At one time, addiction was considered a voluntary ailment. It was believed that when someone struggled with a substance abuse problem that it was their chosen course. They wanted to drink or do drugs. Fortunately, time has altered these ill-founded beliefs. Today, the medical community views addiction as a chronic, debilitating disease that sometimes irreversibly impacts the brain and body. Although addiction affects the individual who uses, they are not alone in their struggle. When someone struggles with addiction, it is not uncommon for them to do or say things that inflict emotional pain and discomfort on those they care about most. This happens due to what a struggling individual may say or as a result of how their behaviors and moods change in harmful and often self-destructive ways. These are among the many reasons why family members, and those struggling with addiction, can benefit significantly from family therapy and support groups like those offered at The Hills in Los Angeles, California.
How Addiction Impacts the Entire Family
Unfortunately, there are no limits and no immunity to which members of the addict’s circle of friends and family are impacted by addictive behavior. Their family members, friends, spouse, children, and even coworkers all service witness to their loved one’s mind and body experiencing drastic changes. During this process, the home or work environment becomes toxic as moods and behaviors begin to change. Trust and communication are often the first things that are compromised as arguments and misunderstandings become a day-to-day occurrence.
Two common ways that substance abuse affects the family is through the loss of long valued relationships and increasing financial difficulty. Substance use and addiction, whether to alcohol or drugs, is incredibly costly. Depending on the severity and substance of choice, addiction can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars every month. These financial impacts often ripple throughout the entire family. Eventually, when addiction has been a struggle for an extended period, liquid resources often dry up, and the addict must turn to their family (and friends) for financial support. Sometimes, people will loan them money, believing it is for other uses such as paying bills or buying food. Unwittingly, they enable their addictive habits. In other cases, family and friends will help the addict by giving them money, buying alcohol for them, or helping them obtain their drug of choice. In addition to these forms of financial assistance, family members who may be desperate to see their loved one get the addiction treatment they so desperately need drain personal financial resources such as savings accounts, retirement accounts, or even take out a mortgage on their home to help pay their required funds for rehab.
Addiction also has a detrimental impact on the relationships an addict has with their family. Unfortunately, families are a vital resource for those who struggle with addiction, and it is essential to maintain these relationships whenever possible. Unfortunately, many family members are not emotionally equipped to help someone with an addiction. Despite all best intentions, family members often engage in enabling behavior or stigmatize (whether intentionally or unintentionally) their loved one’s substance abuse. It is not uncommon for family and friends to focus their support so intensely on the person with the addiction that they forget to support one another throughout the recovery process. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, supportive relationships, including family support, are one of the four pillars of essential recovery. Some medical community members refer to addiction as a family disease because one family member’s addiction ultimately has a detrimental impact on the other members of the family. Therefore, when family members attend therapy or support groups, it also positively impacts the family as a whole. Not only do family therapy and support groups help the family heal from the dysfunction that addiction has caused, but it also increases the chances that their loved one will inevitably seek help for their addiction and maintain long-term sobriety.
How Family Therapy Helps in Addiction Treatment
When family members have a loved one struggling from substance abuse, loneliness is one of the most common challenges they face. In some cases, feelings of loneliness are coupled with stronger emotions of anger or depression. The anger people feel is directed in different ways. Sometimes it is directed at the individual struggling with addiction, and sometimes it is turned inward. Family members sometimes find themselves angry because they feel as though they have failed as a parent or spouse due to their loved one’s addiction. Family therapy in addiction treatment helps family members find the support that is essential to understanding their loved one’s substance use disorder. Family therapy can also help to ease anxiety and frustrations by helping family members understand that their loved one’s addiction is likely not something they could have controlled.
The goal of family therapy is to provide individuals and their families with support and education on the disease of addiction and how addiction impacts the family unit. Our family therapy programs at The Hills in Los Angeles are designed to assess your family’s needs and provide education about chemical dependence while offering ongoing family support during and after your loved one completes substance abuse treatment. We understand that the disease of addiction has significant physical, social, and emotional consequences for both the individuals seeking addiction and for their family and significant others who have been impacted by the disease. At The Hills, we believe the family is an essential component of your loved one’s recovery. Therefore we seek to involve family members in addiction treatment and throughout the recovery process.
What Do Family Therapy and Support Groups Look Like?
Fortunately, there are many different types of support groups and family therapy models. Some support groups follow steps similar to that of the 12-step program invented by Alcoholics Anonymous. For family members who prefer a different model, there are other informal groups and individual therapy options available. These organized support groups will have many people in the room, sharing stories of their struggles with family member’s substance abuse. They may be held in various settings ranging from private therapy offices to community buildings such as churches. During these meetings, it is not uncommon for family members to disclose painful stories and memories of seeing their family members under the influence of drugs and alcohol. A significant positive outcome of support groups like these is the feeling of community that develops over time. It is essential for family members with a loved one struggling with addiction to understand that you are not alone. Participation in support groups like these can help family members to develop relationships with individuals who share the same path and can provide support along the way. Examples of public support groups many are familiar with include Nar-Anon (for family members of addicts), Al-Anon (for the family of those addicted to alcohol), SMART, and CRAFT. Also, there are other programs geared toward specific groups. For example, PALS for parents of those struggling with addiction and grief centered support groups like GRASP help families who have lost a loved one due to addiction-related overdose.
In today’s technology-friendly settings, online support groups are becoming more popular than ever. They provide an easily accessible way for family members and friends to gain the support they need, without the discomfort of face-to-face vulnerability, which is often experienced in an in-person setting. Family members can also benefit from support groups in an online environment when their schedule inhibits their ability to attend an in-person support group. Online groups range in size from large to small and often involved family members of addicts at various recovery stages.
Similar to support groups, family therapy can also take place in a variety of different settings. At The Hills, our family therapy programs focus on the entire family’s relationships. They aim to help provide understanding and validation for each family member’s experiences, including those of the person seeking treatment. During therapy, a trained family therapist will explore with the family members how the cycle of substance use has impacted them individually and as a family unit. As mentioned above, they will also provide education about substance use and support family members in reducing behaviors that are enabling.
The family’s ability to play a healthy and compassionate role in addiction recovery is essential for many addicts to avoid relapse after completing addiction treatment. It is important to avoid trying to “treat” your loved one’s addiction on your own. A substance use disorder is a chronic disease. It should be addressed by professionals who are trained in evidence-based addiction therapy and medical professionals who can be available to help with the potential side effects of detox and withdrawal. In the past, it was not uncommon for family members to try to conceal a loved one’s addiction or for addicts to seek isolation to avoid the embarrassment of admitting two friends and family that they have a substance use disorder. It is essential for family members to speak with compassion and do their best to support their loved ones on their addiction treatment journey. However, convincing your loved one to seek treatment is only the first step. The next step is to find an appropriate program that suits their needs and can provide adequate therapy for both your loved one and your family. Without family therapy, many family members are not strong enough, nor have family relationships healed sufficiently to help their loved ones. Family members, spouses, and friends often need therapy, counseling, and peer support to learn the most effective and healthy ways to cope with their unique emotional challenges related to their loved one’s addiction.
At The Hills in Los Angeles, CA, we offer multiple treatment programs designed to treat your loved one’s addiction. We also understand the critical role that family plays in ensuring your loved one’s long-term recovery. We will work with you to ensure both your loved one and your family have access to the vital help they need during treatment and throughout the recovery process. Addiction can have a detrimental impact on families, and if left uncontrolled, addiction can permanently damage relationships. Make today the day that your family vows to confront addiction. Contact us at The Hills in Los Angeles today.