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What Makes a Family?

People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol often alienate their friends and family. Even if they don’t do so intentionally, their actions whil  under the influence can drive away the people they care about the most.

Part of recovery is making amends, and many are able to successfully reconnect with their loved ones and put the past behind them. Still, this can be a very difficult process, and the results aren’t always what they’d hoped for. Some people aren’t easily forgiving, and those in recovery often admit that their loved ones have  every right to feel hurt by their past actions.

However, they often form special bonds with others who have gone through (and continue to go through) the same things as they have. I spoke with a number of people in recovery, and many stressed the importance of having their peers share their experiences. It helps to know you’re not the only one going through something.

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Picture of two men as seen from behind looking over a ledge at the city
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Some of those I spoke with went so far as to compare those also struggling with addictions and the rehab staff to family. Regardless of how their real families treat them on the other side of addiction, they’re able to count on their new “families” during the tough times.

“It’s like an extended family,” said John, a graduate of Addiction Campuses’ Texas facility, the Treehouse,  and now a staff member with the organization. “That’s why I wanted to  work for them after I left. Within three days, the whole staff knew me by name. There was a genuine heart behind the treatment of everybody who worked there, from the chef to the groundskeepers to the therapists. I genuinely felt supported, not forced... You feel supported and held and comfortable, not beaten down and defeated. It just felt like I was with family.”

John told me that “I wanted to make the people wh  invested in me with their hearts, not just their program, proud.” John said the treatment center’s alumni program is also like an extended family.

“You can still feel supported by other folks in recovery who have been in the same program you have,” he told me. “We’ve  been through the trenches together in the Treehouse — we’ve been there, we’ve done it, and we know it wasn’t easy. To see people on Facebook  post what they’ve been doing — ‘I’ve just reached 6 months!’ — that’s  inspiring.”

Scott, also in recovery, told me about family day at his treatment center, when families were invited to come and visit their loved ones in rehab. “I went to family day to be a part of the event, even though my family couldn’t be there,” he said.

“When the parents of some of the 20- to 25-year-olds first came, they thought I was a counselor. They were shocked when they found out I wasn’t. I said to the kids, ‘You need to look at me. I’m almost 50 years old, and I’m here for the same thing you are, addiction. Do you want to be here 20 or 30 years from now for the same thing? Seize the moment, learn what you can now, and get yourself better.’”

Scott’s actions are just another example of the family mentality that so often plays a role in rehab and helps people find their way to continued sobriety. Many of these relationships last far beyond the days of treatment. For some, they even last a lifetime.

Written by guest author Cecelia Johnson who believes strongly in the power of  good deeds and recognizing great work. She is the creator of,  a site dedicated to connecting those who’ve been awarded for exemplary work in their communities to companies and organizations that can help them continue their admirable efforts.

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