“The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring his way through the lives of others. Hearts are broken. Sweet relationships are dead. Affections have been uprooted. Selfish and inconsiderate habits have kept the home in turmoil.” (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 82)
Addicts and alcoholics leave their families in a state of constant chaos and fear. Selfishness, dishonesty and anger are commonplace in addicted homes. The addict’s behavior creates negative emotions, which in turn causes family members to become more and more intoxicated by these conflicting feelings. Like the addict, family members become “spiritually sick,” and they are usually in more pain than the addict.
The disease of addiction has a major impact on family dynamics, roles and stability. Because the entire family is affected, recovery is vital for the entire family.
Stages of the Family Disease
Members of the family experience the same bottoming out process as the addict. There are usually 4 stages the family goes through before seeking recovery.
The first stage involves natural concern. The effects of the disease of addiction have only just begun and they are genuinely concerned about their loved one’s wellbeing. They have no clue what they’re in for.
The next stage is when the family becomes defensive. This follows the first time the family “blocks out” or denies the reality of the situation and what’s really going on. This is the beginning of denial. They may lie for the addict and cover up their behavior, while tolerating this behavior they begin to feel responsible for the problem. Family members usually become absent minded in this phase. They begin to feel inadequate and frustrated. Often times they do everything in their power to take care of others, but they do nothing to help themselves. At this point, they are in need of mental help.
The third phase involves severe depression and anxiety. Like the addict, they have completely lost their self-worth and their desire to go on. They are completely and utterly exhausted. The excuses and justifications stop working. They are living a life completely run by fear. This is the point when they have reached their “bottom.”
At this point, the recovery process can begin. When the pain gets great enough, we take the action to change. The entire family must face their problems and accept help in order to recover.
Family Addiction Recovery
The disease of addiction has a major impact on family dynamics, roles and stability. The entire family is affected, so recovery is vital for all. A family recovery program is very similar to the addict’s.
Individual and group family counseling is highly recommended. Therapy is a safe place to talk honestly and openly about how the disease affected you and your family as a whole. A professional counselor can help by giving solution based feedback that you may not have come up with on your own. Through therapy family communication and decision making for substance abuse problems in the future will improve dramatically.
A support system is absolutely essential in family recovery. Find support groups from your Church, Alanon, Naranon, Coda, or connect with other Watershed Family members on this site. Developing a support network of other people who have been directly affected by this disease is the first step in family recovery.
Learn the signs and symptoms of a relapse. Watch for changes in behavior, attitude and mood swings. The road to recovery is up and down, so be prepared and know what preventative measures you can take to help your loved one.
See more at: For Your Love One