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It’s estimated that more than 23 million people over the age of 12 are addicted to substances of alcohol or drugs and for family members, hoping that the problems will go away or get better on their own is a dangerous risk. The family of addicts can play a crucial role in an addict’s motivations to change, get help, and achieve long-term abstinence, but, their efforts can be minimized or empowered based on the approaches the family takes in these circumstances.
The resources available to family of addicts stretch far and wide. As a family member, you are, definitely, not alone. Whether or not the addict makes the right choices, it is important for the family of addicts to pursue their own recoveries and healing.
Whether it is a parent, spouse, child, grandchild, or other loved one, the emotional rollercoaster and despair that other family members suffer is unsustainable, and yet, many families go on to suffer needlessly, for years. Families of addicts find it hard to function as a unit and experience frequent turbulence in the lives of every family member. The relationships that do exist can be psychologically devastating and a larger majority of members in the family of addicts are in need mental health services to than ever before.
According to the SAMHSA, “In the United States, 10.7% of adolescents aged 12–17 (an estimated 2.6 million adolescents) in 2013 had at least one MDE within the year prior to being surveyed. ” This is an alarming trend that parallels the increases in suicide attempts in these individuals. Children who are vulnerable to the addictive behaviors of other family members are more likely to become substance abusers themselves and often lack the protective factors that a healthy family atmosphere provides.
Personal disparities in the family of addicts may include financial hardships, homelessness, neglect, domestic violence, physical or psychological abuse, and a great deal of shame, insecurity, stress, and the covering up of these issues. According to the SAMHSA, “In families with substance abuse, family members often are connected not just to each other but also to any of a number of government agencies, such as social services, criminal justice, or child protective services.”
Advocacy resources can also be found through many avenues including schools, employers, hospitals and local health centers, community sponsored programs, physicians, self-help or mutual aid groups, and clergy. Individual family members are concerned about the addict, but, they also have their own issues and goals. The problems in a family of addicts will not go away on their own and knowing the opportunities that exist to help you will become one of your greatest strengths in coping and making sure that other family members are protected.
Mutual aid groups are nonprofessional groups that provide information, social, emotional, and sometimes, spiritual support for individuals suffering from the disease of addiction and the families of those individuals. Many are adoptive of the well-known and effective 12-step recovery practices established in Alcoholics Anonymous groups. Online sources and scheduled meetings are available for the family of addicts to help them learn to cope with the destruction of addiction with others who share this common interest.
Free, voluntary, confidential, and non-judgmental, these groups help to sustain and support recovery, wellness, and healing with a high degree of insight and experiential successes that promotes hope and change. The most recognized mutual aid groups for the family of addicts are:
- Nar-Anon Family Groups – www.nar-anon.org
- Al-Anon/ALATEEN – www.al-anon.alateen.org
- Adult Children of Alcoholics – www.adultchildren.org
Similar groups may be offered through local communities, charities, churches, health care providers and insurers, or even employers.
There is usually a degree of uncertainty when wondering whether counseling is actually necessary as well as cost and other concerns. Healing broken relationships between a parent and child, spouses, and other loved ones is crucial for the family of addicts. A major goal of family therapy in substance abuse treatment is prevention––especially keeping substance abuse from moving from one generation to another. Study after study shows that if one person in a family abuses alcohol or drugs, the remaining family members are at increased risk of developing substance abuse problems.
Family, individual, couples, and group counseling services can be found on-line and through government, local, and health sources along with those mentioned above. The following, are some on-line resources to help you explore your options to ensure you get the most suitable counseling services without unnecessary delays:
- National Board of Certified Counselors – nbcc.org
- American Psychological Association – apa.org
- SAMHSA – samhsa.gov
- National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence – ncadd.org
A growing resource for family of addicts is professional intervention. Addicts are ambivalent to making the appropriate changes and so are their co-dependents in the family whose lives revolve around the moods and satisfactions of the addict. Addiction specialists are called to intervene on the behalf of the family members, educating and preparing them for the inevitable break in these cycles of despair.
Professional interventions create a formality where the family of addicts can open up to the addict and draw upon their own concerns for ending the enabling relationship and family members are empowered to express their support for the addict and the choice of treatment and the consequences should they decline. By raising the bottom line for an addict, the family of addicts can create the conditions that make the decision to get treatment more attractive.