The Top Five Ways to Sabotage Your Loved One’s Recovery

Let’s count down on the top ways you can sabotage a loved one’s recovery, starting with:


“Well, he’ll never get a decent job with that on his record.”
“She might as well go on being addicted, nobody decent will ever want her anyway.”
“Once a drunk, always a drunk.”
Sound harsh? I’ve heard all this and worse from well-meaning family members and friends who do not recognize the possibility of long-term recovery, or are just afraid to hope anymore.


Because obviously your loved one is not capable. So you pay the bills, pick up the kids and put gas in the car. You put your own life on hold while you clean up the messes. You treat your loved one like a little kid while you get him sobered up for work and push him out the door. You shield her from the legal consequences of her using.


Maybe your loved one has gone to treatment, attended meetings, and worked on her recovery. Maybe she has started to change. Remind her of who she really is and where she comes from. If she has family members who also suffered from addiction, say, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Assume the worst. Point out the relapses.


Don’t tell anyone about your “situation.” If someone at work starts talking about their loved one’s addiction, keep quiet. It’s nobody’s business and they don’t need to know. Don’t let the other members of your family talk about it either.


Take note of every screw-up your loved one commits. Don’t forget the vomiting on the neighbor’s car part. Talk about your shame and your ruined life.

My name is Lynn Carlson and I’m a family member of a person in long-term recovery and a Family Member Recovery Coach for Recover Wyoming.

My sister, is a person in long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol.

Not that anybody’s keeping track.

You might think this Sabotage List is a little over-the-top, but I’m telling you, I’ve seen it. Hell – I’ve done most of these things myself.

When my sister was in her active addiction to alcohol, I got this brilliant idea: I would videotape her drunk. Surely when she saw the footage of herself (butt in the air after falling into the bushes) she would be so ashamed she would decide to get sober.

I never actually went through with it – but I wanted to. I would have done pretty much anything if I thought it would bring my sister back from the hole she was in.

Years later, I came to understand that the shame she felt was more extreme than anything I could imagine. When she shed her cloak of shame and worked hard in long-term treatment, and with (I believe) divine assistance, she found long-term recovery.

I did a lot of crazy things to try to manage the chaos that was my sister’s addiction. And in the process I learned. I eventually forgave myself for all of my insane thoughts and actions, because I was doing the best I could.


It can all be done differently, I know this now. Each of the items in this Sabotage List can be flipped.

As family members, friends or lovers of someone in or seeking long-term recovery we can:

We can refuse to look on our loved one as damaged goods. We can visualize and speak often of their promising future in long-term recovery. We can educate ourselves about addiction, participate in the Recovery Movement and share the message that there are over 23 million Americans in long-term recovery. And most challenging of all, we can let ourselves hope.

We can let go of our grip on the reins of our loved one’s life, while taking precautions to ensure the safety of ourselves and other people. We can express confidence that when our loved one takes the right steps to move away from addiction and toward recovery, he will be capable of running his own life. We can allow her to experience the consequences of her actions, because that is a crucial part of her journey toward recovery. We can get on with our own lives, projects and plans – no excuses.

We can recognize the changes in our loved one and embrace them, dealing with any insecurity on our part about how those changes might affect us.

We can stand up and be counted among the millions of people who share our struggle. We can step out of the shadows and share our story. We can seek guidance from our peers: people with lived experience in dealing with a loved one’s addiction. We can offer support to people going through similar challenges. We can let the world know how proud we are of our loved ones and the resilience of our families. We can offer our experiences as an example that shows the promise of recovery.

We can refuse to use shame as a tactic in dealing with a loved one’s addiction. We can replace it with acceptance, hope and love.

If you are new to Faces & Voices of Recovery, welcome. Take advantage of the wisdom and resources offered here.

And from one family member to another, take care of yourself and be patient with your struggles. Most of all, believe in recovery. It’s real.

This blog post was provided by Lynn Carlson, Family Member Recovery Coach, RECOVER Wyoming in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a Charter Member of the Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO).