Substance abuse is a family disease

A little known fact that families of addiction tend to overlook is that addiction is a family disease, in which each member is affected. If a family member is going through addiction, it is important for everyone to rally together in support. It may not always be possible to have the whole family come together, but the help of even one individual family member can prove to be crucial to a successful recovery process.

There can be many factors and circumstances with members of a family that can cause them to not offer support. Does any of this sound familiar?

A family doesn’t have the trust or belief that you are actually committed to recovery.

Relapse is common in treatment, and they may have heard many times before that you were ready to get clean and reluctant to hear about recovery again. It may be tempting to think you won’t need your family through the treatment process. You may feel as if you want to do it alone in a show of strength, but it would be a better option to open up and show them you are serious this time. Letting them know you realize you’ve hurt them in the past can be the first step to this.

In some cases, family members can’t be there to offer support because they are going through addictions of their own.

Listening to your issues and how you are getting clean and healthy may make certain family members feel uncomfortable. Addiction can be carried on through generations, and often there can be more than one member of a family who has experienced it. In these situations, the best thing to do is enter your recovery without their help. The most important thing to think about is that you need to take care of yourself before helping others. Perhaps one day you will be there for them, but the focus must be on yourself.

Some family members who have never had issues with addiction, or used alcohol or drugs, may not be able to relate.

Unfortunately, their first response may very well be to judge you. Make sure to open communication with them and encourage them to come to counseling for not only your benefit, but for the benefit of the entire family.

Benefits of Family Therapy

Therapies that involve an alcohol and drug abuser’s close friends and family have typically better outcomes than those that don’t. In circumstances where families don’t become involved in treatment, the chances of those family members cycling back to their influential dysfunctional and enabling behaviors goes up and can be a serious risk for the addict’s relapse.

Substance abuse also sometimes creates such deep fractures in family structures that oftentimes seem irreparable. This can drive a user to further abuse substances, creating an unhealthy cycle of life. Repairing these fractures can help end the cycle, and allow everyone to move on with healthy, happy relationships with one another.

In addition, when a family member is suffering from addiction, there can typically be one member of the family in particular who is “addicted” to the addict. This can mean providing the addict with resources to continue their addiction, such as: money, a place to live, or even purchasing substances for the addict themselves. This is usually done seemingly out of love to “keep the peace” and not necessarily maliciously. It is very important for this family member to also seek help.

The SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration) treatment improvement protocol identifies the following family structures and the impacts it may have on these family makeups:

  • A client who lives alone or with a partner – In this situation, both people may need counseling. When one of the individuals are addicts and the other is not, codependency may be an underlying issue or can arise later.
  • Clients who live with a spouse, or partner and minor children – The most regarded and up to date studies show that a parent’s drinking problem has detrimental effects on their children. The parent not abusing substances usually takes over the parenting role of the person who is the addict and assumes both responsibilities. The negative effects of the children is increased when both parents abuse alcohol and/or drugs.
  • A client who is part of a blended family – There are many special and unique problems that can be presented with stepfamilies and addiction. The integration and stability of a step family can be greatly impeded by substance abuse.
  • A client who is older with grown children – There may be a need for additional resources from the family in the treatment of an older individual’s substance abuse. There can even be certain situations of elder mistreatment that must be reported.
  • An adolescent substance abuser living with their family of origin – The siblings of the substance abuser may have a feeling of having their needs and issues ignored by the parents as they deal with the ongoing and continual crises involving the adolescent user. In the circumstances where there is also a parent who is a substance abuser, this sets in motions combinations of physical and emotional issues that can be very serious and dangerous.

The need for ongoing support

When a loved one has completed their treatment at either an inpatient or outpatient program, it’s very important to continue. Recovery is an ongoing process. Take advantage of ongoing counseling and involvements in recovery programs, along with vigilance over drugs and alcohol. At many family celebrations, there is often alcohol being served. It’s best for the newly sober person to avoid these situations at first while they are making progress to a long-term sobriety, so make sure you talk to your family about this first as to not accidentally create distance. You will have to make sure to show your support for celebrations in other ways, and vice versa. If a relapse occurs, the family needs to come together and work on giving loving support rather than criticism. It’s best to look at it as a bump in the road and not a failure.

About Cliffside Malibu

Cliffside Malibu understands that addiction is a family disease, and works closely with each family member to help them through this hard time. Support is offered through family counseling and continuum of care after treatment. Upon entering, each patient is carefully assessed and a custom treatment plan is created for not only their detox needs, but for their treatment for long-lasting recovery as well. Each patient is then matched with one of these five stages of the Transtheoretical Model: Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action and Maintenance. An individualized treatment plan is created based on their current stage of change. This process is in place to ensure that all our patients receive the best treatment path possible for their own specific need. Our goal is to move individuals through their treatment by assessing their readiness for change and formulating stage-matched interventions in order to move them through their respective stage.

It is the policy of Cliffside Malibu to ensure that all individuals who present with chemical dependency issues are assessed for the appropriate level of care. We strive to provide continuum of care including medically supervised detox, residential treatment, day treatment and outpatient services. Services are provided to individuals with a primary diagnosis of substance abuse and/or alcohol addiction. Individuals seeking treatment are assessed by qualified staff to ensure program criteria are met and that each individual admitted is placed in the appropriate level of care for treatment. The program is designed and structured for individuals who are in need of a supportive environment in order to maintain Sobriety.

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