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Making Agreements with Your Family: Consequences for Relapse in Recovery

One of the best ways to rebuild trust with your family after a bout with addiction – and all the lying and manipulation that goes along with it – is to create a formal agreement. This formal agreement is not just that you will work hard on your recovery and do everything you can to maintain sobriety but will outline the consequences that you agree to should you get high or drink again.

For some families, these consequences will be quite serious. It can mean a divorce or an enforced separation where the addicted family member has to leave the house for a period of time. Though some families who have been struggling with constant relapse for years may feel that these kinds of consequences are what needs to happen for the health of the rest of the family, it may be more productive to come up with consequences that are less severe.

Rather, specific and treatment-oriented consequences may be more appropriate and help the addicted family member to avoid relapse in the future. For example, the addicted family member may need to leave the house for a week and attend two 12-step meetings each day, half with their sponsor, and get these meetings signed off on.

For other families, an effort to fix any collateral damage that occurred as a result of the relapse may be important as well. For example, if the addicted family member missed a child’s performance at school or embarrassed their spouse at work, they need to take steps to apologize and try to make up for it in some way. If the addicted family member dipped into the family funds in order to pay for the relapse or spent money earmarked for something else, he should have to find a way to pay that back. All these specifics can be written into the agreement with room to modify based on the individual situation.

Follow through is exceptionally important in these cases, as is making sure that everyone has a copy so that there are no arguments or ambiguities. It’s no legal contract, but it’s certainly something that should be brought out in the event of relapse and abided by. If the addicted family member fails to uphold the agreement, a more serious consequence like the ones listed above (divorce, separation) may be the necessary next step in order to protect the entire family from the addiction.

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