One of the big challenges for any family dealing with addiction is the tendency to treat addiction as a shameful condition. Families tend to hide the pain, trauma and disruption of addiction to avoid the embarrassment of having a family member who is dealing with the disease. Whether the using or abstaining addict is a parent or a child, addiction is a disease of the whole group. Working out what to expect from a family treatment center is crucial for all family members. Addiction is a disease of genetics as well as training.
For children who grew up with an addicted father, it may be normal to be a support system and protector of an addicted male. Male children who grow up with an addicted parent may become so accustomed to chaos that they turn to generating it. Everyone in the house is groomed for co-dependency, often from birth. When they leave home, they may pivot from this by becoming rigid and inflexible, by isolating themselves and by refusing to truly trust anyone.
Family Therapy Promotes Individual Healing
One of the strongest falsehoods that family members of addicts cling to is that when the addict stops using, the problems will all go away. This is unfair on several levels. For family members, this belief is deeply disempowering. It places their happiness, or unhappiness, on the addict. Their ability to build a productive and healthy life can be stripped away by the next binge. For the addict, the pressure to protect everyone from the perceived evil of the drug is brutal. Managing addiction is a long term process that must be approached from many directions, including
- physical recovery
- emotional growth
- psychological review
Frankly, the addict has enough to deal with just in getting through detox and finding a new place in the world as a sober person. Family members also need to understand their new roles. Some children of addicts grow into rigid automatons who struggle to reach out. They have no expectation of kindness from anyone and no real understanding of what an emotionally supportive relationship is. If you grew up in an unsafe household, you may have learned that your feelings, experiences and opinions really had no impact on anything. Trying to function in an adult relationship with a caring person puts you at odds with the person who is trying to connect with you; if you’re not lovable, anyone who loves you is obviously misinformed. Other adults in addictive households turn into people-pleasers.
While this can make you popular, it will also leave you completely empty. Once you’re empty, you’re vulnerable to leaning on an addictive substance yourself. Because you’ve been trained to support others, you won’t be able to ask for help until something drastic happens. As each family member comes to understand where the disease of addiction has trapped them, they can start to work their way into a healthier view of the world. Not only will this take pressure off the addict as they work through detox and onto a path of healthier living, but these forms of therapy are extremely beneficial to each family member. Taking ownership of your own emotional health means that, no matter what else happens, you have a chance to be OK.
Family treatment may also mean some tough conversations with older family members. If an adult is addicted and their spouse and children are participating in family treatment, the adults in the clan may also need to connect with siblings and parents of the addict. Be prepared for a less than happy response to these inquiries. As you work your way through these connections, you may well trigger a shame response. Other responses can include
For a recovering addict, maintaining a focus on healing and growth will take the support of their family. Their family members will also need to determine the best way to work towards their own healing without putting the burden for success on the addict. Family treatment centers provide everyone with ways to fully understand the damage done, the limitation of potential caused by addiction, and the possibilities of wellness found in working together. We can help your family. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day. Call us at 833-497-3812.