Addiction destroys families as much as it destroys individuals. The disease of addiction does not develop in a vacuum nor can the treatment of addiction be addressed in a vacuum. Just as we know that group therapy is the most effective strategy in treating addicts, we also know that by not involving the family is a weak treatment approach. Family members have been torn and devastated by living as the disease progresses and are feeling more hopelessness and helplessness than the client. They feel trapped in the addict’s world and are baffled by the bizarre behaviors and thinking. They see their family members decline, neglecting their primary responsibilities in the household and see the physical and cognitive functioning declining in front of them, YET, they are helpless and so often are blamed for the behaviors.
Too often, there is severe conflict, marital discord and ultimately physical and emotional abuse. Financial problems typically occur, and legal complications arise frequently. Extramarital relations, medical complications and children become exposed to a dysfunctional home-life, destroying their mealtimes, their sleep habits and they are exposed to radical and irrational behaviors. They see mood swings, they see outburst and confusion. Children tend to blame themselves and unfortunately, they are told in many cases that they caused the problem. Children become scared by these modulating emotions and internal self is devastated. They did not cause it, they can’t control it and they can’t cure it.
Investment in treatment is a healing process; they must learn about this disease of the brain, they must learn that addictions is corrosive, and they can work on themselves and managing their lives. Support groups, Al-Anon, Nar-anon and ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) meetings are encouraged in concert with the family treatment. The healing process is complicated and prolonged. Some of the damage that occurred is difficult to let go; the treatment process does not unfold just because the addict has entered a recovery program and it is important for the family member to give themselves time to heal and not look for spontaneous relief. Taking care of themselves and learning to set new boundaries in their life.