“I’m not the addict. Why do I have to go to meetings or therapy?”
As a professional interventionist one of the biggest points of resistance I face with addiction family support is the challenge to get families to engage in a recovery process of their own. After the client arrives at the selected treatment program, the family is challenged to begin engaging in a recovery process of their own. We invite them to begin attendance at a twelve step organization like Al-Anon and if necessary begin to seek therapeutic and/or psychiatric support. In many cases the family members, still reeling from the experience of the intervention, begin to ask themselves “Why do I have to do that? I’m not the addict (alcoholic).” Translation: “I’m not willing to look at my issues because I’m not the one with the problem!” The first of the 12 steps reads, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives were unmanageable.” While family members are not the ones who are compulsively taking drugs or drinking alcohol they are just as powerless over its effects, their lives are equally unmanageable, and they would benefit from proven methods of addiction family support. They lack the power to solve this dilemma without a solution that mirrors the one needed by the addict. They have to tap into a process that allows them to find the power to set and maintain healthy boundaries, clear away the barriers caused by resentments and identify offenses and make amends in the same way the addict does.
In many cases therapeutic or psychiatric support is needed to assist with addiction family support. When a grain of sand enters an oyster’s shell it begins to protect itself from the irritation by forming a pearl. For us the pearl is something of value. For the oyster it is a coping mechanism adapted to deal with the irritation. Families and individuals also develop coping mechanisms. Some of these adaptations are unhealthy and need to be addressed. Sometimes they stem from experiences in our formative years and have nothing to do with the addiction at all. A skilled therapist can be a valuable tool to help an individual or family begin to move through these issues while their loved one is being supported in a treatment program and afterward.
The overall reason that these addiction family support recommendations are made as often as they are is because they work. To my knowledge there have been no independently conducted studies done to track the outcomes of success in cases where families have participated in their own twelve step program. If you were to ask the directors of family programs in any of the top treatment programs around the country I expect you would get a resounding response to the affirmative. I think all the evidence points to the following conclusions when families actively participate in a recovery program of their own:
In addition to finding their own source of peace and sanity…
- Their addicted loved ones enter and complete treatment programs at a higher rate of success.
- There are fewer cases of relapse and multiple treatment experiences.
- Healthier relationships are established because appropriate boundaries are implemented and maintained through the addiction family support process.