Research has shown that not only is addiction linked to genetics, but it is also proven to be a “family disease.” In other words, each person in the family has a cause and effect on the addict during addiction and recovery. This is why family support in sobriety is crucial if both parties plan to continue being a part of each other’s lives. For many individuals struggling with substance use disorder, family support is key.
At Harmony Hills, we make it a point to offer a family therapy treatment program as a means for individuals and their family members to address issues surrounding addiction, learn healthy ways to support individuals, and the best ways to develop healthy coping mechanisms.
How Substance Use Disorder and Addiction Affects Family
Watching a loved one struggle with an addiction can bring forth so many different reactions and emotions. For many in a family, it can be one of the hardest things they face. When not properly treated, a substance use disorder can linger. Addiction is a chronic disease that must be managed even after treatment. Many who don’t find the right treatment for themselves or don’t get treatment to discover that they vacillate wildly between using and not using. This constant back and forth where relapse is seemingly always on the horizon not only exhaust the individual but can erode trust.
It is not uncommon for individuals to take advantage of their family members when their addiction is flaring up. This can mean anything from stealing to flaking out on family time to not being present even when there. Sudden and seemingly inexplicable mood swings or erratic behavior can cause family members to distrust, lose faith, and ultimately turn away from the individual. Many parents can often feel at fault, wondering where they went wrong, while siblings are let down when they realize that they don’t know how to help.
Learning to Be Supportive in a Healthy Manner
It’s not uncommon for people to push the person in their life struggling with addiction away. Some may even isolate themselves because they can’t stand to watch it anymore. Others may react differently, attempting to help the individual at their own expense. They can often develop unhealthy codependency doing so. Clearly, substance use disorder affects the lives of more than just the individual struggling with addiction. It radiates outward, touching loved ones and family members first and then friends, coworkers, peers, and even strangers.
At Harmony Hills, our family therapy program embraces and teaches several approaches to help families learn to be supportive in a healthy, constructive manner. Some of what our professionals recommend:
- Setting Solid Boundaries: Everyone in the family needs to be aware of them and hold them with both love and compassion. For example, if someone in the family is an alcoholic and often drunk drive, if the family chooses to remove or hide the keys from this person, the whole family must help gently reinforce this action.
- Letting the Addict Hit Bottom: Easier said than done, in many cases. One of the hardest things a family must do is sit by and let their loved one spiral out. However, most addicts who do not hit bottom will continue to try and use it successfully until they do. Once it is all said and done, the person who gets sober often attributes their rebirth from their strong family support in sobriety. This can look different for every family, whether it be not paying their debts, not being an alibi, not giving them money, not giving them a place to stay, etc.
- Trying to Come from Compassion and Understanding: It is common for the addict to be the only one in the direct family. This is why the other members need to be educated on addiction and its looks. Many people respond better to compassion than they do with anger, as they often already feel guilty, ashamed, and isolated. Millions of family members find Al-Anon extremely helpful in situations like these. There, people learn how to set those healthy boundaries and live their best life, regardless of where the addict is on their journey.
Being Supportive During Recovery
Family support in sobriety can be one of the most helpful ways to keep those dealing with addiction in recovery. Many people get sober and find that it may take them a very long time to right the wrongs of their past and make amends to those they hurt, so some family ties can be harder to mend than others.
However, if the person works a 12 step program, all of these relationships can be repaired over time more often than not. However, the recovering addict must have educated, compassionate, and patient with them if the family chooses to stay involved.
Also, families need to examine their dynamics and change. Many people often take offense to this. Parents can often think that they weren’t the ones with the problem, so why should they change? Two main reasons:
- Many people in the family may have emotional or mental trauma from interactions with the addict, not to mention a lot of anger, frustration, and resentment that could hold them back from repairing the relationship with their loved one.
- Studies show that many family members of addicts suffer from mild to severe mental or mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
For the addict to truly recover those ties with the family supports in sobriety, it is quite possible that some people in the family would benefit from some personal growth or change as well. For example, it is common for parents of addicts to have codependent, enabling, or people-pleasing attributes. On the flip side, it may be common that one parent tends to have far too lofty expectations, goals, and demands on the addict.
Discover How Harmony Hills Can Help
Many families who support sobriety often find solace in a program such as Al-Anon or even in some therapy. Sometimes the addict may have caused a rift between other family members. Therapy at Harmony Hills can help them sort that issue out as well. Our team of counselors and therapists offers comprehensive therapeutic care, including:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- EMDR therapy
- Group therapy
- Individual therapy
- Relapse prevention therapy
- Trauma therapy
Many people think that just because the addict got better means that their job is done. However, many recovered addicts report feeling the most anxious when they are around their family for an extended period of time. This is usually because the addict while working a 12 step program and receiving therapy during treatment, do some deep and pervasive work on themselves, who they are, and how they respond to the world. However, when the family dynamic doesn’t change, they can often feel the same way they did when using, i.e., family bickering, control issues, overbearing parents, etc.