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Family Involvement: The Crucial Role of Family in Addiction Recovery

Understanding Addiction as a Family Disease

We believe addiction is a family disease and that permanent recovery requires the involvement and commitment of all loved ones.

Burning Tree is dedicated to helping our clients achieve lasting recovery and supporting their families throughout the journey.

Our long-term, progress-based treatment program is a transformative experience for everyone involved. Families and treatment providers must work together to foster growth, healing, and renewed hope.

Acknowledging the Trauma: Providing Space for Families to Heal

If you think it’s only your loved one who needs recovery support, answer this question for yourself: “How do you feel right now?”

Addiction takes a heavy toll on families, often leaving deep emotional, psychological, and relational wounds in its wake. We provide a safe, supportive environment where families can process their experiences, express their feelings, and begin healing.

By acknowledging families’ pain and challenges, we help them build the resilience and strength needed to support their loved one’s recovery while prioritizing their well-being.

Colorized Photo of Main Building at Burning Tree Ranch

Encouraging Family Participation in Recovery Programs

We strongly encourage families to unite in a common but separate journey towards wellness. As this process begins, we ask our families to let go of everything they think they know. We ask that you disregard all of your past experiences in other treatment programs—the programs that haven’t worked—in order to embrace new information, new principles, and a brand-new way of living.

There are several recovery programs outside of Burning Tree that will assist in this journey:

These programs help family members understand the nature of addiction, develop healthy coping strategies, and learn how to set and maintain boundaries.

As the family embarks on their healing journey, so does the loved one. This parallel growth process is designed to bring about a deep and permanent restoration to the family system.

Setting Realistic Expectations: Making Sacrifices for Lasting Recovery

All families say they want a sober, healthy, and self-supporting loved one to emerge from the treatment experience at Burning Tree Ranch.

Many families do not realize that consistent boundaries must be established and adhered to to achieve this outcome. Families must be prepared to make difficult choices and prioritize their loved one’s recovery over short-term comfort or convenience. With enough willingness from the family, We can unite as a team to create an environment that supports lasting change and true independence.

David Elliot, Founder

“What are you willing to give up to get what you say you want?”

David Elliott, Founder & President

Breaking the Cycle: Addressing Enabling and Codependence

Enabling and codependence are common patterns in families affected by addiction, often perpetuating the cycle of substance abuse and relapse. Usually, these behaviors are unintentional and are simply the byproduct of trying to help our loved ones.

Enabling involves actions that shield the addicted individual from the consequences of their behavior.

Codependence refers to an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on the addicted person.

While usually well-intentioned, these patterns can inadvertently undermine recovery efforts and create an unhealthy family dynamic. Our family programs help identify these behaviors and develop strategies for breaking the cycle.

How Do I Know If My Loved One is a Fit for Burning Tree Ranch?

Answer a Few Short Questions


Hear first hand experience from Lisa M., the mother of a Burning Tree Ranch Alumnus

Dear Families,

When I started this letter for Burning Tree families I thought about what I would have wanted to hear when I was at the point you are at now. What words of wisdom could someone give me? It wasn’t more addiction horror stories; you’ve experienced that firsthand. My son and I had some harrowing ones and I look back and wonder how we made it through those seven years of setbacks, heartbreaks, and craziness. I assure you it was as bad as it gets; multiple stints in jail, stealing, homelessness and life-threatening injuries and infections. I was willing to do anything to save him without realizing my willingness, my determination, even my love left me open to manipulation and failure. I had to empower myself.

I knew if we continued down this path there were only two endings, long-term incarceration, or death, so I changed my expectations from “fixing” it to just keeping him alive long enough to choose recovery. I gave up trying to make his life normal by keeping him part of family gatherings and talking about going back to school or a new career hoping he would see how great life could be and quit. Yes quit, like it was that easy. I gave up keeping him fed and sheltered. I gave up looking for him when he was homeless and running around like a crazy person fixing his messes, including paying off his debts to preserve his credit rating as if that was the greatest problem he was facing. I committed to keeping him in my life but with boundaries. No more bringing him back to stay at my house, no more money or food or bailing him out of jail but always letting him know I would be there in an instant if he decided to get clean.

I have an MBA, run an $80 million company, been through 4 back surgeries only to become a yoga instructor and I had to finally admit I couldn’t do this; I couldn’t fix his addiction. That one choice, that one decision was critical in leading us to Burning Tree and, even more importantly, sticking to that choice was the difference between success and failure in the program. I had to stop being what I thought was the best parent. That manual, the one none of us ever received when they were born, if it existed and it had a chapter on addiction it would be one sentence…. forget everything you just read about being a good parent. To do what’s best for an addict you have to resist the urge to take care of them, believe what they tell you and give them second, third and fourteenth chances. I never stopped loving him, I never gave up hope and believe it or not I never got angry at him. I held on to who I knew he was but had to be realistic about who the drugs had turned him into. I could no longer deal with him based on the son I had known and loved. I learned to hate addiction.

I realized I was fighting a broken system, in hopes of saving a broken soul, in the midst of a family that was breaking apart and that made me angry. If love and determination alone could save him, I assure you he wouldn’t have needed anything else. I had both in spades. I had to change course as I reached my breaking point. I had to choose to empower myself to save him. That is my best advice to you. Instead of feeling helpless and allowing yourself to be manipulated, take control. If you’re reading this letter, you are at the end of your rope. If your family member is at Burning Tree what you’ve done in the past hasn’t worked. Hand over the wheel to the people that know what works. Play by the rules the staff set and begin to hold your loved one accountable. There is no one better than a recovering addict/alcoholic to see through the bullshit of another addict/alcoholic. They have entered a place where there is no place to hide so don’t you give them one outside of Burning Tree Ranch. The staff are not being cruel or mean by insisting on routine, and hard work, sweat and yes lots of tears. Allow them to be confronted and to confront themselves. Allow yourself to be realistic about this devastating disease and allow Burning Tree to assist you in finally being part of the solution. Let go, your loved one is the right place, this is not your problem alone to solve anymore but you are a critical part of the solution.

What can you do? Be supportive, believe what the staff is telling you and follow their guidance. They are a thousand percent invested in guiding them to recovery and they know what it takes to get there because most of them have been there. Listen to your loved one but don’t try to fix it. Show up for visitation and take the weekly phone calls. What you say, don’t say, do and don’t do can be the difference between recovery and another relapse. Be their lifeline but for once in a healing, helpful way. Take advantage of them being safe and take care of yourself. Attend AL ANON meetings, take a vacation, rest easy. My hope for you is that you are at the beginning of the end of this nightmare. You have committed financially, emotionally and you can help end this. You have paid your dues and it's time for the pay off.

Gerad has been clean and sober for over 3 years, and I am in awe of him. He chose life, he chose to put in the work and give in to something bigger than himself and most importantly he keeps doing the work and so do I. Stay the course that Burning Tree has put them on; support them staying for aftercare and you can get your loved one back and just as important get your own life back. It takes a lot of love and a lot of grace to survive this and come out the other side. You’re on the right path. Stay the course.

~Lisa M.


A letter for families from our clinical director Meghan Bohlman, LPC, LCDC, EMDR-Trained Clinical Director
Dear Families,
I often meet you after the whirlwind that ends with your loved one arriving at Burning Tree Ranch. I meet you in the space between relief that your loved one made it into long term treatment and fear that they won’t stay long enough to accept the help being offered. It is in this space that our treatment team will begin construction of something new with you. But remember - new construction takes time and growth is sometimes painful.

We talk with our families at length about how time is one of our greatest gifts at Burning Tree Ranch. We know that 30-, 60- and 90-day treatments have not worked for our clients. If it did they would have been sober already. While there are people who can get sober in those facilities, our clients just aren’t those people.

When working with families, I often reference this odd form of amnesia that possesses the alcoholic and addict. It is baffling to watch someone be so desperate and distraught after burning it all to the ground and then, sometimes within days, be equally as convicted that they can control it, or it wasn’t that bad. I see families have this same amnesia. Families share the same desperation when trying to get their loved ones to treatment and become equally as convinced that the client is doing well despite a professional clinical team stating otherwise. The client will begin to look better physically, begin to sound better and start to believe that maybe 6 months is long enough. Families will start to question if Aftercare is really that important despite their loved one’s history of doing well in all those other treatment centers only to relapse a short while later.

Early on we begin to talk with families about their participation in the disease and most will, without fail, provide assurances that they are committed to doing what we ask of them. Then, as the client begins to have feelings, to be held accountable, and as their disease begins to ramp up, we will hear families start to defend their loved one, to ask for exceptions; some even begin to question the processes and approaches we have here.

At Burning Tree Ranch, we will ask that you begin participating in treatment the way we believe you need to. We are going to ask that you trust the process and follow the direction of the treatment team. We are going to ask that you attend a series of activities like a Family Workshop, Family Program, etc. and begin participating in Al-Anon. We will begin to confront ineffective family dynamics in real time, even if they are uncomfortable for you. We view this as a life and death errand and frankly, we are okay with you and your loved one being uncomfortable.

What we know to be true is that you love your addict/alcoholic. What we also know to be true is that the disease of addiction takes love and uses it as a weapon. Sadly, we have seen many families literally love their addict/alcoholic to death. At Burning Tree Ranch, we are going to ask that you let go of your control, hand us the reins and follow direction. This will be difficult at times. There will be moments when you may not want to do what we are asking you to do. But even when it's hard, we are going to ask that you support our process - and do it anyway.

We aren’t for everyone and we understand that, but, we do have a way - and it is a way that works.

Meghan Bohlman, LPC, LCDC, EMDR Trained
Clinical Director - Burning Tree Ranch
Helping Your Loved One Starts Here

Curated Resources for Families in Addiction

In addition to the support and guidance provided by our team at Burning Tree Ranch, numerous resources are available to help families educate themselves, find support, and prioritize their own well-being. We’re constantly creating and curating information we think families will need on the journey towards recovery.

Enabling & Codependency