Family members of individuals struggling with a substance use disorder often are on the receiving end of collateral damage related to their loved one’s addiction to drugs or alcohol. When a person goes into treatment, their family can benefit from understanding the unhealthy ways they’ve coped with their loved one’s addiction. Programs for families of addicts can help your loved one and is an essential part of the recovery process for the entire family.
What is a Family Program for Addiction?
A family program for addiction involves the entire family in the recovery process. Addiction is a disease that impacts important relationships in a person’s life. Families might adopt poor communication and unhealthy coping skills while living with an addicted family member.
Family programs for addiction help families learn effective ways to communicate and express their feelings. Some family members, especially children, assume that they are responsible for their loved one’s addiction. They might hold their feelings inside and never learn to communicate their needs within the family. Family programs can help address these often unseen issues.
Family programs also teach loved ones how to support a family member with addiction without sacrificing their own needs. The family members involved in the process include parents, spouses, siblings, children, and anyone else defined as their family. A healthy home environment is essential for long-term recovery.
Families that heal together with family programs offered during rehab ensure the best outcomes for themselves and their loved one struggling with addiction.
What are the Benefits of Programs for Families of Addicts?
Family programs provide several benefits for those with addiction and their loved ones. Many families of those in recovery believe that if their loved one gets help, all the issues in the family will go away. However, addiction in the home creates unhealthy behavioral patterns among all family members. Family programs uncover and address these issues to improve the lives of everyone involved.
Family members of an addicted person might feel like they are “walking on eggshells” around their loved one. They might fear upsetting their loved one or even believe that they contribute to the addiction. Effective communication and active listening during family therapy can help family members learn healthy ways to address their needs, express concerns, and show affection for one another.
Setting Healthy Boundaries and Limits
A person with an addiction needs their family to set expectations for their recovery. They also might need their family members to give them space when things feel overwhelming. Setting boundaries and limits is an essential part of building healthy relationships.
Setting boundaries and limits might feel uncomfortable for family members at first. During family programs, families can practice these skills to remind themselves that their needs matter just as much as everyone else within the family unit.
Recognizing the Importance of Self-Care
Self-care is critical during recovery from addiction and for family members involved in the process. Addiction can put a strain on the lives of those involved. Many people living with a person addicted to drugs and alcohol often put their needs aside for the person struggling.
Rebuilding Trust in Relationships
When a family member has an addiction, others might learn not to depend on this person to help them with their needs. They might feel abandoned or have been let down in the past. Family programs can help to rebuild trust in these important relationships.
Better Outcomes in Long-Term Recovery
Unhealthy relationships within the family can be stressful or enable substance abuse. When the family heals together, the person struggling with addiction has a better chance of success in recovery. Codependency is common in the relationships of those with an addiction. Family programs can help end the codependent relationship patterns that trigger and enable addictive behaviors.
How Does Codependency Play a Role in Addiction?
Codependency can be part of a relationship between someone who has a substance use disorder and a loved one. In a codependent relationship, one person enables another to maintain irresponsible, addictive, or underachieving behavior. The relationship is often one-sided and emotionally destructive. Programs for families of addicts address codependency, as this is common among family members of those with an addiction.
The codependent person often identifies as a “giver” and enjoys feeling needed by the person they rely on, even when they provide things that are ultimately unhealthy for them. The person with the addiction — and accompanying mental health issues — fills the role of the “taker.” They continue their addictive behaviors because the codependent person offers them excuses and protection.
Ryan Potter, MSW, MCAP, ICADC, and Director of Clinical Development for Ambrosia Treatment Center explains further:
“They have good intentions, trying to take care of a person who is struggling, but the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating. When codependents place other people’s health, welfare, and safety first, they lose contact with their own needs, desires, and sense of self. The addict, who can and should be taking care of themselves, has less confidence in their own resiliency and capabilities and fewer motives to change their behavior.”
Symptoms of being codependent can include the following:
- An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
- Making the other person’s needs a priority over their own
- Providing excuses and apologies for the other person
- Focused on rescuing their loved one
- Avoiding responsibilities and relationships in favor of the other person’s life
- Extreme need for approval and recognition
- Sense of guilt when setting boundaries and limits
- A compelling need to control others
- Lack of trust in self and others
- Difficulty identifying feelings and making decisions
Enabling a Loved One
When a loved one struggles, the natural inclination is to offer help. It crosses a line when a person has the best intentions but instead enables the person. What initially feels helpful actually protects someone from consequences that motivate them to change and seek treatment.
If you are unsure whether or not you enable a loved one, ask yourself if you do any of the following:
- Ignore things they do that are dangerous and sustain their addiction
- Keep their problems a secret from others
- Lie and offer excuses for the person
- Blame other people and situations for the person’s addiction or behaviors
- Avoid talking about drugs or alcohol with them
- Provide drugs or alcohol to them
- Prioritize their needs over your own
- Act out of fear of what may happen if the loved one has to take responsibility for their actions
- Feel resentment towards the loved one but still enable them
- Hope or assume that the situation will get better on its own
What can I do to help my loved one?
Only offer help that encourages accountability and a healthy, sober lifestyle.
Here are the six best ways to help your loved one:
- Get educated, so you know what you’re up against — HopeTracker.org
- Attend support groups to get guidance and empathy
- Participate in family therapy to heal together
- Maintain open communication about the recovery process
- Take care of yourself and your own needs as an example of self-care
- Get advice from counselors, sponsors, or other families dealing with addiction instead of trying to solve everything yourself
EXAMPLE: If you had a stressful day at work, tell your family about it and share what you’ll be doing for self-care to manage stress. You can set boundaries and ask for help: “We had a lot of appointments today, and I feel rundown. Can you give me an hour to take a long bath to de-stress?”
What if they’re refusing treatment?
The best way to encourage treatment is through a formal intervention, but this doesn’t look like what you see on TV. HopeTracker has an entire lesson on how to hold an effective intervention. You can also call or text Wellness at (888) 492-3658. If it looks like Ambrosia is a good fit for your loved one, our certified on-staff interventionist can hold your hand throughout the process for free.
What if they don’t want me involved?
We do all we can to convince our clients to keep communication with their families open. The resistance is usually based on their own shame, embarrassment, and lack of commitment. As they work through these emotions, they may be willing to let you in, even if it’s not on day one.
By HIPPA regulations, your loved one in treatment dictates if and what Ambrosia’s Family Wellness team can communicate to you. Our processes are solid, so if communication is lax, it’s not a reflection of laziness or disorganization. As frustrating as it is, your loved one controls the communication about their treatment (by law). But we’ll never stop trying to convince them to open up.
How do you communicate to families?
The Family Wellness team will reach out via call, text, or email several times per week while your loved one is here. We stay in touch long after they leave too. We have families from years ago that we still talk to weekly.
Plus, you can reach out any time. Our responses will be slower from 8 PM-8 AM, but we work off-the-clock to ensure families are taken care of. Even if it’s been months since we last talked, you always have someone to turn to if something comes up.
Communication in Programs for Families of Addicts
It’s normal to want to be constantly reassured that your loved one is OK. After all, you’ve spent months if not years worrying. However, both sides need to understand what healthy communication in treatment looks like. Here’s what to expect from us and from your loved one.
Talking to Your Loved One
Talking daily is not healthy. It becomes a distraction to them immersing themselves in the treatment environment. They need to form their own opinions and deal with sensitive emotions (like shame for hurting you). They’re here to talk with trained therapists and peers to build support networks and get to the root of the issue.
They have access to the phone at least several times a week. If you don’t hear from them, remember they’re adults. They don’t “have” to call you.
They may express a desire to leave early at some point in their treatment. This is not a good sign. In their addiction, they rely on manipulation and excuses. Instead of buying into their story right away, take some time to think and gather the facts. Speak to their therapist to get a clearer picture of what’s in the best interest of your loved one. No matter how “bad” circumstances are that they describe, you should never help or encourage them to leave early without an immediate plan for continued treatment.
You can contact the facility at any time. However, you will not be immediately connected with your loved one. Even in emergency situations (like the death of a loved one), therapist approvals ensure things are communicated and planned for in the best possible way.
Talking with Us
Your loved one and HIPPA regulations dictate if and what we can communicate with you. If communication is lax on our part, they may not have signed a release or designated someone else as the primary contact. The therapist will only call the primary contact. That person should update all other family members.
They can revoke their consent at any time. This usually means they want to keep important information from you and is not a good sign. We‘ll do our best to convince them to keep communication open. As frustrating as it is, they control the communication of their treatment (by law).
Both Wellness and their therapist will contact you once a week with an update, pending a release is signed. If you do not hear from the therapist within 1 week, please call the facility. To provide the highest level of care for each client, therapists cannot be on the phone with loved ones all day.
No news is good news. You’ll be informed if your loved one is admitted to a hospital or leaves treatment early. Instead of worrying when you don’t hear from us, remember it means they’re actively in treatment.
From the outside, addiction is impossible to understand. Spend a half day learning more about the disease and your role in recovery.
Start to communicate your feelings in a group or private family therapy session available Friday or Monday, scheduled with the therapist.
After the session each day, they can get a pass to spend the afternoon with you. In some cases, even off-site. Use the time to relax and reconnect.
Facility Contact Info
Find phone numbers, emails, and the family weekend schedule below for our locations in South Florida:
Begin Our Programs for Families of Addicts Today
Anyone can learn to break the cycle of enabling their loved ones. Getting guidance and support from professionals or other families in similar situations helps you make changes. Ambrosia Treatment Center of South Florida helps those struggling with addiction and their families with our family program for addiction. Call us today or visit our admissions page to learn more.