It’s no secret that an individual’s drug use of drinking affects more than just one person. During active addiction, it may be easier to convince yourself that the only person you’re hurting is you- but the truth is, addiction can have a profound negative impact on the family members and loved ones of the addict or alcoholic. For this reason, among many, family counseling is an essential part of recovery from substance use disorder.
Why Family Counseling?
Family members of addicts and alcoholics may be resistant to the idea of family counseling. They may think that because they don’t have a drug or drinking problem, they shouldn’t have to do the hard work of therapy and healing. But addiction and alcoholism are disorders that impact the entire family system. Many times, the family members of patients have suffered right along with them. The core issue is not that family members should have to do additional work, but that they deserve the peace and healing that can result from family counseling.
In addition to helping an addict or alcoholic’s loved ones to heal from the pain of watching their family member suffer from substance dependence, family counseling can help both the patient and family members become healthier. When the family heals as a unit, dysfunctional ways of relating to one another are replaced by open and honest communication. Shifting these patterns can help the addict and alcoholic to stay sober in the long run, and can assist family members in achieving a healthier balance and more fulfilling relationships with one another.
Addiction: A Family Disease
What does it mean when addiction treatment professionals refer to substance dependence as a “family disease?” For some, their first reaction to that designation might be defensive- after all, doesn’t that mean that addiction is partially the responsibility of the family? Not necessarily. What professionals mean when they use that phrase is that addiction alters the relationships within a family. When an addict or alcoholic becomes dependent on a substance, oftentimes the family reorients itself drastically. A once-healthy family may begin to experience issues of codependence, anger, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Essentially, because the addict or alcoholic has become so sick, others in the family become sick in order to “meet them at their level” or to continue to stay in a relationship with them. This is usually not even intentional!
And, of course, there are some cases in which the family dynamic can contribute to addiction. This doesn’t mean that addiction is anyone’s fault, or that anyone should assume the blame for someone else’s drug or drinking problem. It simply means that sometimes, addiction is fueled by things like enabling, indirect communication, and people-pleasing behaviors that can exist in a family unit. On a positive note, this means that family counseling can often address the issues that may have contributed to addiction in the first place.
The Benefits of Family Counseling
- The benefits of family counseling are wide-ranging and important for both the addict/alcoholic and for their loved ones. Family counseling can:
give the addict/alcoholic a safe space to express their fears, feelings, and experiences within the family that may have exacerbated their addiction
- present an opportunity for the addict/alcoholic to take responsibility for the ways in which their behavior has hurt their loved ones
- allow family members a healthy channel to express their feelings and to honestly confront the addict/alcoholic about their behavior
- help foster healthy communication patterns
- help family members and the addict/alcoholic to set boundaries, which can help foster long-term sobriety and help family members break enabling or codependent habits
- begin the healing process for damaged or broken relationships between loved ones
- help all individuals involved to set manageable expectations for treatment and create a long-term post-treatment plan
- highlight and begin to address communication, behavioral, and emotional issues within the family
- give the addict/alcoholic and their loved ones a fresh start with a neutral third party, in order to begin building healthier and more intimate relationships with one another
A large part of a comprehensive and holistic treatment program is addressing the many issues that arise for the addict or alcoholic and their family members. Addiction is a complex disease that can be affected by environment, family history, and relationship issues. Family counseling can help patients begin to work on those issues, paving the road to long-term recovery and fulfilling, loving relationships with those close to them. Here at Asheville Recovery Center, we offer family counseling as a part of our holistic care approach and invite you to see the difference healing from addiction can bring to your life. If you’re ready for the healing you and your family need from addiction, call us today at 866-315-8998.