What Is the Role of Family in Addiction Recovery?
Substance abuse and addiction can damage family dynamics, erode trust, and weaken communication. Family members who experience a loved one battling with a substance use disorder often endure host of distressing emotions. Equally frustrating is the hopelessness loved ones feel in response to substance abuse. Family members may feel at a loss when seeing a loved one caught in the grips of substance abuse. For example, stumbling upon burnt spoons and used syringes can create a paralyzing feelings of fear and shock.
However, family can help their loved one achieve and maintain sobriety. Despite seeing a loved one stuggle, family members can and ideally do play a major role in the treatment process. The role of family in addiction recovery is large and important.
The Roles Family Plays in an Active Addiction
Relatives may play both functional and dysfunctional roles to cope with and even support (deliberately or innocently) the effects of substance use disorders. There are 5 main personality traits connected to a family member’s possible identification with a loved one’s substance abuse.
The Savior plays the hero in the story of substance abuse disorders. They may cover for the individual, attempting to make the individual with the substance use disorder look pleasing to everyone. They may be in denial, overlooking major problems needing professional interference.
The Mascot uses humor to cope; sometimes humor is tactlessly aimed at the individual suffering the substance use disorder.
The Lost Child
The Lost Child silently copes with substance disorder and avoids additional family conflict.
The Scapegoat is the family member who is attention-seeking and may mask feelings of shame under grand gestures.
The Caregiver may or may not be codependent, but enables the individual by excusing their behaviors. They are unable to hold the individual accountable for their actions and pleases others. Relatives may unknowingly enable a substance abuse disorder with codependent behavior. Seemingly innocent, the Caregiver or Codependent takes on all responsibility, giving little to no opportunity for their loved one to grow. This behavior can create a cycle both the Codependent loved one and the individual with the substance use disorder cannot escape.
Healthy Roles of Family in Addiction Recovery
Family members can play healthy roles to encourage recovery. For example, a parent may play the role of the supportive but firm parent who encourages their loved one to take thoughtful, corrective action. Healthy family roles include holding their loved one accountable for conflicting behavior and creating rewards for positive outcomes.
Family members who are supportive may attend support groups with their loved one to ensure they are cooperating in their treatment. Some parents use tough love to eliminate excuse-making and self-victimization in their loved ones. Others use loving detachment, which includes trust and boundaries while their loved one battles substance use-related matters.
Family Involvement in Adolescent Substance Abuse
Adolescents battling a substance use disorder are often heavily affected by its grasp. Since adolescents are still developing social and behavioral patterns, early substance abuse can complicate future events. For example, adolescents are more likely to struggle with a life-long substance abuse disorder if they do not get help at a young age. Adolescents may also explore other drugs, seeking a stronger high. To add, he or she may even combine several chemicals, unknowingly increasing the risk of a fatal overdose. The role of family is important at this life stage, as they can encourage their young loved one to discontinue drug use.
Family members may feel frustration as the adolescent skips school or gets poor grades. If teens befriend other teens who abuse drugs, parents may feel anxiety for their child’s whereabouts and sudden changes in social circles. In response, primary guardian and parental figures may tune in and out, inconsistently being emotionally available for their child. Parents may feel denial and misdirect anger to others, displaying communication breakdowns.
It is not unheard of for a parent to abuse substances or develop an alcohol dependence in response to teens abusing harmful chemicals. In such cases, parents have to be mindful of being an example of strength for children. Strong support and connection can help encourage their teens to get clean, and possibly reduce the rate of relapse. If this is challenging, contacting a treatment professional can help parents find treatment through medication and counseling services.
Family Support Groups and Addiction Treatment
Both inpatient and outpatient facilities offer support groups for patients to connect with peer groups. Among the most common are the 12-Steps groups. 12-Step groups offer personal accountability and spirituality to help maintain sobriety.
Al-Anon is a support group focusing on families affected by substance abuse. Here, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, and cousins discuss their challenges with a loved one’s substance abuse. Like other 12-Step groups, Al-Anon members use spiritual themes to encourage acceptance and compassion.
Alateen is another support group that includes teen family members who help each other heal and discuss complications from witnessing a loved one abuse harmful substance. With both support groups, family members can feel connected to the recovery process and provide input over their experiences.
Lastly, Narc-Anon features family members of individuals who have become dependent on narcotics discuss and problem-solve in a group setting.
Make a Call That Can Bring Your Family Closer Together
Our families are one of our most valuable support groups, even though the damage done by abusing harmful substances can be lasting. However, there is hope for both family members of individuals suffering substance abuse disorders, and for the individual abusing harmful chemicals themself. Both inpatient and outpatient facilities offer intervention with family members to express challenges with substance abuse. Select facilities may offer family therapy, incorporating innovative communication exercises, and relationship-strengthening activities led by licensed therapists.
Know that it is never too late to fix broken relationships with the help of therapists and medical health professionals. Contact a devoted treatment specialist today to receive tools to help restore your family life.
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