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LiveFree! Coalition Featured on Expert Beacon

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Is your family struggling with addiction? Addiction therapy is difficult for all parties involved because recovery is a slow and emotionally-taxing process. There are many unresolved questions and stress is at an all time high. For those dealing with addiction and for the family members involved, there are unforeseen obstacles and unrealistic expectations. As a result, home environments can become suffocating. Addiction is a complex disease and demands not only professional attention but the assistance of family and friends to successfully sustain recovery. Whether you are exploring how to access treatment for a loved one, need treatment for yourself, or are dealing with a family member who needs to enter treatment, here are a few thoughts to keep in mind.






Do focus on the solution


Remember, there is no cure for addiction. Addiction is a chronic medical condition and the individual in need of treatment, may need on-going therapy sessions and continuing care. Learn how to listen with empathy and offer words of encouragement and support. Your time and attention are sacred gifts and are valuable to those you love. They are some of the greatest gifts you can give to those in need.


Do set realistic goals


As a family begins to attend family treatment and participate in the recovery process, it is important to assess the family’s commitment to supporting the individual who is dealing with addiction and the family’s commitment to building a healthy home to sustain recovery. This requires learning how to improve family communication and learning how to set healthy boundaries, goals and expectations. Allow the individual to make gradual progress in their recovery. Since learning how to trust one another again is key to re-building family relationships, address these issues in family therapy. Building a healthy home to sustain recovery involves keeping family conflict to a minimum and finding ways to live peacefully and harmonious without “drama” and conflict. Celebrate success as a family and keep stress manageable. Have a safe and supportive home, nurturing, kind and calm. Set a realistic goal of learning how to resolve conflict without arguing. However, a non-realistic goal that some families often make is to assume that the recovering family’s home has to be “perfect” all the time without any stress or conflict.


Do grow day-by-day


As a family, grow day by day and recognize that recovery is a daily process. Learn how to let go of the past and watch out for unrealistic expectations. At this point in recovery, it is important to keep feelings of resentment and disappointment to a minimum. These feelings can be used as an excuse to return to substance use to deal with emotional pain. Rewarding and celebrating achievement are important areas for individuals and families to discuss and plan for in family treatment. Celebrations are often occasions when individuals dealing with addiction would likely use drugs. The therapist should ensure that parents and all family members are aware of how to seek help if the individual or family should relapse. The therapist or counselor can help families learn how to celebrate and sustain recovery by learning how to celebrate a new life as a family. Families can learn how to start new family tradition like planning a meal, or cooking together. Make sure there is a role for everyone to be engaged, regardless of age. Walk together. Play a game as a family, like Scrabble or Monopoly. Whatever your new family tradition is, make sure you spend time together on a regular basis.


Do talk about what’s going on


A family functions as an interdependent system. This is why family functioning has a direct and indirect influence on the behavior of family members, particularly those in addiction treatment. Healthy family functioning is critical to sustain recovery and is achieved by learning healthy communication and support examined in family therapy. A therapist can examine family functioning and assist you and your family in healing and continuous problem-solving. If Employee Assistance Programs are available, seek out individual therapy to assist you in the healing process. Learn how to recognize the signs of relapse and when to appropriately intervene. Learn how to develop healthy partnerships within the family, and methods of committing to a drug-free life as a family.


Do implement a healthy routine


Improve communication with the entire family. Learn a new way of living and appreciating life together. Walk together, talk together, keep each other’s spirits uplifted. Reward and encourage “asking for help.” Try not to judge, preach, condemn or criticize. Continue family therapy and support services. Reflect on your progress as a family. Remember that attitude is everything. Optimistic and positive attitudes about the future yield more positive outcomes.





Do not forget addiction is a medical condition


Please get help from professionals. Don’t try to do this alone. Also, there are support groups that are available to assist. These support groups assist in supporting the work of a professional. Please note that support groups are not meant to replace family therapy, or the work of professionals.


Do not become a part of the problem


Stay solution-focused. Do not cover-up for family members or participate in endless arguments. Once again, seek help from those that are experts in the field. These individuals are professionals and trained to implement the best approach for dealing with these situations.


Do not feel guilty for seeking professional help


Seeking professional help and getting the family member you love into treatment is the most loving way of dealing with this situation. Support treatment recommendations. Participate in family treatment with the one you love in treatment. Be supportive of their new lifestyle. Set healthy and realistic goals for self, family members involved and the individual in treatment. Encourage, inspire and motivate each other in the process.


Do not become distant, angry or resentful


Individuals can learn to control anger by learning healthy stress management, like proper breathing techniques. It is important to remember that sometimes those in need of help may lash out with their words and say hurtful things to another family member. These words can only hurt you if you allow them to.


Do not allow your family structure to be ripped apart


Set healthy boundaries for yourself and others. Be consistent with these boundaries and seek help for those in need of treatment. Establishing healthy boundaries as a family consist of setting basic ground rules for chores, dating, driving and curfews. In family therapy, family members review boundaries, parental involvement and authority and healthy discipline. Teaching appropriate approaches to discipline and parental authority is an essential skill for parents to learn. The more information parents have regarding parental authority, the better able they are to intervene in their child’s behavior. During this process parents understand the sources of authority in the family and how authority is maintained in a healthy way. The concept of boundaries is introduced as a major issue in family structure. Our children, particularly teenagers, often test these boundaries. Parents can reinforce these boundaries by explaining to their children that a parent’s role is to prevent them from harming themselves. Rules should be few, arrived at by negotiation between all family members and communication should be clear and concise. During this process, family members will learn how to build autonomy for their self and others while developing their own decision-making abilities and expectations in future relationships.



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Addiction is a disease that impacts the entire family. With patience, support and involvement in family therapy, recovery is possible for the individual and the family. In the end, family bonding and relationships are strengthened.



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    March 8, 2013

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