Families of Addicts: The Impact of Addiction

While most of the focus and attention of the addiction epidemic is on those struggling with substance use disorders, what about the families of addicts? The families of addicts deal with the sleepless nights, calls from jails, hospitals, and always fear the last conversation they had with their loved one may be the last, etc. There are support groups for families of addicts, counseling, and programs. Addiction is a family disease and should be treated as such. The amount of families of addicts being affected by substance use disorders is steadily increasing.

More than 720,000 people died of overdose deaths last year, and of the 20.2 million adults that have a substance use disorder, each of those people has a family. These people are more than a number and a statistic. Their addiction doesn’t solely affect them; families of addicts need help just as much as those suffering do.

Support Groups For Families of Addicts

Since 1951, Al-Anon has been helping the families of addicts and alcoholics. Al-Anon is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous in that they use a 12-step approach to healing. Al-Anon is also a support group for families of addicts and alcoholics. Just as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are a support group for the alcoholics and addicts, this allows a safe place for the families of those addicts.

There are even online meetings through Al-Anon if you cannot make a regular meeting. If your loved one has children, there is also Alateen. Alateen is a support group for children of alcoholics and addicts. Unlike school counseling where they may feel singled out by their peers, Alateen is other teens helping each other through their parent’s addiction in a healthy, safe, inclusive environment.

The families of addicts are deeply affected by their loved one’s addiction. Support groups for families of addicts are a free route for help. There are no memberships, dues, or fees to be a part of these support groups for families of addicts.

There is also a chapter of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous dedicated to the families of addicts and alcoholics. It is called “To the Wives.” In this chapter, there are many suggestions, having someone in Al-Anon or Alateen explain how they applied those suggestions in their life may be helpful to you.

Counseling for Families of Addicts

For some families of addicts, they prefer private counseling with a therapist. Whichever way you decide to seek help is up to you. There are many individual therapist and counselors available that specialize in substance abuse and can help you work through any trauma, grief, or shame you may have associated with your loved one’s addiction. While your loved one is in treatment, whether they be an addicted adult child or your spouse, you deserve to get help as well. Most importantly, remember that it is not your fault. Most counseling offered to the families of addicts isn’t done in a substance abuse treatment setting. Being involved in the treatment of your loved one can be helpful for both parties.

It can be hard to work through some of the more complex issues between the families of addicts and the person suffering in two different settings. Some drug rehabs offer family programs; these can be beneficial because it puts you and your loved one in a safe environment to handle some of the issues that have arisen. Learning how to process your emotions, set boundaries, and not enable your loved one is something that all families of addicts can benefit from.

If your loved one is willing to go into substance abuse treatment if it’s an option to send them to one with a family program that will be beneficial for your entire family, if your loved one isn’t ready to go to treatment or has expressed they don’t have a desire to pursue sobriety, there is no reason for you not to seek help. Codependency is a hard pattern to not fall into when your loved one is an addict. We cannot fix them, and we don’t have to the ability to. The families of addicts don’t have to suffer while your loved one is using. There are also meetings available as support groups for families of addicts who struggle with codependency; they are called Co-Da meetings.

Programs for the Families of Addicts

The families of addicts often feel as if they have taken a backseat in the life of their addict. Each person involved in the presence of an addict or alcoholic is important, and everyone deserves to heal. That is why at GateHouse Treatment, we offer our Family Program.

The way our family program works for the families of addicts and alcoholics is in phases, which start with step one where communication between the family and the addict are restricted. Communication restrictions are for a short period as determined by clinical staff as to what they deem is best for your loved one. You will receive updates on your loved one during this time, finally knowing that they are safe takes a lot of the worry out of your daily life that you had grown accustomed to. Family involvement in treatment is hugely beneficial to the families of addicts and the person suffering from a substance use disorder.

After this period of restriction, phase two begins. The family of the addict starts to be involved in their loved one’s treatment. You are offered bi-weekly or as needed sessions with our licensed family therapist and your loved one. During these sessions is where the family can begin setting healthy boundaries with one another and begin having honest communication.

As stated earlier, with Al-Anon support groups, at GateHouse, we strongly suggest that families of the addicts attend these meetings before arranging face-to-face contact with their loved ones. If you are unaware of where a meeting is near you, you can find one here. It gives the family of the addict the ability to start their recovery while their loved one is beginning theirs.

Everything comes together for the GateHouse Family Program Weekend. Our program for the families of addicts covers many subjects, and it all starts with the education of the disease of addiction. Once the families of addicts have an idea of what goes on in the brain of an addict, it can make it easier for them to move on from blame and guilt. The weekend consists of communication skills, helping vs. enabling and many more practical workshops for the families of addicts and themselves. Addiction is a family disease; everyone deserves to heal.

If you are interested in the programs we offer at GateHouse Treatment, contact us at (855) 448-3588 to start your family on the path to recovery.