Addiction recovery success is often reinforced by an individual’s support network.
For many people, the foundation of that network is family.
Make no mistake: one person with a substance abuse problem affects the entire family. It’s a disease without boundaries. In order for true healing to happen, all members should go through some form of treatment therapy and eventual recovery. Family dynamics can be challenging even in the best of times. Unfortunately, addiction frequently creates a chasm between loved ones that may take a long time to close. When it does, each person feels stronger, more connected, and reinforced by the trials shared and conquered.
The Start of the Journey
A family member’s role in a loved one’s recovery often starts with recognition of the problem. To have an addiction creates chaos, strife, health problems, and harmful behaviors. Yet it’s quite common for people to not really know what’s going on or why.
In this powerful testimony, a young man opens up about what it was like for his family when his brother developed a substance abuse problem.
“His parents kept giving his brother the benefit of the doubt, and Daniel admitted that they ‘didn’t want to believe that it was 100 percent addiction.’ This was a tense time in their family’s lives. He described them feeling “very on edge, paranoid, and anxious—mostly because we couldn’t trust my brother anymore, and that had never happened before.”
He described the important realization he and his family had to make in order to help his brother get proper treatment.
“And I’ll try not to beat myself up the way my parents did, because there really was nothing they could have done to change what happened. It’s crucial to remember that addiction isn’t a reflection of a person’s upbringing or character but a disease; an addict can come from a family that loved and raised their kid to the best of their ability.”
This realization is important if family members need to rally together to help someone they love seek treatment. As a parent coach for the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (formerly the Partnership for a Drug-Free America), Larry Robiner shares a moving story about his son’s former addiction, and how he uses his family’s experiences to help others. Here’s an excerpt:
“I have since spent over three years learning about the disease of addiction and substance use disorders. I learned it hijacks the brain’s ability to make rational decisions, that I didn’t cause it, can’t cure it, and can’t control it. I learned 23 million Americans are currently addicted to alcohol and/or other drugs—and only one in 10 receive the treatment they need.”
In some cases, you may be well aware there’s a problem, but your affected loved one isn’t. This is when you might need to stage an intervention. Adults with substance use disorder often have difficulty with aspects of reality. A professional interventionist can help you be supportive but firm, and deescalate a negative discussion in order to present effective solutions and guide an individual to make the choice for treatment on her own.
Your Roles During Treatment and Recovery
When someone you love enters rehabilitation, you have two primary concerns:
- Supporting this person as best you can
- Re-establishing wellness in your life
The first role may come naturally. You feel treatment is a necessary turning point and in many ways, it is. The communication you develop with him or her during rehab is a way to make room for forgiveness, understanding, and honest expression. This article offers some wonderful techniques for this next stage in the recovery process.
The second role might be a bit harder. While your loved one struggled with addiction, you may have set your life aside. Behaviors such as codependency and enabling might have emerged as you also struggled with his or her substance problem. Now, with distance between you, it’s time to begin your recovery as well. Support groups such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon help you understand what you’ve been through and how you can move forward. You can learn how to reconnect with habits that improve your wellbeing, and realize how much your interests and goals matter.
A number of quality rehabilitation facilities offer family therapy sessions to help everyone reveal the root causes of addiction, establish new behavioral and communication patterns, and learn about substance use disorders to understand how recovery should proceed.
There’s no doubt the level of emotion during a family therapy session will be intense at times, but the intent is to ensure each person feels heard and valued for more quality healing. A session program’s purpose and topics vary by group dynamics.
Sometimes, family sessions may be structured into a continuum of care plan designed by your loved one’s therapists. Other times, this program is concentrated in the last few days of his or her stay.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends family sessions as a means to “strengthen and extend treatment benefits.”
As much as we want to believe a magic wand is waved over our family to make everything all better, this simply isn’t the case. The work started through acknowledgment of a problem and initial treatment continues every day. Adapting healthier coping mechanisms and using proper communication methods are beneficial tools that support the healing process of everyone. Joined together in the commitment to recovery is how family bonds are reinforced.
The Cornerstone of Willingway Treatment Is Family
The humble beginnings of our inpatient rehabilitation treatment facility were in the home of Dr. John Mooney, along with Dot, his wife, and their four children. People recovering from substance abuse did so surrounded by the structure and reassuring influence of being a part of the Mooney family.
If you or a loved one wants help for substance abuse, the Willingway home is always open to you.