Keep It Simple Series Part 2: What Do Families Need to Understand About Recovery?

There is a lot of misunderstanding about addiction and how families can help. Stigma and denial play an important role in blocking the recovery process. “I still have a job”, “I’m too young”, and “I’m not that bad”. Somehow the idea of being a “functional addict or alcoholic” validates the continued use.  Family members buy into these misconceptions. If the breadwinner is the addict that can prevent family in challenging the addict. Without a pay check they all do bad. So what can be done?  That is a tough question.

The simple answer is go get some help, well that’s easier said than done. So families do the best they can with their situation. Once they do go for help they’re labeled a “dysfunctional family”, “co-dependent or enablers. These are people is crisis doing the best they can with what they have. In their attempts to be helpful and hopeful the addiction gets worst. They want to help the addict or alcoholic but they forget that they also are affected. Like “second hand smoke” family members are affected by “second hand drinking and drugging”. Families need as much help as the addict.

If addicts are a part of the family they lets just say the family needs help. The entire family! Most treatment programs focus on the addict and the family is left on the side. The family needs to be the central focus. If we focus on the family everyone gets better.  What to look for in treatment and therapy for addiction is provider who looks at the whole family. Providers that not only assess the client, but also assess the family. What that means is ongoing information gathering, support, accountability, direction, empathy and clear goals.  Providers who take the time and understand the need to be involved.

A lot of programs do have a 3-day or a 5-day family program. These programs offer good information, but as they tell you addiction is a chronic illness and relapse happens. Think about it most people can get through a program without using. So when does relapse occur? It happens WHEN THEY LEAVE TREATMENT! When families learn about family relapse they be come better prepared. Families need to be in a continued care process.

Continued care for families looks like a combination of five things. First individual or family therapy, and or group therapy. Second, self help groups at least one per week. Believe Nar-anon, Families anonymous and Al-anon do a good job. NAMI is also helpful for families.  Third, psychiatric or mental health therapy if needed. Fourth, healthy diet.  Fifth exercise. I would also add to the list some spiritual practice, meditation and if you smoke Quit Now!

When families understand family relapse the recovery rate for the entire family rises.

If you have questions about how to get started give me a call.