt feelings that were exchanged during substance use. Family-focused therapies have proven remarkably effective in the treatment of substance use and co-occurring disorders, like depression.

Successfully transitioning back into a harmonious family dynamic, whether it’s in or out of the home, is a fundamental pillar of long-term recovery. People who don’t have stable home or familial safety nets to provide love, affirmation and accountability often have difficulty avoiding relapse. Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that addiction relapse rates remain consistently at 40-60 percent. Very often, unstable family structures and an inability of family members to get past the more traumatic and painful memories associated with their loved one’s substance use gets leads to continued hurt feelings that create tension within the home. A lack of education and understanding of family roles in the addiction recovery process can often lead to relapse.

Those entering recovery rely on stability, understanding, acceptance and compassion, and the family into which their re-entering is the most empowered to provide this; but they need the behavioral framework and relationship-building skills to be able to do it. The Recovery Unplugged Family Program starts the process of integrating families into long-term recovery, so they know what to expect and how to best assist their loved one on this journey.


The very nature of addiction puts people who are going through it in different roles. Values systems, morals, choices and other factors tend to automatically place people those who are dealing with substance use disorder, both directly and within their family, in certain positions have come to be common elements in the family recovery and healing processes. Understanding these roles can help you and your family more effectively navigate the aftermath of addiction.

  • The Addict – While the term has come to be something of a pejorative, addict doesn’t have to, or shouldn’t be, a loaded word. Getting rid of the negative connotations associated with the word and ridding the mind of all negative stereotypes is an important part of family healing. The addict literally has their brain chemistry hijacked by drugs or alcohol. As a result, they exist in a chaotic and gradually escalating state of dysfunction as they attempt to outrun withdrawal symptoms and chase their next high. Actions of an addict will invariably include lying, deceit, manipulation and aggression during active use.
  • The Enabler – The enabler, however, well-intentioned, is often one of the main drivers of substance. They will either deny a problem exists, try to keep the peace, or please the addict because they’re in a co-dependent relationship. The enabler will often do things, like turn a blind eye to substance use, bargain with their addicted loved one, offer rides and money and constantly go back on accountability measures they initially put in place.
  • The Hero – The hero will often try to bring the family together during the tough times often brought about by family substance use. They’ll emerge as a sort of “family leader” and try to get their family to coalesce around their addicted loved one. The hero often has a “type-a” personality and perfectionist tendencies and think that it’s their responsibility to try and fix things. This sense of pressure can actually affect their physical and mental health, while inadvertently getting in the way of a loved one’s recovery.
  • The Scapegoat – The scapegoat is the person that gets blamed for issues within the family, while the addict is shielded from culpability in the drama and dysfunction. This is often someone who is particularly close with the addict and is in a position to enable their behavior.
  • The Mascot – The mascot is constantly trying to defuse family tension by offering humor or distractions. They’re acutely aware of the trauma the family is experiencing and see it as their role to make everyone feel better. Unfortunately, this can often distract from addressing the reality of the problem and successfully intervening in a loved one’s addiction.
  • The Mediator – The mediator is a toned-down version of the hero. They’re the people who try to connect the addicted loved with the rest of their family to establish a dialogue and figure out a way forward in recovery. While the mediator has noble intentions, they often leave themselves open to abuse and hurt feelings by trying to exist in both worlds.
  • The Lost Child – The lost child is the member of the family that often feels overlooked, ignored and neglected as their loved one’s addiction looms large over the family. They tend to stay in the shadows and don’t get a lot of attention, nor do they seek it.

Each of these family roles interact differently with one another. The Recovery Unplugged Family Program strives to address the intricacies and complexities of all these personality types when present in the family.


The importance of family involvement in the recovery process cannot be overstated. As an individual works toward overcoming dependency from alcohol or other drugs, it’s most often their families with whom they interact each day or to whom they’ll be returning after they complete inpatient or residential treatment. The family household is very often the “laboratory” where the science of addiction and recovery play out. They’re the primary environments where people in recovery can exercise the coping skills they gained in treatment and are continuing to refine in long-term recovery.

From an everyday logistical perspective, family can also provide a sense of accountability, structure and routine when it’s most important. Establishing boundaries and measurable goals when a person is transitioning back into recovery. These boundaries not only help a person build emotional strength and reinforce their coping strategies; it also provides peace of mind, stability and clear communication within the rest of the family structure.

The Recovery Unplugged Family Program works by helping families better understand their roles and importance in the recovery process by providing education and awareness about the disease of addiction and what sort of behavioral issues can be expected during the lifelong process. Families are more equipped than any other people to offer the stability, support, compassion and accountability needed during long-term recovery, particularly in the


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    Participating loved ones learn to understand addiction as a brain disease, rather than a moral failing and what ongoing recovery maintenance may involve after the initial treatment process. This education is important for providing a baseline awareness and context for the addict’s behavior.

  • Music Note


    Clients and their families engage in individual and group therapy dynamics to illuminate the concept of family recovery for all stakeholders. Recovery Unplugged offers both traditional and music-focused therapy dynamics to help families better connect.

  • Music Note


    Participants are given time with each other to absorb the teachings and fabric of the program so they can be allowed to play out in real time. This sense of reflection helps to lay the applicable groundwork for ongoing positive trust-building.


Before families can start to heal in long-term recovery, however, treatment is necessary to treat the immediate physical and behavioral elements of long-term chemical dependency. Treatment helps your loved one overcome withdrawal symptoms while providing the comprehensive behavioral resources needed to manage the origins and sustaining factors that lead to substance use. While it ultimately has to be their decision to seek care, some of the ways you can help get your loved one into treatment include conducting an intervention, talking to them directly, independently connecting with treatment centers and more.

Doing some “legwork” prior to talking to your loved one about getting treatment can help you address all of the concerns they may have, including cost, logistics and others. You can do a full insurance verification to ascertain coverage options, find out more about what programs the facility offers, and more. Do as much of the prep work as you can before encouraging your loved one and let them know you want to help them and not judge them.


One of the primary objectives of the Recovery Unplugged Family Program is to help family members learn how to support their loved one during recovery, and this begins with providing the proper measure of support in treatment. While it’s important that people in treatment know their loved ones are behind them, support during treatment may look different, based on what type of care a person is getting:

  • Outpatient Treatment

    In outpatient care, people have the opportunity to continue to connect with their families on a daily basis. Loved ones can provide support by continuing to ask them about their program, offer any type of assistance that make engaging with care easier (rides to treatment, helping with assignments when applicable, etc.).

  • Behavioral Rehab

    Inpatient Treatment

    Inpatient or residential treatment allows participants to heal in a safe, compassion and distraction-free environment; however, it also means they’ll be away from their family and loved ones for a little while. During this time, loved ones can visit as much as possible, provide comfort and quality-of-life resources (food, blankets, clothes, books, etc.) while they’re there and reinforce how proud they are that they’re getting help.


Family Program is open to select family members who are particularly influential or important in a client’s treatment and recovery journey. While spots are limited, there is no specific role outside of the family dynamic required to attend. Recovery Unplugged is mindful of the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all family dynamic, and we’re committed to helping your family, whatever roles it may include. Generally speaking, the program is best for family members with whom they’ll either be living or spending a lot of time in long-term recovery. The Recovery Unplugged Family Program is available to whatever family members are instrumental in our clients’ recovery.

Participants in Family Program are limited to a certain number of people, but the program is open to participants occupying any role, including:

  • Immediate Family – (Parents, Siblings, Spouses, Etc.)
  • Extended Family – (Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Etc.)
  • Close Friends and Domestic Partners – (Girlfriends, Boyfriends, Etc.)

The main criteria for Family Program participants is that they’re the ones with whom the person in treatment will be engaging the most in recovery, and they are the most invested in the process.


It’s important to realize that relapse is a common part of the recovery process and that just because your loved on suffers a set-back, it’s by no means, the end of your recovery. When your loved one relapses, there are several steps you can take to immediately guide your loved toward treatment again. Contact their sponsor or other members of their support system, take them to a meeting, contact their treatment center and make plans to get them back into their program. Don’t judge them or scorn them; let them know you’re there to help and that there’s nothing to be afraid or ashamed of.

It’s also important that you continue to take care of other members of your family during your loved one’s relapse. It can be easy to get overwhelmed and forget to practice proper self-care and check in with your other loved ones to make sure they’re OK. Remember that you need to be at your best if you’re going to effectively take care of your family.


Our Family Program is divided into a series of modules over the course of a weekend to help participants learn more about Recovery Unplugged and their role in their loved one’s lasting recovery. The process starts with the arrival of families and lunch, followed by:

Introductions – Participants are introduced to program personnel and are give a preliminary overview of the Family Program purpose and format.

Overview of Rules – Participants are given the rules of the program, which are included here for additional reference:

  • Use of Drugs and Alcohol is Prohibited
  • Group Should Not Be Discussed Outside of Group
  • Clients’ Passes with Families Will Be Determined by the Clinical Team Prior to the Weekend Based on Medical and Clinical Necessity
  • Attendees Must Attend and Be on Time for All Groups
  • Facilitator Reserves the Right to Redirect and/or Remove Someone from the Group(s) if They are Disruptive to the Group Process
  • There will be No Photography or Videotaping during the Program
  • Phones Must be Turned Off

Family members are welcome to attend without the client if they choose.

Ice Breaker Sessions – Exercises to help participants get more acclimated to the program. These include our “Geography” and “Snowball Fight” modules. Geography allows participants to explain how they ended up in their current city and Snowball Fight allows participants to learn more about each other through a fun and creative game dynamic.

Brain Disease Model – Provides education on the disease of addiction and what it does to neurochemistry and the central nervous system to drive addictive behavior.

Client’s Creative Outlet – Clients select a song, write a letter, etc. that they feel best represents what they will do differently, or what they want their loved one to understand about their recovery journey thus far.

Loved One’s Creative Outlet – Families are informed that their loved one is working on an assignment to express where they are with their recovery journey and are encouraged to choose a song or creative outlet that will express to the group and to their loved one how their journey has been in supporting their loved one.

Family Lunch – Families are given a handout with local restaurants to have lunch and instructed not to speak about anything involving Family Weekend or any emotionally charged issues, and instead enjoy their meal, enjoy each other’s company, and spend time together.

Family Open Mic – Briefly review and discuss how lunch went, if it was difficult to avoid discussing hot- button issues, how it felt to just enjoy a meal together, etc.

Dedication Songs – Clients and families play a song that they chose in their assignment (completed prior to family weekend). Clients and family members sit on stage together and song with lyrics will be played. Family will briefly process why they selected this song, and client will have opportunity to reflect back on this.
Each day of Family Program begins with Morning Pump-Up to raise physical and emotional energy levels and ends with a review and recap of the day’s events and breakthroughs. Recovery Unplugged offers Family Program at all our locations, however, COVID-19 restrictions may temporarily apply. Contact the admissions staff at Recovery Unplugged to learn more about specifics of this program, and how it can help you and your family heal together in your long-term recovery.


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