Addiction is a Family Disease
The fact is that addiction affects everyone in the family, not just the person under the influence. Just as addiction is a family issue, addiction treatment should also be a family issue. This means that recovery is a process that must include loved ones as well. In fact, most people enter treatment because of the encouragement of their support system, whose members may have organized an intervention. Let’s look at how the family impacts addiction recovery and why family education in addiction treatment is important.
Ongoing drug and alcohol addiction changes how people act on a fundamental level – a loved one may not look or behave the way they did before, which can be upsetting to friends and family. It’s important for everyone involved to learn to cope and assist their family member in making positive changes.
The Importance of Family Support in Recovery
A wide body of research has established the importance of friends and family education in recovery. Studies show that higher levels of positive family and peer support contribute to lower rates of relapse overall. Additionally, the involvement of siblings, parents, and children in recovery can decrease the likelihood of other family members misusing substances in the future.
Improved family communication that tends to arise from counseling and therapy can contribute to a healthy exchange of feelings, which promotes relationship health and functionality of the family unit. A moderated therapeutic discussion can help everyone involved voice their opinions in a neutral and safe space. This allows everyone to work together to set goals. Additionally, these communication tools keeps the loved one motivated in recovery, creates expectations of what will happen during and after treatment, and eases feelings of fear and stress among all members of the group.
In order to fully understand why these actions have so much impact on the person suffering from addiction, it’s important to know that families are systems. This means that when one person’s behavior shifts, it changes the way each family member behaves. For example, when one struggles with active addiction, they usually under-function and behave irresponsibly within their role in the family. This destabilizes the home environment and changes relationships for everyone in the system: parents, children, siblings, spouses, and friends must compensate to makeup for or cover the failures of the one member of the family. Often, family members will develop their own unhealthy coping mechanisms in response to a loved one’s addiction. This impacts their health, finances, and psychological wellbeing. Life becomes more chaotic and responsibilities shift, creating the feeling of being on a roller coaster you can’t get off. More can be learned on this subject by reading John Bradshaw’s book Bradshaw on the Family.
Luckily, this impact goes both ways. When the rest of the family comes together, it has an incredible effect on the addicted person’s worldview and sobriety. By making a commitment to encourage the person in recovery, the family stabilizes and aligns to create shared goals.
There are a wide variety of ways to get involved in a loved one’s addiction treatment. Family members can dedicate themselves to helping to plan the recovery process, learn about the treatment program and substance use disorder their loved one is affected by, attend groups or appointments as requested, and generally encourage the person in treatment. Their support can take many forms, but should always be nonjudgmental, firm, and positive in nature.
Benefits of Family Education
Of all available options, shared family education in addiction treatment is the best way to get everyone involved in a loved one’s recovery. By becoming interested in the recovery of the family member, everyone gets to understand and process how they have been affected by the disease of addiction and equips them to participate in the treatment plan. The family is an integral part of the journey of recovery for the addict.
Family education in addiction treatment can also provide education on the disease of addiction – everything from how it affects the body and mind to signs that your loved one may have a problem. This type of education also centers around developing coping skills and setting healthy boundaries to protect oneself and others. Above all else, the involvement of family in the recovery process motivates long-term sobriety.
The fact is, no one is born knowing how to deal with a loved one’s addiction. Beyond educating family members about the realities of substance abuse, getting the whole family involved in the recovery journey also reduces feelings of otherness and isolation common to those affected by addiction.
This is achieved by participation in lectures with patients and discussion groups with other families. Group conversations allow everyone to vent thoughts they’ve been holding in; they’re also able to share those feelings with others who understand them firsthand. Above all, a family education on addiction empowers everyone to be a part of the process and to work toward the common goal of the loved ones recovery. And, the family just might get some therapy themselves along the way.
Family Education in addiction Treatment
San Diego Sober Living believes in educating the family as part of the recovery journey for the addict. We have access to counselors who can help those affected by addiction.
If your loved one is struggling with the disease of addiction, we encourage you to call us today and begin your family’s journey of recovery.