Family Therapy

Why Drug And Alcohol Addiction Recovery Needs To Include Family Therapy

March 19, 2019
Why Drug And Alcohol Addiction Recovery Needs To Include Family Therapy

The isolation it often entails is one of the most dangerous aspects of addiction. Substance abuse can eventually lead to losing a job, friends, living arrangements, and ultimately alienate family members. Past traumas involving family may spur a person into addiction, and some family members may inadvertently prolong a loved one’s addiction out of good intentions through enabling behaviors. However, no matter what role family may or may not have played in the development of an individual’s addiction, they must play an important part in the recovery process.

The Role Of Family In Recovery

Drug and alcohol addiction recovery therapy is a complex process with many variables; there is no hard and fast solution to addiction, and every person with a substance abuse disorder requires individualized treatment. An appropriate treatment plan needs to not only address a patient’s withdrawal symptoms and type of addiction, but also the underlying causes that led the patient to addiction. During addiction recovery, family therapy can take many forms. Family should play a central role in the initial intervention and push toward rehab, but they can also take part in counseling and other phases of recovery during rehab and beyond.

Revealing Family Dynamics

Family Sunset Beach

The family who plan and stage an intervention for a loved one with an addiction must take care to address the roles they may have played to their loved one reaching this point. Substance abuse can entail many influencing factors, and addiction recovery needs family to honestly address these issues and other enabling behaviors that may have helped maintain a loved one’s addiction. If a person struggling with addiction developed his or her substance abuse problem as a coping mechanism after suffering any sort of abuse or neglect from a family member, especially as a child, it is vital to confront this issue and any similar ones to start rebuilding family connections.

Family dynamics can also play a crucial role in recovery. Perhaps the person struggling with addiction always had a strong connection with a particular sibling or other relative — that person should realize that he or she is in a very actionable position to influence his or her loved one’s recovery. When family plays a central role in the recovery process, identifying and addressing healthy and unhealthy dynamics within the family becomes much easier.

Family-Focused Intervention

Most recovery journeys begin with an intervention; the friends and loved ones of a person with a substance abuse problem gather to let the struggling person know they are available to help but will not stand by and allow his or her addiction to continue unabated. During an intervention, those gathered must let the subject of the intervention know how his or her behavior has affected them, for better or worse. This should not be a guilt trip; instead, it should focus on the fact that the family recognizes their loved one’s struggle and will not allow it to continue. The family must also be willing to do some self-reflection to identify past and current patterns of enabling and put an end to them.

The early stages of rehab and the intervention process are also great times to identify other family-related factors that may have influenced a loved one’s addiction. Genetic markers, family histories of substance abuse, and predisposition toward co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety are crucial factors for anyone with an addiction, and identifying these issues is essential to recovery and may even help improve the overall treatment process.

Stopping Enabling Behaviors

“Enabling” is the term for helping a person with an addiction maintain that addiction. Most of the time, enabling occurs out of a desire to ease or prevent suffering; a mother may start paying her child’s rent and other expenses after he spends everything on drugs, hoping that he can get better on his own. A sister drives her sibling to pick up “one last dose” before rehab or allows a sibling to use drugs with her so she can watch out for him or her. Significant others may start cleaning up after their partners during the descent into addiction, neglecting personal responsibilities.

These are all examples of common enabling behaviors. Uncovering some enabling patterns may require careful reflection during the start of the recovery process. Some family members may not realize their enabling behaviors have been harmful and it can be very difficult to break these patterns. However, stopping them is essential if the loved one with the addiction is to improve and achieve sobriety.

Maintaining Sobriety After Rehab

Family therapy is vital to recovery, and family can even play a role during rehab by taking part in family counseling or group therapy sessions. After rehab, family members will likely be a recovered loved one’s first point of contact when faced with temptations and cravings. A newly recovered person may also rely upon family members to rebuild his or her life after rehab. Recovery is a very difficult road, and the return to “normal” life after rehab can be a jarring experience without support.

The family should remember this and try to be as diplomatic as possible, but they must also be honest about their feelings. It can be easy to overlook the signs of relapse or the formation of new enabling patterns, and these factors are very dangerous for a newly recovered person at risk of relapse.

Read more: Life After Rehab

Finding Support

Family is essential to addiction recovery, and finding support from likeminded individuals in similar situations can be tremendously helpful for anyone with a loved one recovering from addiction. The Addiction Freedom Now community is a resource hub for friends and family of people struggling with addictions. Our community shares stories, advice, and encouragement with others all over the world and can provide valuable guidance for family members of a person struggling with substance abuse.

Visit the Addiction Freedom Now community and start thinking of ways you can contribute to the discussion. You can also find resources and help with locating family-focused addiction treatment services and recovery support with the Addiction Freedom Now community.



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