Addiction and The Family System
When we typically think about addiction, we associate it with an individual struggling with substances. The reality is that the disease of addiction affects much more than that. Everyone in the family system is impacted by this disease. Many times, family members experience similar feelings and symptoms as their loved one. Addiction brings about shame, guilt, anxiety, and loss of spiritual connection. These symptoms are developed from unspoken rules in the family system of don’t talk, don’t trust, and don’t feel. These rules create shame and contribute to the stigma surrounding addiction. Asking for help becomes a daunting task even if the consequences of the addiction are severe.
The stigma of addiction goes deeper than just the family. Our society contributes heavily to those same unspoken rules. So how do we move forward from this stigma and move away from shame? The biggest thing we can do is begin to talk. Talk about the addiction, the feelings you are experiencing, allowing yourself to be vulnerable in order to receive the help needed to battle the disease of addiction.
In speaking with families, their goal is getting their loved one into treatment, however, the process of healing doesn’t stop there. I am asked by family members, “how can I help or support?” The best thing to do is seek help and assistance for your own healing. Because addiction is a family disease, it is important for everyone in the family system to seek their own healing.
What does that mean or look like for the family member as their loved ones are in treatment? There are a variety of resources for the families. Individual therapy is an excellent place to start. It helps break the pattern of not talking in the family system. Sometimes that step can feel incredibly daunting, and please know you are not alone. Another important step is seeking connection. Al-anon, Nar-anon, and Advocates for Recovery offer support groups for family members whose loved one struggles with addiction. Codependents Anonymous and Adult Children of Alcoholics are support groups that offer deeper work and understanding for common issues that occur in the family system.
One resource we offer at Healing Pines is CRAFT. It is a program for family members to build healthy skills and a develop an understanding of addiction that is run by excellent facilitators. If you are feeling lost or struggling to know what next steps can be for the healing process, reach out and ask. We are here to answer questions, provide resources, create understanding around the disease of addiction, and help lift the stigma so you don’t feel alone anymore.