Family exercises for recovery

“I hope one day you can be at my house with your kids, hanging out on the porch while they play, talking about property taxes or your next vacation.”
“I’m grateful you told the truth about your drug problem, I’m grateful that you helped our family—we would have never talked like this.”
“I’m afraid we’re going to do all this and you’re going to go back to the same thing.”
Speaking with intention
When parents and patients come together for their first group exercise as part of our intensive week-long Family Program, one of the first activities we have them do is for each person to write a list. They write something they’re hopeful for, something they’re grateful for, and something they’re afraid of. Then they read it aloud.
It’s an opportunity—maybe the first parent and son have ever had—to practice speaking in intention and without criticism.
There is no feedback allowed between parents and children. Their hopes, gratitude and fears hang in the air all around us, while other families and their sons do the same exercise.
It’s an intense experience but a safe space as families hear things they hadn’t dared to give voice to for years.
This is just one of the exercises we perform with patients and families together to foster recovery as a family. Speaking in intention, without fear of reprisal or criticism, in a room where other patients and their family members are speaking openly honestly creates an atmosphere of healing. Families can begin to believe in the miracle of recovery.
Family Dynamic Model
Another exercise we do is the family dynamic model. Though a little simplistic, it shows how when one member of the family is struggling with addiction or alcoholism, each member of the family has their own role to play that balances everything out. Are you the Chief Enabler, helping the addict avoid consequences? Are you the Hero, trying to save the family through perfect performance at school or extra-curriculars? Are you the Scapegoat, distracting the family from the chaos of the addict by causing your own share of problems? Are you the Lost Child, keeping a low profile and hoping the chaos passes by you? Or are you the Mascot, using humor to divert your family’s attention?
As we hash out these definitions, family members are asked to talk about the role they identify with. Again, it’s a conversation that happens in a safe space where individuals can speak openly without it turning personal or accusatory. Family members can identify themselves and with the other members of their family, and see a bit more clearly how they all relate.
It’s a daring risk each individual is taking, but it’s likely the first time they’ve considered their family dynamic outside of crisis. You’re just sort of thinking about it because it’s a Tuesday, and you’re in the Family Program, and you’re all here trying to get better together.
A close look in the mirror
Another exercise for family recovery is a look at physical health. When we examine certain health risks associated with substance abuse disorders—issues like hypertension, weight loss, weight gain, sleeplessness, anxiety and depression—we see something surprising. This list of symptoms is shared by both the addict or alcoholic and their codependent, enmeshed family members.
They’re all significant health risks, plus they make life pretty unbearable.
For families struggling to see the detriment in their inner perspectives, or the chaos that abounds in their family dynamic, these physical symptoms are hard to ignore.
Family members begin to see how much their own life has changed in the course of their loved one struggling with addiction. They see how much they are suffering, that they are falling apart, that they need to take care of themselves. They realize how tired they have felt, how sad or angry or fearful they’ve been, how their clothes don’t fit quite right, the chronic pain they’ve been trying to ignore.
Patients begin to see how much their behavior affected their family members. They see how much their parents, their siblings or their partner’s experience of life is disturbed. Young men see that they were not existing in a vacuum, that things they said or did—or didn’t—had a direct and profound impact on their family.
This exercise initiates a self-care narrative for family members, and an empathy narrative for patients.
Families find their own recovery
These recovery exercises are just a sample of the work with do with families to help them heal and recovery from the devastating affects of addiction. Examining each individuals hopes, gratitude, and fear helps to explore the emotional side of the disease. Understanding the family dynamic and the role each individual plays shows families the mental aspect of addiction. And an examination of the health risks anchors the mental and emotional pain they’ve been feeling in the physical world.
We help families to come to grips with what they’ve lost to addiction, and what they stand to gain in recovery. To learn more about how you can change the momentum of your family with recovery, call us at 772-245-8345 or email us at

Service and Recovery

It’s not news that being of service to others is one of the most rewarding things a person can do. In recovery, it’s one of the most important things you can do to safeguard your progress.
Folks in recovery don’t have a monopoly on volunteering and doing service work. People from all walks of life know how good it feels to donate their time and their talents without expecting anything in return. Helping others is proven to lower stress and improve overall happiness. Getting involved in the community and helping others is good for the soul—and for young men in recovery it can help them stay sober.
We’re in this together
Performing service work often means getting up close and personal with folks who are in a vulnerable state, and it can have a profound affect on our patients. Young men in early recovery learn that they are not alone—that there are others who suffer and have suffered. It broadens a young man’s perspective and nurtures his compassion.
There’s a wonderful organization in Palm Beach County we visited on more than one occasion with the same group of patients. Our first visit had a profound impact on some of our patients. Our mission was to prepare and serve a meal to the people served by this organization, which provides a homelike atmosphere for parents who need to be near their children while they’re undergoing hospital treatments. It was a successful evening, and everyone in attendance had a full belly and a smile on their face.
Addressing the past...
We learned in group that a couple of our patients really struggled during this service work. They connected the visit with memories of traumatic childhood experiences of hospital stays. Hearing these young men share openly about their experiences gave our clinical staff an opportunity to help them process their memories and explore new ways to approach the experience.
...And finding a new perspective
The following month, we booked a second date for the same group of guys to serve a second meal, but before we embarked we used our daily group to revisit those issues. With guidance from our counselors and support from the other men in treatment with them, were able to talk through their fears and their resistance.
Now aware of what to expect from the experience and from themselves, these young men were eager and enthusiastic to get involved, planning a menu and preparing food for the guests of this wonderful charity. They had a really clear idea of the kind of comfort food they wanted to serve these folks.
They pulled off a masterful service from start to finish, and the people they served were warm and appreciative.
Connection and belonging
Looking back at this group, and most young men who come through the doors of Voyage Recoveyr, we’re dealing with young men who felt disconnected from the people around them and from things deep within themselves while they were using drugs or alcohol.
Service work gave them the opportunity to address some of the hardest experiences of their lives, to be honest and open about them in group with their counselors and peers, and then to find ways to move beyond those memories and be fully present in the moment.
The guys learned that the more they put into an experience, the more they get out of it. This particular event really galvanized the idea that there is lots of opportunity for personal growth in activities they would have passed up before treatment.
In the midst of experiential programming and all the fun things we get to take our guys out to do, there are also some really meaningful, impactful opportunities for growth and learning through service work.
A place in the bigger picture
We’re helping these guys challenge their old wounds and destructive patterns of behavior in a clinical environment; when we get out on the water, or in the woods, or get involved with the community for service work, there are so many opportunities to challenge their old ways of thinking about themselves and see how they fit into the bigger picture.
Service work is a cornerstone of recovery, and it’s built into the . Service work is a fast-track to getting out of your own head as it forces you to think of other’s needs. In this case, our patients got to experience the joy of service work, while at the same time processing some childhood trauma and working together as a team.
To find out more about service work as part of the experiential program at Voyage Recovery, contact our team at 772-245-8345

Families get better together

Trouble at school, work, or home, running afoul of the law, stealing, dishonesty, and behaviors that put him at risk of hospitalization or worse: this is just a snapshot of what some families must deal with when they love someone with a substance use disorder.
When someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder, parents, siblings, partners and children must adapt, patterning their behavior around dealing with a person in crisis.
When a person in crisis brings this kind of chaos into your household, where does that leave you? Where does that leave your spouse? Or the other children in the family? Where does your relationship with your parents or your close friends fall?
Isolation is a hallmark of addiction and alcoholism
Just to keep rolling from one day to the next, families are forced to adapt. In doing so they often create an environment that sustains the addict or alcoholic’s destructive behavior. The result is often years’ worth of panic-driven, trauma-informed behavior. That’s why we view the entire family as our patient, and why we work so closely with both the young man and his family from the beginning. It’s going to take time, patience, and a lot of hard work to begin to undo the damage.
The goal of treatment is the same for patients as it is for families: to find freedom from the chaos of addiction and build a life that is worth living.
Though the Family Program occurs in the second month of treatment, our work with the family begins from the day a young man is admitted to Voyage. Immediately we begin phone conferences between family members and one of our counselors to lay the groundwork for the Family Program. We do this through weekly assignments of reading and writing that examine the nature of addiction and codependency.
The Voyage Family Program happens over the course of a week at our treatment facility in Hobe Sound, Florida. Parents, siblings and partners are invited to attend. The group size stays small intentionally to ensure that families are able to express themselves and gain helpful insight and supportive feedback from Voyage clinical staff and other family members in attendance.
Family Dinner
Family Program begins on a Sunday night in the second month of treatment. Families are invited to attend a dinner hosted at the Voyage residence. The guys plan a menu, prepare a meal, and serve their families dinner, then they all eat together. It’s an event that sets the tone for the week. After 30 or 40 days of treatment, these young men have started to gain some ground, transitioning from being isolated and self-centered in the throes of addiction to thinking outside of themselves, considering the people they love and how best to connect with them.
Goals and Obstacles
On Monday morning the families convene at our treatment facility. This is a day families will spend with our clinical staff only. In the family conferences leading up to this week, we have begun to discuss goals. Our conversations on this day dig deeper into the idea of goals for the post-treatment landscape and how family members can support each other. We help families think critically about their goals—if a parent has said that their goal is to trust their kid more, we’ll help them imagine what sorts of obstacles and barriers may crop up that will prevent them from achieving this goal.
The Family System
Parents and patients come together on Tuesday, and together we work on some operational definitions about the family system, what it looks like, and how different family members identify within that framework. It's a remarkable conversation as family members, for perhaps the first time ever, have an open conversation about family roles without it being deeply personal or accusatory. Individuals can identify and see themselves more clearly, while also relating to other members of their family, and members of other families. They consider the roles each of them plays in relation to the alcohol or addict without being in crisis.
We use this as a springboard into a conversation about what happened and how it happened, what is recovery, and what is a relapse, something each family member gets to talk about from their own perspective.
Communicating with Intention
On Wednesday we focus on teaching open, honest communication between family members. We have each parent and each patient write a list. They write statements about life in general or their relationship—something they’re hopeful for, something they’re grateful for, and something they’re afraid of.
Each individual reads their list to their family, and there is no feedback. It’s an intense experience to speak with intention about your hopes, gratitude and fears. But it happens outside the context of crisis, and families hear things they hadn’t dared to give voice to for years. Without accusation, judgement or criticism, family members develop a feeling of safety about talking openly and honestly, which supports an atmosphere of healing.
Anticipating Triggers
By Thursday we have reached the stage where we have defined recovery for a family as a move away from unmanageability and toward a life they want to have. At this point we work on relapse triggers—what is going to be a trigger for both the patient and the family member. The work we have done through the first part of the week has given each person a perspective on what recovery looks like for them, and helps each person to see the behaviors that have kept them from getting there in the past.
We emphasize showing yourself patience, acceptance and compassion—sometimes the only thing that will get a family member through a relapse is giving yourself a break. We show families how, even when something goes off the rails, they can start fresh again with a new behavior. Rather than trying to control the alcoholic or addict, they can admit their powerlessness, reach for something greater than themselves, and seek out support.
Continuing Care for the Family
For our last day of Family Program, the patients return to their routine, and our families work one on one with our clinical staff. On Friday we develop a continuing care plan for the family. Just as someone leaving treatment will have a contingency plan and a built-in network of support, our families leave us in the same stead. Their own continuing care plan outlines their goals as individuals, as well as how they can support each other as family members. We make sure they have a therapist set up when they return to their hometown, and that they’ve got a plan for going to Al Anon meetings in their town.
When someone in your family is struggling with a substance use disorder, you are profoundly affected. Your health, your sanity, your daily routine, your hopes for the future, even your vision of yourself. Good treatment and well planned continuing care can make all the difference in a person’s recovery—whether that person an addict or alcoholic, or they love someone who is.
The families we work with at Voyage are challenged to think about themselves in ways that might feel foreign: to remember that they and their other family members are people in need of love, support, and healthy nurturing.
Find out more about how our program can help your entire family recover from the chaos and devastation of a substance use disorder, and to build a life worth living. Call us at 772-245-8345 or email us at
Learn more about our family program.