What is the Addiction Recovery Process for Families?

Addiction is a very unique, complicated disease. It can develop in virtually anyone no matter their age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, location, or political proclivities. Moreover, the disease can occur due to many different circumstances, including social and environmental, developmental, biological and genetic, and so on. In effect, the disease of addiction is an indiscriminate affliction that has robbed millions of good, honest people of their potential and promise, causing them to be compulsive drug-seekers who live their lives in constant fear of withdrawal.

While we often think of the effects of addiction on those who develop the addictions, one of the traits that make addiction so unique is that the disease can affect those individuals in an addict’s life nearly as much as the actual addict. In particular, the disease of addiction can ravage an addict’s family, especially when those family members live in the same household. The loved ones of addicts must often recover from the disease of addiction alongside the addict, making rehabilitation a journey for the entire family. As such, the following will explain how addiction affects the family unit and how an addict’s loved ones can recovery from the effects of the addict’s addiction.

Addiction: The Family Disease

The extent of suffering that addiction causes an addict’s family and loved ones are so well-known that addiction is frequently called “the family disease,” which is even a phrase used by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. When a member of a family develops an addiction, the entire family is put under mass amounts of stress. In the early stages of an addict’s addiction, the family may not be fully aware of what is happening, but it doesn’t take long for loved ones to realize that the addict’s behavior and demeanor have changed. As part of the addiction, the addict will often begin lying to his or her family in order to hide the substance abuse or chemical dependency. The result of this dishonesty is increasing mistrust between the addict and members of his or her family, which has the effect of putting a lot of strain on their relationships.

As the addict’s addiction progresses, he or she often begins to manipulate family members. This can occur either when the addict becomes desperate and needs to use family members to obtain his or her substance of choice. Alternately, this manipulation can occur when the addict is denying accusations and wants to distance himself or herself from suspicion. Over time, the dishonesty and manipulation accumulate, often resulting in grudges, animosity, and fractures in relationships as the family becomes increasingly consumed by the addict’s substance abuse and resultant behaviors. Each family member begins holding onto a lot of pain that can’t get resolved before another incident causes more pain. In effect, a family member’s addiction can cause a downward spiral for the entire family unit, jeopardizing each member’s mental and physical health, the family’s financial security, and the overall family dynamic and unity. If the family members aren’t able to address this pain and begin the healing process, the damage could potentially reach a point of being irreparable.

The Importance of Addiction Education

When the addict accepts the offer of help by enrolling in addiction treatment, the family can likewise begin a recovery process. For a family that has been ravaged by addiction, one of the first steps on the path of healing is to become thoroughly knowledgeable about addiction and recovery. Oftentimes the only knowledge that family members will have about addiction will be their own experiences, which means that they don’t usually understand why an addict behaves the way that he or she does. As such, becoming knowledgeable about addiction is a family’s first step toward a state of greater understanding and empathy.

In particular, a family must learn about some of the factors that cause people to become substance abusers and addicts, including the experience of mental or physical pain, the influence of peer groups, and a family history of irresponsible substance use. In effect, this knowledge will help family members to feel less violated and to feel less like the addict’s behaviors were a personal affront against them. Additionally, learning more about addiction will enlighten family members about the addict’s mentality, the state of desperation, the hopelessness and anxiety, the self-deprecation, the guilt and shame, and so on. A common misconception is that individuals become addicts as a result of self-indulgent hedonism, but addiction education will help family members to see addicts more as individuals who suffer from a mental and physical disease. This addiction education will also give them an idea of what to expect at varying stages of the addict’s recovery and how they can help, including how to ensure that they aren’t enablers.

Repairing & Restoring Relationships in the Family Unit

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After the family unit has experienced a period of emotional disconnection and dysfunction as a result of a member’s addiction, the family benefits greatly from family therapy as part of the addict’s substance abuse treatment. Many effective addiction treatment programs offer family therapy sessions for those individuals whose families had a front-row seat for their struggles with addiction, affording them with a means of repairing the damage that the disease has caused them. Having become knowledgeable about addiction and developed a greater sense of empathy and understanding of the addict, the family learn how to re-establish their communication with the help of an experienced, professional family therapist. In effect, the family therapy sessions are a forum that allows the family members to develop a health, respectful rapport with one another as well as to determine how the family can more forward with the recovery process together.

Regain Independence & Health with the Palm Beach Institute

As a family disease, addiction has many effects on those who are closest to the addict. Fortunately, there are resources for both the addict himself or herself as well as the addict’s family. If you or someone you love would benefit from learning more about family recovery or other forms of addiction treatment, the Palm Beach Institute is here to help. Call today at 855-534-3574 or contact us online for a free consultation and assessment. Don’t let addiction continue to keep you or your loved one in chains; begin the healing journey now.

7 Support Groups for Families of an Addicted Loved One

Over the course of active addiction, individuals become accustomed to living an unstable, unhealthy life in which the passage of time is marked by a perpetual cycle of seeking drugs, consuming drugs, and then seeking drugs again. Addicts become a shell of their former selves, physically and even psychologically compelled to consume alcohol and administer dangerous drugs to excess. Before they know it, addicts have lost years or even decades of their lives to addiction, often losing their money, homes, families, or even their lives in the process.

Addiction is a chronic relapsing brain disease that has resulted in many good people losing their lives. However, despite the profoundly devastating effects that the disease of addiction has on those who suffer from it, addiction ripples through the lives of all those an addict loves, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. Since addicts often turn to lying and stealing to sustain their addictions to alcohol and drugs, loved ones are often victimized and used to an alarming degree; addicts will quickly resort to stealing from family members, continuing to “borrow” money that is never paid back, and lying to loved ones if that’s what they need to do to obtain more of their substance of choice. Then there are those loved ones who don’t understand what it means to be an enabler, inadvertently making an addict’s disease worse than it already is.

With addiction being so widespread, there are countless family members, friends, colleagues, spouses and partners, and other loved ones of addicts who not only have no idea how to help the addict or addicts in their lives, but feel alone in their suffering and are unsure how to alleviate the side effects of addiction that affect everyone an addict loves. The good news is that there are a variety of services and support groups that are intended specifically for the loved ones of individuals suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. These groups offer the loved ones of addicts an invaluable resource for a variety of reasons and are highly beneficial for those experiencing the secondhand effects of the disease of addiction. Here are seven support groups from which the loved ones of addicts would benefit the most.

Al-Anon Family Groups

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Often seen as the quintessential support group for loved ones of addicts, Al-Anon is an effective group for loved ones of addicts or, more specifically, alcoholics. Members of Al-Anon don’t necessarily provide direction to one another, but rather share stories individually and find strength in being able to relate to others who are going through or have been through similar experiences. The philosophy of the group is to “take what you like and leave the rest.” This is a great support group for spouses or partners, adult children, teens, parents, grandparents, and siblings of alcoholics or who have been, in some way, negatively affected by a loved one’s alcoholism.

Nar-Anon Family Groups

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Like Al-Anon for loved ones of alcoholics, Nar-Anon is the counterpart, a twelve-step support program for the families, friends, and other loved ones of those addicted to drugs. As a spiritual program, Nar-Anon offers spiritual recovery and helps the loved ones of addicts to understand addiction as a disease, accept that loved ones cannot cure an addict’s disease, and to cope with the profound effects that an individual’s addiction can have on others. Nar-Anon also offers nationwide meetings, support specifically for teens, an active online community, and tons of helpful literature.

Co-Dependents Anonymous

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It’s common for the loved ones of addicts to inadvertently enable the addict’s addiction due to co-dependency. When an addict and a loved one are co-dependent, this means the addict often needs the loved one in order to obtain alcohol or drugs while the loved one provides assistance—money, transportation, a place to live, etc.—despite awareness of the individual’s substance abuse for fear that the addict will abandon the loved one. This co-dependency is dangerous for both individuals. However, Co-Dependents Anonymous is a derivative of the original twelve-step program, Alcoholics Anonymous, and is intended for those individuals who have found themselves co-dependent on others, helping those individuals to have healthier relationships free of co-dependency.

Dual Recovery Anonymous

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In the same vein as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA) is an important support group for both those with a dual-diagnosis as well as their family members, spouses, friends, and other loved ones. Built upon the same Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions as the other essential twelve-step programs, Dual Recovery Anonymous recognizes that dual-diagnosis patients need support not only for addiction, but for the other co-occurring, or comorbid, disorder from which they suffer. For loved ones of dual-diagnosis patients, this provides a support network in which they can receive the encouragement and education needed to facilitate understanding and to recovery from the secondhand effects experienced as a result of a loved one’s dual diagnosis.

Adult Children of Alcoholics

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Although this support group is specifically for a subgroup of loved ones of addicts, Adult Children of Alcoholics has a proven track record of being an incredible resource for those individuals who have ground up with one or both parents suffering from addiction. Rooted in the same Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions and most twelve-step programs, Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) offers meetings nationwide as well as phone meetings and even internet meetings so that any adult child of an addict or alcoholic can receive the support that he or she needs. This group operates on the belief that parental addiction causes dysfunction in the family unit that will likely affect the children of those addicted parents even in adulthood. As such, this is an ideal group for those individuals with parents who were previously or are currently addicted to alcohol and/or drugs.

Learn to Cope

Founded in 2004, Learn to Cope is an extensive peer support network that’s designed to offer moral and emotional support, encouragement, even education and valuable resources to the family members and loved ones of addicts. Although it’s slightly oriented toward addiction to opiates like heroin and prescription painkillers, loved ones of individuals addicted to any substance, whether alcohol or another type of drug, will find this support group to be a beneficial resource. Learn to Cope meetings typically feature an industry professional as a guest speaker, offering insight into recovery from the secondhand effects that addiction can have on a family. Although Learn to Cope is currently based mostly in Massachusetts, it offers an active online community that’s available for free and allows loved ones of addicts to receive the support they need regardless of where they live.

If you or someone you love is currently suffering from addiction to alcohol or drugs, the Palm Beach Institute can help. Our team of recovery specialists can find the right treatment program for addicts who want and need to recover. Call us today at 855-534-3574 or contact us online today.

A Survival Kit For Families With Addicted Loved Ones

Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease which can destroy the life of the addict. Addiction is also a family disease in the fact that the relationships within the family unit are severely tested and can become severely dysfunctional. For the family of the addict, there is great stress and embarrassment that is felt along with anger and resentment. As a family, you want to help your addicted loved one break their addiction, but you are unsure of how to do so. While done with the best of intentions, the help that family members give to addicted family members ends up making things worse.

Helpful Tips for Family Members of Addicts

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In order to truly help an addicted family member through these trying times, families as a whole need to have a plan in place that will help both the addict and the family unit to effectively heal. Chances are you are at the point where previous attempts at helping an addicted family member have been unsuccessful and the entire family unit is on the brink of chaos. The following are some excellent tips that families in addiction can utilize to help the addict recover from substance abuse and can help the entire family recover.

Educate Yourself

As it was stated in the opening, addiction is a chronic and progressive disease. This disease doesn’t appear overnight; it is created from the perfect storm of biological, social and environmental factors in the addict’s life. It is mandatory that you as a family educate yourself on the disease of addiction as well as what options are available for recovery for your addicted loved ones.

The internet is an excellent and vast resource that is at your fingertips and there are many great government and treatment websites that you can visit to get the information you need. You can also schedule an appointment with your doctor or with an addiction specialist. Additionally, if you have a local non-profit organization that specializes in addiction treatment and intervention services, they are also an excellent resource that can provide you with confidential information as well as support.

Seek Support

Despite advances in the way addiction is treated and thought of in our society, the stigma surrounding addiction and addict is still prevalent. Having an addicted family member can be a source of great embarrassment and you as a family can feel that you are alone and have nowhere to turn. Fortunately, there are support groups that are available to you that can provide encouragement and support for you to lean on during these difficult times. Support groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are based on Twelve Step principles and are comprised of families in addiction.

Members of these support groups do not give direction or advice to other members or a newcomer. Instead, they share their personal experiences and stories and invite other members to “take what they like and leave the rest”—that is, to determine for themselves what lesson they could apply to their own lives. Along with arming yourself with knowledge from your own research, these support groups can also provide a valuable resource and provide a strong sense of community, support, and empowerment.

Stop Enabling, Start Accountability

In the context of addiction, enabling can be defined as removing the natural consequences to the addict of his or her behavior. As a family, it is your gut instinct to try and solve the addict’s problems yourself. This may include paying their bills, taking them grocery shopping and making excuses for their behavior. Again, while these actions are done with the best of intentions, the addict is not being held accountable for there actions and their addiction grows worse and causes greater family unrest.

As a family, you need to stop enabling. While you still fully love the addict and will be there to support them when they decide to go to treatment, you have to be firm in the fact that you are no longer going to bail them out of tough situations. This can be extremely tough and you may encounter anger and resentment, it is for the addict’s own good. If you do decide to help the addict, buy the goods and services they need instead of giving the addict money.

Tell Other Family and Friends

Chances are that family and friends already know of your loved one’s addiction. However, you need to tell family members outside the immediate family and friends of the situation. It is important to tell them not to give the addict any money or a place to stay. If the immediate family has stopped all enabling behaviors, the addict will look to other family or friends for help thinking they may not know what is truly happening. With more people on board and on the same page, it will make it extremely difficult for the addict to continue to support their habit.

Be Involved in Treatment

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If your addicted loved one is in or is going to drug treatment, many rehabs offer family counseling and therapy. As stated earlier, addiction is seen as a family disease and it is important that the entire family goes through counseling and therapy along with the addict. Along with the counselor, both family and addict can uncover the root causes of addiction and work together to address those issues in order to provide an environment where the addict can sustain their recovery.

Self-Care

The worry and attention focused on the addict can be exhausting and your health can suffer as a result. You need time to recover and you need to practice solid self-care such as getting enough sleep, eating right and regular exercise. You and your family also need to try and engage in your normal activities and have the time to care for each other.

The Most Important Tip to Remember…

Above all other things, please remind yourself of one thing…IT ISN’T YOUR FAULT. You can’t control another person’s decisions and you can’t force them to change. You want to remember the three C’s when dealing with an addict:

  • You didn’t Cause the addiction.
  • You can’t Control the addiction.
  • You can’t Cure the addiction.

A Lesson for Families: How to Stop Enabling

For families and friends of loved ones who are addicts, it is only natural to try and help them through their struggles and find recovery. You want to do everything in your power to take action and support the addict, so he can get the drug and alcohol rehab treatment he needs. However, the steps that you take to help your loved one through their problems could actually be hurting them and making their addiction worse. These enabling behaviors may not be noticeable, but nevertheless, can hinder your loved one’s recovery.

In order to learn how to stop enabling, you must recognize if you are engaging in enabling behavior and take the necessary steps to ensure that the support you are providing is allowing your loved one to take responsibility for their addiction. The following is a step-by-step guide for families to stop enabling behaviors.

1. Ask Yourself the Tough Questions.

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In order for you to learn to stop enabling your child or other family member, you need to look at your current behavior and ask yourself if you are contributing to the problem. For example, are you making excuses for your loved one’s addiction and behavior? Are you handling their responsibilities? Are you avoiding talking about their addiction in order to avoid conflict? If you are answering yes to these questions, you could be enabling.

2. Educate Yourself.

Dictionary Series - Health: addiction

Addiction is a complex and progressive disease. In order to truly help your loved one, you need to learn as much as possible about this condition. There are numerous resources for families of addicts that can provide the knowledge and support that you need. These resources include support groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, doctors, addiction specialists and agencies that specialize in addiction, treatment, and recovery.

3. Set Boundaries.

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With the knowledge and support you have received, you will need to learn how to create clear and solid boundaries between you and your loved one. You can let them know that you love them and are genuinely concerned for their well-being, but won’t be honoring their requests for help. This may include cutting off financial support, not making excuses for their behavior, not handling their responsibilities for them, or refusing to bail them out of jail. Be assertive and firm, but always maintain empathy.

4. Allow Them to Be Held Accountable.

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By refusing to bail them out of tough situations, the addict will begin to see how their actions impact others. However, this act of stopping enabling may cause your loved one to lash out with threats and manipulation. It is important to stay the course with the boundaries that have been set. Be confident and in control when these situations arise.

5. Continue to Live Your Life.

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The disease of addiction causes significant stresses in families. It is important to understand that you are not responsible for the addiction. Don’t get drawn into feeling guilty for their addiction; ultimately, the addict has to deal with their addiction. It is better to focus on work, school, and family commitments, and not on the addict’s issues.

6. Continue to Seek Support.

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Ultimately, recovery from substance abuse is a lifelong process– for both the addict and family. Just as the addict continues to work on their issues in therapy and by attending support groups, the family and friends of addicts need to do the same. Continuing to receive help and support will further empower families to stop enabling their loved ones, and to help build stronger and healthier relationships.