Addiction is often referred to as a “family disease,” this is because it affects the family and friends of the addict. Often, we are only thinking of getting the person who is struggling to find help, but substance abuse treatment goes much further than just treating the addict. One of the most critical questions anyone who is looking into a treatment program is, “Does the substance abuse treatment program treat the whole family?” If the program you are looking into does not have family inclusion, it’s time to look elsewhere. It’s also important to look into what kind of family participation the substance abuse treatment program provides. If an individual has loved ones in their life, it is important to involve them and repair relationships during treatment, so the patient has a healthy support system when they leave treatment, which significantly improves their chances of maintaining healthy and long term sobriety. At Recovery Ways, we tailor the substance abuse treatment program to each individual when they arrive for admission. This includes individual, concrete plans for family participation in the patient’s treatment strategy and protocol.
Why is Addiction a Family Disease?
It doesn’t matter which member of the family is the addict, the mother, father, child, sibling, or even non-immediate family members. Substance abuse causes stress in the relationships and the home in general, that can impact the stability of the home, impact the mental health of the home, tear apart family unity, and often cause financial problems. Frequently, addiction causes the addict to become deeply self-absorbed, which can break trust in relationships and cause harmful effects that can last a lifetime. Addiction is not a simple disease; therefore it does not cause easily solved problems. It can affect families on several levels, and survival of both the addict and the family is in jeopardy without appropriate and comprehensive family care. Addiction has a massive ripple effect. By definition “addiction” entails a compulsive use despite negative consequences. In fact, researchers at Harvard have classified addiction as “toxic stress,” which means a “strong, frequent, and/or prolonged adversity” that causes a physiological stress response. We all know the negative effects stress can cause to our health, but what the researchers also found was that this toxic stress caused by addiction can create long-term and even lifelong health repercussions. It was found that those with addiction were more susceptible to one or more of the following:
- Cognitive impairment
- Developmental delay
- Heart disease
Unfortunately, it’s not just the addict that can have the effects of this toxic stress. Family dynamics can change drastically and develop unhealthy coping skills. These can include, but are not limited to, codependency, role reversal or distorted roles, emotional disconnection, and attachment issues and disorders. Codependency can be a hard thing to break. As a loved one you want to help your struggling family member and never want to give up on them or cut them off. But this can lead to severe codependency where the addict is unable to take care of themselves, and will manipulate their way into getting what they want and/or need. If you think you are in a codependent relationship, please reach out for help. Trained professionals can help you spot the signs and help you set up boundaries. Our substance abuse treatment can help work with families to identify codependency and give them the necessary tools to build healthier relationships and boundaries. Role reversal is also a very common problem with families suffering from addiction. We see this often when a parent or caregiver is the one struggling with addiction. The child must then learn to take care of themselves, sometimes at a very young age. They also feel the responsibility to take care of their parent or guardian. This can distort the role of child and parent, often stealing an individual’s childhood away from them. Where codependency presents, sometimes emotional disconnection follows. While many enter into codependent relationships, others simply disconnect emotionally. This can happen with both the addict and/or their loved one. People can often reach a breaking point, and instead of continuing to feel the pain that addiction is causing to their family and their own life, they will simply detach themselves from the relationship emotionally, and sometimes physically. Attachment issues and disorders is a common related dynamic in substance abuse relationships, and it carries a formal psychiatric diagnosis. This diagnosis typically pertains to young children who struggle with forming emotional connections with their main caregiver. Studies have shown that a child who has early exposure to substance abuse has a higher risk of developing detachment disorders. Other studies have shown that persistent attachment issues are a “predominant feature of adult children of alcoholics (ACOA’s).” There is no greater love than that between a parent and their child. To know a substance abuse disorder is not only affecting the parent, but also causing developmental problems in a child is heartbreaking. There can be recovery from substance abuse, and substance abuse treatment can help repair families and relationships.
Helping Repair Families Through Treatment
It’s important to find a program that works with patients and their family relationships. Addiction is a selfish disease, and causes actions that can hurt and break relationships. Once someone is in recovery, there is often a feeling of sorrow for the pain they have caused, but without family treatment and rebuilding those relationships, many family members will still be distrusting and wary of rebuilding a relationship with the addict. Unfortunately, once trust is lost it is a hard thing to rebuild. Involving the family in an individual’s substance abuse treatment is important in more ways than just repairing fractured relationships. It’s important to know the history and generational trauma that involves the family. This can help an individual and his or her family understand why substance abuse has affected them. Without a full family picture, it’s harder to treat the individual. When you are able to pinpoint specific reason and triggers a giant piece of the treatment solution has been discovered. While the addict struggles and falls further and further down the black hole that is substance abuse, the family members lives progress. An addict might wake up one day and realize they have missed out on seeing his or her children grow, or being a supportive sibling, or a positive member of the family. Having the family involved in treatment can help keep the patient involved in the family, and help repair the cracks that have formed prior to ending treatment. That means that once an individual is out of treatment, they and their family don’t have to try to acclimate to each other and rebuild relationships alone.
How does the Family Services Program at Recovery Ways Work?
Andrew Sidoli, Executive Clinical Director at Recovery Ways says, “Our family services start with a log in to your own online content; as a family member you are provided with a psychoeducational curriculum that helps you to understand addiction, your loved one’s behavior and helps you process your emotions and psychological responses. You will be involved in videoconferencing groups until you are ready to participate in a family workshop with your loved one.” Recovery Ways offers family therapy every step of the way. Family therapy is considered one of the most effective forms of therapy, and is designed to give residents and family members an honest look at the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction and to examine the effect that it has on each person individually, and the family as a whole. This is not to suggest that the family is responsible for a given member’s recovery; rather, family is one of the greatest assets towards individual and family health. This is located at our Brunswick, Copper Hills, and Mountain View Facilities, and can be provided in various settings, including: face-to-face, online, phone conference.
How Family Participation Affects Aftercare and Long-Term Sobriety
Family participation and support are also important components in aftercare and longer-term sobriety. Once an individual has completed their substance abuse treatment, their aftercare is incredibly important to maintain sobriety. Having family support can help identify relapse warning signs and assist in relapse prevention. We work with the patient, the patient’s family, and other support groups as a team to make sure when the patient completes treatment they are surrounded by supportive, strong, loving, and caring people. We want to give the patient every tool to maintain their new sober life. Not only do we stay in contact with the patient, but we also provide resources to meetings, counseling, and even have an alumni group. The Recovery Ways alumni program was started to help individuals post treatment. When an individual enters treatment, it’s just the beginning of their journey, our alumni group is here to support them for, at the very least, their first year after treatment. We offer peer support, telephone support, we have online tools, as well as weekly activities. We have an alumni meeting every week, as well as a softball team. We have free aftercare for life – every other week, and we have multiple meetings throughout the week. It’s important to us that every person who enters through Recovery Ways’ doors knows that we are a support to them for life. We encourage everyone who has gone through our substance abuse treatment program to stay connected and engaged with us.