By Beverly A. Buncher, MA, PCC, CBC, CTPC

mother talking to young son

Have you ever seen the X-Men character Wolverine where claws magically emerge from his knuckles when he needs them and then go back in when he doesn’t?

If you are a family member impacted by a loved one’s Substance Use Disorder (SUD) or other Brain Disorder, chances are you may have those claws hidden away in your knuckles as well just waiting for those times when you ‘must’ release them into the flesh of your loved one’s shoulders.

This visual may seem brutal, but in fact, the ways in which family members sometimes respond to the ongoing reality of a loved one’s struggles, can, at times, be just that, brutal, and harmful.

So, let’s pick that apart.

Your loved one is struggling. They come home drunk or high one day. You yell, scream or just send them off to bed in a huff.

The next time, they have an accident. You rail them. Have the car fixed. Take the keys for a week or so.

Another time (you fill in the blanks) each family has their own storehouse of traumatic memories about their loved one’s using days.

You are really starting to get angry – and scared.

And yes, that fear is real. There is the fear of a repeat of trauma in your life, which watching your loved one do dangerous things ignites. And the fear of something really bad happening to them.

So, you begin to impose controls to keep them in line. You aren’t sure what will help or how to do so, but you just want the behavior to stop and you are determined to make it go away and get your loved one back to where they were before this nightmare began.

This is where the claws really come out. And make no mistake about it. These are not physical claws. Actually, they are energetic claws through which you tell your loved one things like:

• You are ruining your life
• You are killing this family
• If this keeps up you will never make anything of yourself
• I’m going to tell your (father, mother, boss) and then you will really be in trouble
• If you don’t listen to me, you will never finish (high school, college)
• If you don’t stop this you will never find a (husband/wife, job/career)
• You are killing your (father, mother)
• You are hopeless

And attitudes, words, and actions, when used as weapons, can hurt badly and can add to the trauma both you and your loved one are experiencing as their substance use disorder unfolds.

Family recovery is about taking these claws, putting them back, and ultimately getting rid of them.

When a family chooses to pursue recovery before a loved one does or even while their loved one does, they are saying, “You matter enough to me for me to learn new ways to relate to you that could be truly helpful instead of just trying whatever comes to mind.” “I matter enough to me to prioritize my self-care.” “Our family matters enough to me for me to stop neglecting them.”

The research shows that when the family chooses recovery and pursues it powerfully, the struggling individual with the substance use disorder has a much better chance of recovering.

What we see is that when families put their all into a way of recovering that teaches them ways to be there for both themselves and their struggling loved one, life does get better, and their loved one does have a better chance of attaining and sustaining recovery.

There are no magic pills in recovery. In fact, isn’t that what we are
getting away from?

Peaceful love and healthy connection hold the key to a family and a loved one’s possibility of successful recovery.

While medication properly administered and used can make a difference for loved ones and families, so too, can learning new skills and tools of:

• Mindfulness to build moment by moment awareness
• Breathing Tools and Techniques to create calm
• Loving Conversations that allow for non-offensive venting and sharing of facts
• Moving from Enabling to Helping
• Properly using Leverage and Boundaries
• Ongoing Self-Care

Families can learn how to “untrigger” themselves from the trauma triggers that go with life with a person with a use disorder.

Consider the importance of doing so. You can start by putting away your claws and taking out your willingness to learn new ways of being, speaking and acting that will bring you peace, calm, and the chance to reach your loved one in ways that have thus far eluded you.

Beverly Buncher is known as the foremost Family Recovery Life Coach in the nation, is the Founder and CEO of Family Recovery Resources, LLC, and the BALM® (Be A Loving Mirror®) Training Institute for Family Recovery Services. ( The BALM® Program is designed for families impacted by substance use (SUD) and other use disorders, professionals who are called to help families affected by use disorders, and recovery treatment centers looking for a holistic family program to add to their facilities’ services. To learn more about inviting Bev to speak at your organization or facility, click here: