While hard work and dedication are an important part of maintaining sobriety, it takes more than these things to truly find peace and balance in recovery. In order to do more than just stay sober, it requires someone to make amends with their health, their finances, their spirituality and many times, their family.
“Family is the cornerstone to living a balanced life in recovery,” starts Charlie, the director of Vertava Health’ aftercare program.
However, after watching a loved one struggle with addiction, many families have trouble ever recovering. With so much pain to go around, how does a family ever recover and play a role in addiction recovery?
How Does Addiction Affect The Family?
“When people enter treatment, their family relationships are really broken,” Charlie states. “Those actively addicted are only focused on chasing their next high. This creates anxiety and distrust among the entire family.”
Due to the troubling consequences of substance addiction, the surrounding family members often feel the need to take on more responsibility to compensate for their addicted loved one’s behaviors. While the erratic behaviors of a family member suffering from addiction take shape in many forms, some of the most common behaviors include:
- Stealing from family members
- Lying to family members
- Job instability
- Financial distress
- Sudden mood changes
As family members take on more responsibilities for their addicted loved one, the resentment will continue to grow and start to deeply fracture the family dynamic. Family members will have to keep up with a never-ending series of lies their addicted loved one creates to deny or excuse their behavior. They will also start to create their own web of lies to try and hide their loved one’s addiction from anyone outside the family unit.
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While in the midst of active addiction, it can be difficult to see the full depth of destruction abusing drugs or alcohol creates among the family. Sometimes, the lies, resentment and hurt can run so deep that a relationship is irreparable- but more often than not, Charlie sees that families are willing to rebuild after addiction.
“Not always, but generally speaking, we see families willing to engage in recovery and find a way to move forward,” he confirmed.
What’s The First Step In Reconnecting With Family After Treatment?
“Family plays a vital role in recovery. Without family, we’re stuck trying to do it on our own,” Charlie explains. While this may be true, Charlie also says that reconnecting with family after treatment isn’t always going to be easy, but it starts with awareness and acceptance.
“To begin repairing family relationships, you have to ask yourself, ‘What was my part in the breakdown in the family dynamic?’” Charlie states. He uses this question in order to help those in recovery start to become more aware of the pain and hurt they caused their loved ones while actively addicted.
Once someone has become aware of their wrongdoings, they need to accept their role in the disintegration of the family in order to move forward. “As those in treatment continue down the path of recovery, you can see them becoming aware of their mistakes and start to accept their role in the breakdown of their family,” Charlie remarks. “After leaving treatment, they’re generally in a good place to start making amends.”
While awareness and acceptance may seem simple, these can be difficult steps to overcome. Generating awareness can be a painful process, especially when it forces those in recovery to revisit uncomfortable memories of their past self.
“I always want to ask clients the questions: what is your family dynamic? What are some relationships that have been broken? What are some relationships you would like to repair?” Charlie uses these questions as a way to understand the starting point and begin developing a course of action. “I’m always asking these open-ended questions hoping to get the client to begin answering some of them for themselves. The more they talk, the more they reveal to themselves.”
Finding Balance In The Family Again
“Addiction is a family disease,” Charlie explains. “Oftentimes, when one person is sick in the family, everyone around them plays a part in that dysfunction.”
With this in mind, it’s important that every family member engages in their own personal journey of recovery in order to begin restoring balance within the family again. This requires each family member to be aware of and accepting of their role in the breakdown of the family dynamics.
“I always tell families to do their own work,” Charlie begins. “That means that every family member has a responsibility to themselves and their loved one in recovery to work on the areas of themselves that are creating issues within the family. Otherwise, those family dynamics are never going to be healthy.”
“The most common obstacle I see families struggle with while recovering is behaviors of codependency,” Charlie starts. “If we can correct and treat codependency within the family, it is the key to helping families recover.”
Luckily, there are many resources that family members can utilize to begin healing from a loved one’s addiction. Groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon provide family members with the emotional support to cope with the stress of their loved one’s recovery and succeed in their own recovery. When one member of the family reaches out for help, it can often encourage others to do the same.
“Recovery is a journey every member of the family must be willing to take in order to begin rebuilding a healthy family dynamic,” Charlie concludes.