Addiction: It’s a Family Affair

Drug and alcohol addiction…it runs in the family. You’ve heard it all before: the possibilities of a genetic relationship in addiction are probable, to say the least. It’s akin to having a greater chance of heart disease because your mother and some of her relatives had it. Codependency rears its head in this area, and innumerable couples and parents/children often find themselves in the same boat, and this also goes for unmarried couples. It’s also one of the trickiest roads to navigate. Serious, first-class treatment is critical for families dealing with an addicted loved one; but what does one do when more than one is trapped in addiction? Because addiction affects the whole family, it’s essential that solutions are designed to restore the whole family.

In the big picture, temporary separation is almost always the best initial step, especially in detox. While many treatment centers will admit more than one family member at a time, most discourage two or more loved ones in detox simultaneously, and with good reason. Addicted couples and/or siblings are prone to entanglement, and more often than not, this is followed by mutual relapse. There are several ways to go in terms multiple treatments. Due to the fact that often the care of children or other loved ones needs to be addressed, many couples/families do a ‘staggered’ program, whereby one completes detox (and hopefully immediately enrolls in a longer-range program), followed by another. If a couple can separate during detox and get through this successfully, there are many possibilities for multiple treatment. A quick search of the web will show dozens of programs that address more than one family member. The world of recovery is wide open at this point, and depending on affordability, insurance, etc., you can take your pick.

Aftercare of the family becomes all too crucial at this point.  The addicted family now needs to cultivate strategies for dealing with their own relapse issues, as well as other challenges. Most family programs have rigorous programs that include group meetings, individual therapy, as well as informative seminars over weekends. In the seminars, family members and couples learn to distinguish group and individual dysfunction, as well as find new ways to improve communication.

Those recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction, their families, and their children often do achieve model levels of health and functioning, but this is best measured in years rather than days, weeks, or months. It can never be a ‘rush job’. In the course of recovery, families and relationships are reinforced through improved levels of sincere intimacy, and in turn, they are better able to cope with life’s challenges. Over time, the discipline of recovery can bring the family together to be the strongest it has ever been.

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