When a person abuses drugs and alcohol, the effects of this abuse are not isolated. They extend outward to family, friends and others. If your loved one has a substance abuse problem, you are already familiar with the impact it has on a family. Unfortunately, because addicts are often in denial about their problem, they don’t realize how they are hurting their loved ones.
Compassion Behavioral Health provides partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and general outpatient treatment services. As part of our services, we also have a Family Recovery Program that addresses the family unit. By speaking with an admissions coordinator, we can determine the best fit for your family and loved one.
Why Addiction is NOT an Individual Disease
Substance abuse is hard on everyone. Let’s look at some of the ways that drugs and alcohol affect the family dynamic.
- Damaged relationships. Addicts begin to pull away from their friends and family early on. They do this because they want to use drugs and alcohol in secret, without having anyone question their choices. Before long, you may feel that you’re dealing with a stranger.
- Negative mindsets. It’s hard to be positive when your loved one is abusing drugs and alcohol. You may start to blame yourself or feel guilty about the circumstances in your life. These negative emotions are further exacerbated by secretive behavior, lying and stealing.
- Changed roles. Instead of being a wife or sister, your role might change to caretaker. You may find yourself having to financially support your loved one or look after their mental and physical health. You can do this for a while, but you can’t do it forever. Eventually, it will take a toll on your own health and well being.
- Even though we understand more about addiction, we still have a long way to go. Some people still view addiction as a bad choice, and this makes suffering families unsure of where to go for support. As a result, many families form a “protective” barrier around their family and isolate themselves from others.
- Financial stress. Addiction is a disease that disrupts financial stability. Not only does it cost money to support the habit, but also drugs and alcohol are associated with increased crime, stealing and legal fines. Addicts often lose or quit their jobs as well, leaving families to support them.
- Alcohol and drugs change a person’s brain, causing them to behave in unusual ways. This could lead to physical or emotional abuse, neglect and other tragic behaviors. The World Health Organization reports a strong link between alcohol use and intimate partner violence across the world.
- Continued cycle. Exposing children to drugs and alcohol raises their own risk for addiction. Young children begin to think that this behavior is acceptable, which normalizes the use of illicit substances early on. As they get older, they will also have access to substances, increasing their chances for experimentation.
The good news is that these situations do not have to continue disrupting your life. Help is available for the whole family. While your loved one is learning how to stay clean and sober, you and your family can work through past trauma and learn how to maintain a supportive environment.
Getting Your Loved One to Stay in Treatment
Once your relative is in a treatment center, you may think that the hard work is done. But, there is nothing stopping a person from walking out of a rehab, so you must be prepared to keep them in treatment. Many people who enter treatment want to leave early at some point - this is a normal response to a stressful situation. Fortunately, once the person has safely detoxed and is in counseling, their chances of staying in rehab are much higher.
As a family, you must remain strong and encourage your loved one to stay in treatment. You may have to remove all accessible funds and not talk to your relative for the first few days or weeks. If you give in, you will have to start the process all over again - if you get the chance.
No matter the begging or pleading, resist the urge to “save” your loved one. The only way to recover from addiction is through detox and counseling. Your loved one needs this opportunity to learn about themselves and work through underlying issues.
Strengthening the Family Unit – Compassion Behavioral Health Family Therapy
At Compassion Behavioral Health, we recognize that addiction is a disease that can permanently change a family. Not only do we provide treatment services to clients in need, but also we strive to put families back together. We encourage consistent family sessions with our clinical team, whether it is over the phone or in-person at our facility in Hollywood, FL. We also encourage members to get help while their loved one is in treatment. Here are a few ways to achieve this.
- Participate in Al-Anon. Al-Anon is similar to AA but made for the family and friends who are worried about a loved one. You can find Al-Anon meetings in your local area or attend them online.
- Seek counseling. Counseling is beneficial because it allows you to work through your own problems. You can work on setting healthy boundaries, rebuilding healthy relationships and preventing the cycle of enablement.
- Get educated. Addiction is a complex disease that has both environmental and genetic components. By educating yourself on the nature of addiction, you can be more compassionate to your loved one. Find resources at the library or online.
- Give attention to yourself. It may sound counterintuitive, but you need help, too. There’s a lot of work to be done once your loved one returns home from treatment, and you can’t be worn down. Take time out to address your needs so that you are physically, emotionally and mentally prepared for this journey.
- Attend family therapy. If family counseling is offered at the treatment facility, take part in it. This is a good opportunity to connect with your loved one and address feelings of anxiety, distrust, powerlessness and codependency.
Preventing Relapse in Your Loved One
When a loved one returns home from treatment, there are many emotions. You may feel happy that they’re coming home but also anxious about what the immediate future holds. To support long-term sobriety, clients receive an individualized aftercare plan when they are discharged from our treatment facility.
Each aftercare plan is unique and offers recommendations on how to maintain sobriety. Access to support is also included so that clients know where to go if they feel like using drugs or alcohol. Participation in a 12-step program, working with a sponsor to complete the steps and continuing counseling through an outpatient treatment center are the most effective ways to support a full recovery.
We recommend that families also continue getting the support they need through counseling, family therapy and Al-Anon groups. This keeps the family unit strong and protects against relapse. There will be good days and bad days as your loved one makes this transition, but you never have to be alone. Help is always available.
Is your loved one in need of treatment for a substance use disorder? Call Compassion Behavioral Health to learn more about our Family Program and how we can help your family overcome the cycle of addiction - together.