Many of us never realized the toll our addiction took on the lives of those around us—often the very ones we loved most. As we sank into addiction, our spouses and children suffered side effects in the form of financial insecurity, lack of support, emotional unavailability and even abuse. As the Alcoholics Anonymous (also known as the Big Book”) says, “the family is, to some extent, ill.”
As you move into recovery, you will find that your addiction did not just diminish your life; it also diminished the lives of those around you. The behaviors of an addict can create deep conflict and feelings of resentment. Addictive behaviors not only keep you blind to this reality, they keep you perpetuating it. In many cases, a dysfunctional home environment and family life can be the main contributors to the addiction problem.
Just as your addiction went beyond, so will your recovery. While the addiction radiated destruction, recovery can radiate hope and reconciliation. But it is not easy for your loved ones to get over the hurdles of years of pain, resentment, conflict and misunderstanding.
Family therapy is an important option during your recovery. It has the power to enhance your own recovery and ease the transition back into the home environment following rehab, while also helping to establish new family patterns of interaction, and opening healthy lines of communication. Families who have struggled with the addiction or mental illness of one or more members often desire change, but may not know how to achieve it within their homes. Family therapy is a safe place to talk, learn and grow together in recovery.
Spouses, children and extended family are often eager to help their loved one who has suffered with addiction for so long. In some families there are deep patterns of enabling and codependency, in others, the behavior of the addict has created layers of resentment, anger and distrust. Family counseling (led by a licensed professional) gives the family and the addict the opportunity to create a new, healthy, sober environment that benefits the family as a whole.
Family rehab can be especially helpful for individuals dealing with and seeking to recover from depression, substance abuse issues, marital problems and challenges with children. Recognizing the central role of relationships in our lives, family counseling seeks to help you connect and relate to the people who are most important to you.
Marriage and family therapy programs will include assessment, diagnosis, individual treatment and treatment of the entire family or certain members in small groups. Individual family members are treated with respect and given the opportunity to be heard. The purpose is not to lay blame but to move constructively toward a place of understanding and reconciliation.
In some cases, counseling and therapy will include team building activities like a ropes course or other forms of experiential therapy. The result is often enhanced and strengthened recovery and sobriety, deepened relationships and a heightened understanding of the needs of each individual.
Positive family dynamics are a main contributor to the success of the addict trying to recover. While you can get sober and stay sober regardless of your circumstances, a functional, supportive, healthy family environment will allow you to heal and grow, while deepening your sense of belonging and your commitment to the family, which in turn motivates stronger recovery efforts.
If you and your family have struggled with addiction and are working through years of heartache and hardship, the help of a licensed family counselor is invaluable. Family counseling becomes a safe place to begin to talk openly and constructively about the issues and challenges that you and your family are facing. Families adopt new, more productive and compassionate ways of interacting with each other. You will learn how to deal with and mend conflict, both past and present. Forgiveness happens, healing is initiated and bonds are strengthened. Family counseling promises a bright new beginning for everyone.