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Expectations About a Loved One’s Addiction Recovery

expectations about a loved one's addiction recovery - conflict between man and woman - valley recovery centerIt is natural when our loved one gets sober for us to assume that everything will be alright; we also tend to let our expectations about a loved one’s recovery run away with us. For one, we expect everything to go back to “normal.”


Since addiction is a family disease, it is almost guaranteed that the person who has stuck with the addicted person and worked to help them get sober is going to have some big expectations about that person’s recovery. Unless loved ones assess and work through their own issues, they will almost certainly try to manage the person in recovery just as they tried to manage that person’s addiction.

It is hard to not hold our loved one to our expectations.

It may be almost as hard as learning to keep our hands off when the loved one is practicing their addiction. However, pinning those invisible and emotional expectations on the addicted person and their recovery will more likely hurt than heal the relationship.

Addiction is a chronic disease, and it’s highly possible that a person in recovery will relapse one or more times before they finally get settled into long-term recovery.

When relapse happens, your expectations will be unfulfilled and the addicted person will likely feel devastated. If you do not personally suffer from the disease, it may be hard for you to understand how much of a battle recovery requires. That is why it is so important that you work your own 12-step program, perhaps in a group like Al-Anon.

Your expectations about a loved one’s addiction recovery can put a lot of pressure on both you and your loved one. Expectations can also set up a self-fulfilling prophecy, i.e., “I’ve let everybody down, so what’s the use?”

How can we successfully deal with our expectations?

  1. Understand that it takes many years for people in recovery to overcome the desire to drink/use. Their addiction may switch to something else like food, sex, or work. While 60 days of sobriety is great, don’t think you are out of the woods. It will take your loved one at least a year for their head to begin to clear as all the chemicals leave their body.
  2. Don’t over focus on your loved one’s recovery. Get some interests of your own. After what you have been through with the addiction, it is understandable that you are hyper-vigilant–but no one likes to be scrutinized. Your own 12 step program can help you with this – get a program, get a life, and let your loved one manage their own recovery.
  3. Don’t diminish the hard work that went into striving for a life of sobriety. This is true for both of you. It can’t be stressed enough that if you don’t take care of your own recovery, chances are you will put way too much pressure on your loved one.


For more information, or if you have any questions regarding our programs, please do not hesitate to contact us at (888) 989-9690. Most insurance accepted – Call today!


  • psychologytoday.com/basics/alcohol
  • psychologytoday.com/basics/addiction


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