As a person moves through the stages of addiction treatment, family members and friends are often left with a sense of helplessness. Guilt, resentment, loss, and loneliness are all common—and normal—feelings that are found amongst those with loved ones who are struggling with the insidious disease of addiction.
Addiction is often viewed as a disease of isolation, though its powerful effects do not discriminate. With more than 23 million people across the US in recovery from addiction, countless families find themselves facing the “great unknown” of the events that follow a loved one’s active addiction and subsequent treatment.
As an individual enters early recovery, family members and friends may struggle with the “proper” way to approach the person—and to deal with their personal grief and emotion associated with the addiction. Relationships that existed prior to recovery—particularly those with parents, siblings, spouses, or children—may be completely redefined as the recovering individual discovers sobriety and recreates a future for themselves.
Sobriety is an ongoing, lifelong process. If a family member is in recovery, you may wonder how you can support them in their journey while still allowing them the space to recover on their own. Below are three significant steps you can take to benefit the sobriety of your loved one—and to benefit your own well-being in relation to the trauma of addiction.
Each person’s experiences with addiction are different. Although, at the core of the disease, there are facts that one can learn about in order to better understand the complexities of it. Staying informed on topics related to addiction allows you to gain insight while allowing your loved one to recover independently. Reaching out to others who are further along in their personal recovery can also offer a wealth of insight.
Groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon were founded specifically to offer support to addicts’ and recovering addicts’ family members throughout the different stages of addiction. There are millions of families worldwide struggling with similar feelings and situations related to substance use, and support groups can provide a terrific forum in which you can share your stories in a safe and welcoming environment.
Addiction affects the whole family. Studies have shown that treatment has a higher success rate when the family is an active participant in an individual’s recovery. As the disease leaves behind many wounds, family therapy sessions are a critical tool with which a therapist can address the underlying concerns of the addiction while also creating a framework for the future of the family’s relationships.
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