Addiction is often referred to as a family disease because it affects far more people than just the addict themselves. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, if you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, the best place to start is by getting help for yourself. Regardless of whether or not your loved one seeks professional help, you can take care of yourself and your family more effectively by participating in counseling and peer support groups. In fact, there are many resources in your area that provide addiction help for families.
Why is Addiction Considered a Family Disease?
Like any other chronic disease, addiction often involves a terrifying cycle of relapse and recovery. Throughout this process, the addict may engage in destructive behaviors, illegal activities, or manipulative acts that disrupt the balance within the home. Family members who live with a loved one who is struggling with addiction may feel overwhelmed and even traumatized as they are trying to cope with the effects of their loved one’s substance abuse.
Families who are living in the midst of addiction may experience sleepless nights, heated arguments, and general tension on the home. Family members may fear that their loved one will get in a car accident, land in jail, or even die from a fatal overdose. It is no question that dealing with the effects of addiction is painful and anxiety-provoking.
In order to cope with the chaos in the home, family members may begin adopting coping mechanisms that aren’t necessarily healthy. For example, it is not uncommon for parents or spouses to become angry and overprotective. On the other hand, it is just as common for parents and spouses to begin enabling their loved one’s addiction. While they may think that bailing their loved one out of jail is helping them, actions such as these are considered enabling behaviors because they prevent the addict from feeling the full consequences of their actions.
There are many ways in which family members will attempt to deal with the effects of addiction in the home. Unfortunately, the destructive behavioral patterns that occur in addicted households often persist until the entire family receives professional help and support.
Family Therapy for Addiction Recovery
Family therapy provides a safe place for family members to receive professional guidance on how to cope with their loved one’s addiction. It is important to note that the addicted loved one doesn’t have to agree to treatment in order for the family to participate. Families can benefit from the resources family therapy provides whether their addicted loved one is involved or not.
The primary goal of family therapy for addiction recovery is to make family members recognize how their loved one’s addiction affects their lives and provide them with tools to help improve their relationships. Addiction can cause a lot of dysfunction in the home, but therapy gives family members an opportunity to understand the associated risk factors and what they can do to prevent chaos in the household.
When receiving addiction help for families via professional therapy, sessions may take place in various forms. These include:
- Private therapy sessions involving a therapist and one or more family members
- Family education sessions involving family activities
- Individual counseling for children or spouses of addicts
- Group sessions involving the entire family and their addicted loved one
- Group sessions involving multiple families together at once
Families who participate in therapy for addiction together have the opportunity to explore their strengths, identify their weaknesses, and come together as a whole for a more functional household.
Types of Therapies Used in Family Addiction Treatment
There are several different treatment methods used to help families of addicts obtain the support they need. These include:
- Family behavior therapy – behavioral therapy uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This approach focuses on identifying thought patterns, addressing destructive behavioral patterns, and teaches family members how to replace those thoughts and behaviors with more positive actions.
- Strategic or structural therapy – this approach focuses on identifying and adjusting the dynamics that promote addiction. Specifically, structural therapy works on improving communication skills and setting healthy boundaries.
- Multidimensional family therapy – an approach that is particularly useful with teenagers in recovery. Multidimensional family therapy may also work with children or adolescents to help them build strong identities, communication skills, and relationships.
Regardless of which treatment model a therapist uses, family addiction treatment focuses on improving the family system as a whole. The ultimate goal of these sessions is to create more positive interactions in the home and promote the safety, well-being, and mental health of all members involved.
Community Support Groups Providing Addiction Help for Families
While substance abuse treatment programs can provide immense resources to help families of addicts, community support groups are a free supplemental option that can provide additional support. There are many types of support groups available, but the two most popular are Al-Anon and Alateen.
Al-Anon is a mutual support group that uses the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to help friends and family members bring about positive changes in their lives. Alateen, on the other hand, is part of the Al-Anon Family Groups but it is a fellowship specifically meant for young people who have been affected by someone’s drinking.
By attending these types of programs, family members can hear stories from other families, share their emotions and difficulties with like-minded individuals, and gain support from people who know what they have been through. While these programs are not religious, they are considered spiritual in nature.
An alternative approach providing addiction help for families is SMART Recovery Family & Friends. If a 12-step program isn’t right for some people, SMART Recovery Family & Friends can be a great option. This program focuses on using community reinforcement and family training to help family members cope with the effects of addiction in their lives.
These family support services are free of charge, have no formal membership, and allow members to come and go as they please. Programs such as these can be found in virtually all 50 states and online, so all families can obtain the support and fellowship they need.
Find Your Family Help for Addiction Today
Drug and alcohol addiction are devastating and life-threatening illnesses that wreak havoc on the afflicted individual and all those around them. If you have a family member or a friend who is battling addiction, it is completely normal to feel hurt, angry, scared, and sad all at the same time. However, there is hope for you, your family, and your addicted loved one.
Whether you’re looking to stage an intervention, find a drug and alcohol rehab near you, or find addiction help for your family, contact one of our dedicated treatment providers today. We are here to connect you with the help you and your family deserve.