When people hear the phrase, “addiction is a family disease,” they often think it’s implying that there’s a genetic aspect to substance use disorders. What it really refers to is the fact that the impact of substance use disorders extends beyond the afflicted individual, affecting family members and loved ones as well.
A parent may be unwilling to accept the gravity of their child’s addiction, a spouse may be baffled by their partner’s relapse, a child may be isolating over substance misuse in their family. Like their loved one battling addiction, these family members also need recovery.
What Does Family Recovery Look Like?
The hope for family recovery is to help families support their loved one without contributing to their substance use disorder. For each family this will look different. It may be a matter of facing up to denial or confronting internalized stigma. Some family members emotionally exhaust themselves trying to “cure” their loved one. Setting healthy boundaries can be vital to addressing issues like these.
The concept of completely cutting the family off from the individual until they agree to treatment—sometimes referred to as tough love—was once a popular directive given to families of people with substance use disorders. In recent years, though, more people are coming to understand that a family can provide love and support without contributing to their loved one’s addiction. Setting a boundary not to give their loved one money but offering to help with food or other vital resources is one example of how a family can navigate a situation like this.
Prioritizing Family Wellness
Outlining a family wellness plan is also a helpful step to take. This could entail discussing what the family plans to do in the short term, what they plan to do in the long term, and how they might react to certain outcomes. This type of planning can add a sense of stability to what often feels like a very chaotic time. It can also help establish healthy boundaries and a foundation for family members to outline personal wellness plans.
To provide resources for families dealing with substance misuse issues, Spectrum Health Systems and the New England Recovery Center partner with Magnolia Recovery Resources to offer the weekly FAST© Family Support Meeting Series. At these free meetings, family members are offered education on addiction-related topics, such as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), overdose prevention, or the different stages of recovery. Family members then have the chance to share and discuss experiences before the meeting closes with a self-care activity like meditation.
With the holidays fast approaching, some families with members battling substance use disorders are inclined to wait until the season passes to encourage their loved one to seek treatment. But it’s never advisable to wait. Even when facing the daunting task of restructuring holiday gatherings to accommodate someone’s treatment, being proactive and addressing concerns is always better than simply tolerating the circumstances. By setting healthy boundaries, having flexible expectations, and maintaining transparent communication, families can better navigate the road of recovery.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call the New England Recovery Center today at 1-877-MyRehab.