One of the many ways someone struggling with drug or alcohol abuse will try to rationalize their addiction is by claiming that the only person they’re really hurting is themselves.
But this is never the case.
Addiction hurts not just the addicted individual but all of the people they care about, and the ones that, in turn, care about them: their family.
While the most important thing in a rehabilitation program is treating the person who is suffering from substance abuse, people often overlook the influence of addiction on family members.
Many times, families don’t know how to communicate the ways that their loved one’s addiction has affected them, and so they might try to ignore the problem instead. In some cases, the family may even be enabling their loved one to continue their destructive behavior.
Understanding addiction as a disease and how it affects both the addicted person and those who are close to them can prove to be a significant challenge. This is why family addiction recovery is such an important part of treatment and why most major addiction treatment centers will offer a comprehensive family recovery program as part of their available treatments.
These programs offer family support and allow for the client’s loved ones to both participate in the overall treatment process and work through broader familial issues that may have risen from or contributed to an individual’s substance abuse.
This all takes place in a safe and supportive environment where families can play their roles in the recovery process, gaining a better understanding of addiction that will help them communicate more effectively with each other and provide each other with better support.
Family recovery allows room for growth for everyone involved and will benefit the entire family, singling out the issues at the root of familial conflict that might be caused by or feeding into someone’s addiction. This method may even be able to help families learn how to deal with these issues in healthier, more constructive ways.
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Addiction is often referred to as a “family disease,” due to how it affects the families of people in active addiction and also how an individual’s substance abuse problems will often be, at least in part, a product of underlying issues in their family.
Because of this, even once someone has entered a rehabilitation program, these problems and the pain and resentment they might have caused will not go away on their own. They will need to be dealt with in order for the individual, whether they are a parent or child, and their family to fully recover.
To make this a reality, several things must happen:
Families of people who have an addiction are typically encouraged to join family support groups such as Families Anonymous, Al-Anon, or Nar-Anon. These group meetings provide a space for families to share their experiences as well as get better educated on understanding addiction as a disease and how they can work to develop healthy coping strategies not just for supporting their loved one in recovery, but for themselves as well.
The stages of family recovery frequently mirror those of an individual, with family members experiencing denial, projecting blame, or attempting to control their loved one’s behavior or actions.
Just as someone in rehabilitation treatment needs to accept and acknowledge their lack of control, so must their family. In dealing with a loved one’s substance abuse problem, families can refer to what’s known as the “Three C’s,” which are:
YOU DID NOT CAUSE THE ADDICTION
While problems in the family may have played a role in family member’s decision to begin using, addiction is a chronic disease, with no single simple cause. If someone in the family had a part in enabling addictive behavior, they should acknowledge this, but not shoulder all of the responsibility.
YOU CANNOT CONTROL THE ADDICTION
As we just established, no one in the family can be held completely responsible for causing a family member’s addiction; no one in the family can control it either. Trying to keep a loved one with a drug or alcohol dependency in check is not only impossible but also exhausting and ultimately only creates resentment and distrust on both sides.
YOU CANNOT CURE THE ADDICTION
While of course families don’t want to see a family member struggle with substance abuse, there is no way to stop drinking or using for another person, no matter how much you want to. Instead, the best thing you can do is get them into a rehabilitation treatment program, where they’ll be given the help they need to start the process of recovery.
There are many different versions of family recovery programs, and they will vary based on the facility itself and what will work best for each family. Most family programs are based on the specific obstacles you and your addicted loved one are struggling to work through.
Some common elements of a family recovery program include:
Rehabilitation and treatment is a group effort, and for it to truly be successful, the whole family needs to make the commitment to changing things for the better and be willing to listen and take responsibility for themselves and their actions.
A few things that are important to keep in mind when you are attending a family addiction recovery program with a loved one are:
Recovering from addiction will bring up challenges, but remembering the tools and coping mechanisms will help you and your addicted loved one get through whichever obstacle arises. Family support and family addiction recovery programs are crucial to maintaining long-term sobriety, as strengthening relationships can help prevent relapse.