Addictions destructive to families

A family member is having a rough time since one of her adult children went in to a treatment centre for alcohol and drug addiction. I’m concerned that the family needs some help, too, because all of this has been very stressful. This has been a very difficult time for us. Can you help?

  • Feb. 3, 2011 2:00 p.m.

A family member is having a rough time since one of her adult children went in to a treatment centre for alcohol and drug addiction. I’m concerned that the family needs some help, too, because all of this has been very stressful. This has been a very difficult time for us. Can you help?

It is understandable that your family would be feeling distressed at this time. Addictions are serious, complex problems that involve, and significantly impact, the families of the individuals who are addicted.

Often, by the time individuals seek professional help for their addiction, the family’s life has changed in significant ways, and they are suffering their own emotional duress, and feeling exhausted.

It is great that you are seeking help for yourself and family. Often, in families with addiction problems, the members feel isolated and alone in their circumstances.

By seeking information and reaching out to your family members in this way, you are initiating an opportunity for all of you to reconnect, heal, and strengthen yourselves.

Guilt, shame, frustration/anger, and fear, are some of the intense emotions experienced by family members and individuals with addictions. Talking together about the addiction, without judgment or blame, may help to remove the secrecy and stigma that interferes with recovery for all affected.

This is potentially a time of rebuilding relationships in the family through positive sharing of experiences, emotions, thoughts, and comfort. Family members may also benefit from formal or informal support groups that offer ways to make positive social connections with individuals outside of the family who are living similar circumstances (e.g., 12-step, community services).

By educating yourselves about addictions you will increase your understanding in important ways, and improve your ability to recover and support your loved one’s recovery from addiction, during and after treatment.

Significant education will include why/how people develop addictions, treatment approaches/options, recovery time (it’s not a “quick fix”), why it’s difficult to stop/recover from addiction (e.g., alcohol, other drugs, sex, tobacco), and factors that help and hinder long-term addiction recovery.

For example, it is known that many variables influence the development of addiction to alcohol and drugs, including brain chemistry, social circumstances (e.g., family, peers), medical problems, psychological characteristics, personal coping abilities, and life experiences. The Internet (e.g., Health Canada, HBO.ca/addictions), book stores, libraries, and community and private mental health and addiction services can be good sources of information on addictions.

The time of treatment and recovery for the addicted person is a time of recovery for the family members. When the addicted person enters treatment, the family’s intense focus on their loved one, decreases.

This is an opportunity for family members to refocus on their own needs, including re-engaging in leisure activities, friendships, work, and school, and seeking the help of positive support groups, and a knowledgeable counsellor, when necessary, to assist their recovery process.

If you would like to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at askpacific@shaw.ca; or fax the Record at 250-338-5568 or write to them c/o the Record. Consult a Counsellor is provided by the registered clinical counsellors at Pacific Therapy & Consulting: Nancy Bock, Diane Davies, Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead and Karen Turner. It appears every second Friday.

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