In our relationships with family members, we form the initial bonds and behavioral patterns that will impact us for the rest of our lives. These can define our personalities throughout our lives. But what if a family member is struggling with substance abuse? Substance abuse threatens to strain family relationships. Alcoholism and drug addiction traumatize and stress the entire family, and without intervention through a family recovery program, trauma can affect an individual for a lifetime.

Living in an intensely emotional environment of fear and manipulation, family members of an addict must deal with high levels of stress and anxiety. It is not unusual for family members to feel like they are losing their sense of normalcy and self as their loved one’s addiction makes the family dynamics increasingly dysfunctional.

In an effort to cope with this uncontrollable situation, family members may resort to hiding the truth from themselves and others, avoiding genuine connection to minimize painful conversations, and feeling intense levels of guilt and shame. These coping mechanisms can keep family members from seeking help.

But just as the whole family suffers when one member is an addict, the whole family is part of the recovery process. Without a family recovery program, family members may suffer effects that last a lifetime.

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The Consequences of Addiction on a Family

One in five children in the US grow up in homes with parents who struggle with substance abuse. When this substance abuse goes untreated, it can have severe effects on the entire family, but children especially. Below are just some the consequences of untreated addiction trauma in family members:

  • Learned helplessness—When a person can’t change the negative circumstances in their life, they eventually give up, and this helplessness affects other areas of their life.
  • Depression—Painful negative emotions that are unexpressed or unresolved can turn inward mentally, causing depression.
  • Anxiety—A general sense of anxiety may lead the sufferer to project that turmoil onto a phobia, insomnia, or hyper-vigilance.
  • Emotional constriction—People can become numb and their emotions shut down in the face of panic.
  • Desire to self-medicate—A pain-filled inner world may lead to the use of drugs, alcohol, or behavioral addictions to attempt to find peace.

Beachway Therapy Center’s Family Addiction Recovery Program

young woman receiving help during drug treatment

Along with the long-term consequences outlined above, family members of addicts also suffer during the addict’s period of substance abuse—sleepless nights, wondering if their loved one is safe, and feelings of anger and frustration. It’s an arduous path, but addiction treatment can provide a significant sense of relief…and maybe a void.

So much time and energy has been directed toward the addict or the alcoholic that it’s difficult to let go of the worry and the obsessive thoughts. This is because many people aren’t sure how to support someone in rehab.

Recovery needs to happen for the family, as well as for the addict. The family needs to let go of control and obsession about their loved one as much as the client needs to let go of their addiction. This is an important step in learning how to support someone in rehab.

Here at Beachway Therapy Center, we care for the healing of the entire family. Trying to treat an individual addict without addressing family recovery would only be treating one facet of the problem. The entire family suffers when one member is an addict, so the whole family needs to be a part of the recovery process.

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To ease this difficult process, we offer our family recovery program absolutely free for our patients’ family members.

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What Is Family Therapy?

family icons on hands

Addiction is often called a family disease, as it has so many far-reaching, long-term effects on the family dynamic. Dysfunctional and unhealthy family dynamics brought about by substance abuse require healing and change. While the client is in treatment, they participate in intensive group and individual therapy with a constant focus on recovery. However, their families do not typically have that luxury. But family therapy sessions are critical for success and continued sobriety of the addict, and for the long-term health of the family.

Active participation in family programs and individual therapy, Al-anon, Naranon, Families Anonymous or similar groups can be extremely helpful, as well as participating in a family program that the treatment center offers.

Family therapy offers many tangible benefits for patients and for their loved ones. The following can be beneficial in family therapy for addicts and their families:

Family therapy is a safe place for families to have productive conversations around the challenges and emotions surrounding addiction and substance abuse. Beachway therapists are friendly and understanding and can guide you in addressing addiction in your family.

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Resources for Families and Friends of Addicts and Alcoholics

The Challenges of Learning How To Support Someone in Rehab

The first hurdle when learning how to support someone in rehab is keeping the client in treatment. The vast majority of people coming into treatment will want to leave prematurely at some point. It is the “fight, flight or freeze” response to stress and treatment is stressful. Often this happens in the first few days when the client is still detoxing and is uncomfortable.

The desire to stop the discomfort and pain can overcome any rational thinking and the denial can be so powerful that the client is unaware they that they aren’t making smart choices. The family has to be strong enough to say no to the client when they ask to come home. Sometimes this might mean removing all access to funds, not taking phone calls and allowing the client to “sink or swim.”

The dichotomy is that the more the family tries to help or rescue the client, the more they actually enable or contribute to the disease and potentially prevent the client from recovering.

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