Substance abuse is one of the most prominent problems in this country today. It does not only affect the addict themselves. In reality, it is the entire family that suffers from the addict’s use. Addiction is a family disease. Specifically, a family member’s addiction can have damaging consequences on the unity of the family, the home’s stability, and the finances of the household. It has a draining effect on the entire dynamics of the family. The mental and physical health of each family member can suffer as well. These effects can last a lifetime. This is why family support programs are so crucial to the successful recovery for the addict as well their family.
A family has no control over the addiction of their loved one. However, they do have control over how it affects their lives. Treatment is just as necessary for family members as much as it is for the addict. This means that addiction recovery programs need to provide the proper family support and resources. But is there a lack of these types of programs?
How Addiction Affects the Entire Family
Living with substance abuse puts family members under a lot of chaotic stress. Usually the entire family is so engrossed in the problem at hand that they do not realize how badly the unit is spinning out of control. Other siblings and family members can be unintentionally neglected emotionally because of the narrowed focus on the addict. Family routines are disrupted. Some family members might outright deny what is happening in the household. For some this is only way they can deal with their loved one’s addiction. Substance abuse has the power to completely disrupt the family system. The damage spirals out of control if family members do not seek help.
Family members of addicts may feel as if they are missing a sense of normalcy to their lives. The environment that they live in is full of emotions, manipulation tactics, and dysfunction. Family members may be extremely anxious and stressed. They often feel shameful or guilty, and refuse to get help.
The enabler desperately wants to help the addict, but their attempts are usually in vain. They want to solve their loved one’s problems, but wind up enabling their addiction in the process. Enablers usually do not realize that they are making the situation worse for the family and the household. They feel helpless and hopeless. Families need to practice and master how to deal with addiction in order to truly heal. Family programs help to achieve this.
The Importance of Family Involvement
An addict is “sick” from the disease of addiction. Therefore, the sickness spreads to the whole family. The root of the addiction needs to be dealt with in order to effectively reach a solution. Each family member’s role needs to be examined, and they should understand their role in the disease of addiction. Realistically speaking, there is no clear cut path to recovery. But true healing cannot begin until each family member learns how they can work together. Family programs strive to help families understand the differences between helping and enabling. Effective programs also promote healthy boundaries and teach family members how to set long term goals.
Steven Gifford, LICDC, LPC recommends: “Outside of the residential substance abuse treatment facility, patients’ family and friends are highly encouraged to attend Al Anon or Nar Anon meetings. These free programs are held around the nation and are dedicated to providing group support to drug- and alcohol-addicted individuals’ family and friends.” Meetings address important issues like addressing a loved one’s addiction and improving family communication through therapy and counseling.
Is There a Lack of Family Programs?
Some could argue that there is a lack of programs for family members of addicts. While this may have been true even just a few years ago, it seems that many programs strongly emphasize strengthening the family unit through counseling and other means. A quick Google search shows a plethora of results for centers across the country, both nonprofit and government-based.
Angie has a 18-year old son who is currently in a treatment program. She shared her opinion and experience:
“I think there probably is a huge lack of family support in many treatment programs but the trend is going in the right direction. Where Sam is now, they have an intensive 5 day family support program. Years ago when my dad and brother went through that same facility, there was not a family support program. Sam has gone through 2 outpatient rehabs and spent a lot of time has a phenomenal parent program but not a sibling program.
I believe there is a lack of family support programs, but I also think that priority of funding in treatment has to go toward the addict. Maybe the emphasis needs to be stronger development of free programs like Al-Anon which support parents of addicts. Al-Anon is best for spouses and children of addict and alcoholics. Anyone who is dealing with a kid will agree it is a different ball game.”
Hope for Family Support Recovery
Addiction hurts every member of the family. The entire family should be a part of the recovery process. The proper support and a caring program go a long way to help families on the road to collective recovery. Our Family Support Program provides a mediated platform for both parties to address their immediate issues in efforts to rebuild the trust and bond between the two parties. We work with the family to identify problematic behaviors, providing steps on how to adapt themselves to support the loved one after treatment. Don’t hesitate to contact us today if you any questions about the family recovery process.