He’s in a Recovery House and Struggling. What Can the Family Do?

A son is struggling in the recovery house setting and his mother is very worried. He is having problems there with one of the residents, and he seems to be overly involved. There is also pressure from the courts lurking, though he was given a break with one hearing due to being at the recovery house.

His parents have been practicing CRAFT when engaging with him, in hopes of continuing to steer him towards recovery, but still feel this is a dangerous time for him. He never pursued any counseling nor an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program), not even an MD visit. Just meetings, but not even daily. They would like to make their continued help with the rent contingent on some sort of counseling if he’s not using, or detox if he is. Or let the consequences happen…

This post originally appeared on our Member Site blog, where experts respond to members’ questions and concerns.

“We are at a crossroads with our son who has been in a recovery house for over two months. After a job loss and another job not won, there seems to be an unraveling going on. Now he says there’s problems at the recovery house with one of the residents, and he seems to be overly involved suddenly. Contradictions abound and we can’t tell if he’s being truthful, but my gut says he’s not. I fear he has started using or is ready to.

We are grateful that he has gotten this far and hope that what he experienced during this time will make an impact on him. Pressures with the courts are lurking too, though he was given a break with one hearing due to being at the recovery house. However, the big one is coming up within the next few weeks. Another reason to run.

We are seeing him tomorrow and I will know.

We will try very hard to use CRAFT when engaging with him in hopes we can continue to steer him towards recovery. This period of newfound clarity in some areas – not all – has always been a dangerous time. He never pursued any counseling or an IOP, not even an MD visit though he had the time, just meetings, but not daily. No sponsor….I’d like to make our continued help with the rent contingent on some sort of counseling if he’s not using, or detox if he is. Or let the consequences happen. What are your thoughts?

Stay on this path and hold your position

This early period of recovery is fragile, as you say; even dangerous. As important as it is to remove the drugs, it is even more important to add in things that take the place of the drugs and that provide meaning, guidance, and that support recovery and health…a job, volunteer work, exercise, self-help, a recovery coach, a therapeutic group (our eLearning CRAFT Modules on the Allies in Recovery site, and some of our other blog posts, give some specifics for addressing pursuits that compete with use).

You’ve been aware of this and have been trying to interest your son in these healthy strategies. It is an uphill battle. I do think that continued rent payment of the recovery house can be made contingent on following a treatment plan. The self-help is important but is not proving to be enough if your suspicions are correct.



Recovery houses can breed complicated dynamics

Recovery houses play an important role in early recovery but they can be uneven and too dependent on the people staying in them. Good management and governance are key. One studied approach is called the Social Model. Not that you can do much about the model in place at your son’s house, but readers may like to read about how some recovery houses govern themselves. Click here to read more about Social Model principles in residential recovery settings.

Learning how to be in a relationship of any kind is important to a continued and sane recovery. Many of us have never learned how to navigate relationships. We get tangled up, upset, and resentful. It can turn into an obsession, and it is especially hard if we’re living with that person. Perhaps you focus on this skill and suggest to your son that managing this problematic relationship is important to his not using (sobriety). A process group or therapist can help with this. Being in relationships is a life-long need and so learning about them is going to be important to a continued abstinence from use.

His efforts are paying off, but he needs to keep at it

Your son was recently forgiven an offense by the courts because he is in a recovery house. Let’s hope this left a mark on him. He is going to need that recovery house and his continued abstinence from use (sobriety) as evidence of the effort he is making in the next court hearing.

Again, you know this. It is another leverage point for trying to influence your son to stay put. If I were to pick one treatment that your son would need to agree to in exchange for rent payments continuing, it would be an early recovery group, men only if possible. You would ask for a consent form to be signed by him to let you know he is attending. Stress that you are not interested in what is said.

Does the recovery house drug test? The house should be following your son and helping with the issues that come up.



Early recovery is a difficult time

Your son may be wavering, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a full-out recurrence (what used to be termed a “relapse” – see our post on the stigma of language used around substance use challenges). He has two important pieces in place: a safe home and self-help. The house should be prepared to address a potential recurrence or at least the beginning of one. The house should also be helping with the interpersonal issues that come up between residents.

Your influence is limited. You know your son best. It is hard to stand by and let things unravel, yet your reach is limited. It is worth trying to use your leverage to get him to address relationships through a therapeutic group. The need to be in treatment and in living in recovery housing is very important for the court.

This early period in recovery is difficult. Wavering is not unusual, and it doesn’t mean he is giving up – just ambiguous. This is normal. Keep using the Allies in Recovery site to help you differentiate between what you can do, and what you need to let your son be responsible for.

You can join in on one of our weekly CRAFT-informed support groups (exclusive to members of the Allies in Recovery virtual program), or you can set up a virtual “office hours” appointment with one of our experienced family advocates if you’d like tailored, personalized advice for your situation.

Thank you for letting us know what is going on with him. Your difficulties are similar to those of many others on this site. We’re here to help.