Families of people in recovery need treatment too
Most illness affects the family of the person afflicted. From having to watch their loved one suffer, to having to possibly put their career on hold in order to offer care, to the emotional stress of not knowing if the person you love is going to be okay, having a family member who is sick is never an easy thing to deal with. But for people who have a family member who is suffering from addiction, there is an added layer of difficulty that is not present with most other illnesses. The thing is addiction often runs hand in hand with Co-dependency.
Addiction is in many ways a familial and relational disease. It not only affects those people surrounding the addict or alcoholic in traditional ways, but it also many times causes them to have to change their own morality or interrupts their ability to live a normal everyday existence. They have to deal with constant lying on the part of their loved one and this pattern of lying can become so commonplace that they themselves may at some point be unable to differentiate what is true and what is false.
People who have a family member who is suffering from addiction may find that they start to isolate from others, as they carry around the unneeded shame of knowing their loved one has addiction issues. They may want to hide this fact from others because not only are they embarrassed by it, but they also in some ways actually start to believe that it is their fault. That if they just did things differently in the past their addicted loved one may have turned out differently, not realizing that the addiction is not a representation of who they are and is in no way their responsibility.
Addiction is insidious like that. It wraps itself around the family and pulls a dark veil down around all that it touches. So once the person who is afflicted with addiction seeks help for their issue, there are often times a lot of damage within the family unit that goes unaddressed. The family may find that they feel a sense of relief from having their loved one getting treatment for their addiction, but yet they still feel unsettled and still have lingering feelings of depression and anxiety.
This is a perfectly understandable response; because oftentimes just getting sober is not enough to truly undo the damage caused during addiction, and this is why it is important to offer treatment to families of people in recovery. It is important that they get the help they need, so that they can begin to heal from their own wounds and in turn be able to better help their recovering loved one.
One of the most interesting things that occurs in recovery is the complete psychic shift that occurs within the addict. They go from being a wreck of a person, unable to not lie or steal or cheat, to an upstanding, honest individual, sometimes in a manner of months. It is like a complete reversal of fortunes and when this occurs it can sometimes be difficult for the family to understand, or in certain cases it can even cause resent among family members.
I remember I was one time talking to a friend of mine who got sober and he told me how his sister resented the fact that he got well. She even told him that she didn’t think it was fair that he got to go away for treatment and have his life completely turned around, while she was left dealing with the damage that he caused in her life.
While this may sound ridiculous and selfish, it isn’t really, and it is probably a more common place occurrence then we are even aware of. The thing is that once my friend had a couple of years sober his sister began to go to therapy and started attending Al-Anon and when she began to gain the benefits of these two activities, she stopped being resentful and the two were able to mend their broken relationship.
Besides the benefit of allowing loved ones of those afflicted with addiction to experience the same life changing results that recovery can offer addicts, offering treatment for family members also allows them to begin to process their own hurt and pain. They are able to go through what they experienced during their loved one’s active addiction with a professional and begin to unravel just how much it really affected them. They can unload their anger and guilt and shame in a safe environment and learn how they can move past these things and regain control of their lives.
Families of addicts can also learn how to detach from their addicted loved one, because more than likely during active addiction a rather sick and co-dependent relationship was created. It is the nature of addiction to turn relationships on their head and through the treatment process family members can learn how to better take care of themselves and set up healthy boundaries with their newly sober loved one.
Having a loved one suffer from substance abuse issues is probably one of the most difficult things that a person can experience. They have to watch the person they love slowly destroy themselves, while they stand by helplessly, unable to do anything to stop the wreckage. They have to listen to lie after lie and deal with let down after let down, and years of doing this will take its toll on even the strongest of people. By offering treatment options for family members we can help the family finally deal with the mounting pressure they experienced during active addiction. Through doing this, we not only give them their lives back, but we can also help foster the recovery of the person afflicted because they now have a healthy family unit that they can recovery in, that is free from resentment and lingering anger. So while this process is not always easy and it requires work from all those involved, the pay off is a happier and healthier family and a life no longer marred by addiction.
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.