Ask an Expert: I'm Better, Why Does My Family Still Treat Me Differently?

By Doreen Maller 01/05/15
Today's question is on why your family might still treat you a little strangely even after you've received treatment for your addictions.

If you are in recovery for four years and your family still treats you like an alien, what can you do?

Doreen Maller: The road to recovery begins with a personal journey, but re-integrating into a family is inter-relational. It is important to remember that each family member had his or her own unique experience of the "using years," and therefore trust will need to be established or re-established with each family member in their own way.

It may help to re-enter a period of brief therapy to move beyond some of the relational patterns that may have been necessary at an earlier point in time but have not evolved to include your current recovery status. With the help of a facilitator, a dialogue can begin where family members can share what they may need in order to move forward. Just like you take a car in for a periodic tune-up, these sessions can be seen as a family relational tune-up - a chance to consider where you are right now, provide an opportunity to move beyond the challenges of the past, and create a co-authored map toward your future together.

Therapists sometimes call this the re-contracting period; you are establishing new rules of engagement for the family. Families are encouraged to hear-out the fears of others and engage in collective problem solving. In this process of dialogue, awareness and forward momentum, new experiences are made and tracked. Acknowledging and building on successes leads to a “new normal” for your family.One where you are less alien to them and they to you.



Doreen Maller, MFT, PhD, began her practice in community mental health with a specialty in high-risk children and their families, including numerous families coping with addiction issues. Dr. Maller is the series editor of the three-volume Praeger Handbook of Community Mental Health Practice. See  Full Bio.

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