Family relationships often become complicated when someone is dealing with an addiction. Some family members choose to pull away from their loved ones when they begin to experience fear for their health or anger at their actions. Finding evidence of drug use or worrying about an overdose is frightening, and this might be a family member’s only way to cope. Sadly, it is common for people to enter addiction treatment claiming they don’t have any family when the real problem is that people have had to create distance in their relationships for self-protection. Family roles in addiction can make a huge difference in your loved one’s recovery journey.
Addiction often leaves feelings of guilt, mistrust, and codependency in its wake. These feelings can complicate recovery as the person dealing with an addiction tries to reintegrate into a sober lifestyle with their family members. It is also common for families to simply not know how to respond when their loved one tries to get help. Exploring family roles in addiction gives you a better idea of where you fit into a loved one’s recovery plan and how you can support their efforts toward getting sober.
What Is the Importance of Family Support for Recovery?
Addiction treatment programs are designed to help people address the underlying causes of their addiction. Still, there is only so much that a counselor can do without family support in recovery. A person learning strategies for managing their addiction needs opportunities to practice their new skills at home. For example, they may need a family member to understand how to use positive communication to work through a conflict, or someone might need a loved one to help them work through a craving. Adding family members to a person’s treatment plan rounds out their need for support.
What Are Some of the Family Roles in Addiction That People Play?
When someone is dealing with an addiction, families are in a constant state of stress. As a result, people often take on several typical roles as a coping method. Families in recovery who recognize themselves playing these roles can use therapy to find more effective ways to help their loved ones.
- The Wounded Child – This family member often works hard to avoid generating negativity. They may hide out emotionally or physically withdraw from the family to prevent getting caught up in drama or contributing to conflicts.
- The Scapegoat – In an attempt to deflect attention away from the addict, this family member often acts out and may engage in their negative behaviors. An example of a scapegoat might be a teenager who starts staying out late or getting in trouble at school.
- The Superstar – At first glance, this family member seems to have everything going great. They may excel at school, parenting, or in their career. While they may come off like a shining star, the truth is that this is their way of hiding shame or guilt regarding a loved one’s addiction.
- The Enabler or Caregiver – This is one of the most common roles a family member may play and one of the most damaging for everyone. An enabler may make excuses for a loved one’s addiction or rescue them from financial or legal distress.
How Do You Involve Families in Someone’s Recovery Plan?
The importance of family support becomes more apparent once you begin to see how therapeutic services can help people stop playing out their roles and start responding to each other in more productive ways. Effective recovery plans should include family therapy opportunities that allow everyone to learn new strategies to use in their relationships. Families in addiction treatment programs often spend a few hours a week working together to identify their roles and learn research-proven ways to manage conflicts. Intensive outpatient treatment programs further promote family involvement by providing addicts with the chance to go home so that everyone can put what they learn into action.
What Do Families in Addiction Treatment Programs Learn?
Family support in substance abuse treatment programs takes many different forms. In family therapy, you’ll learn more about how addiction develops and the ways that it impacts your loved one’s behaviors. You’ll also find out how to support your own emotional needs while setting healthy boundaries. Families in recovery programs often return to their outpatient therapy sessions to discuss how using their new support strategies is working. If they run into challenges, they can discuss how to alter their methods with a therapist to fit changing needs.
Do Families Need to Change How They Provide Support in Recovery Over Time?
Family support in substance abuse treatment may not always look the same as addiction makes progress. At first, a large part of the support might be directed towards helping someone manage their cravings and avoid triggers. Later, families will begin working on opening up their boundaries and strengthening their relationships. This is why you’ll find it helpful to continue attending family therapy sessions throughout your loved one’s involvement in an outpatient program.
Family often need to change their dynamics to support someone going through addiction treatment. Attending family therapy sessions or offering emotional support at home may take some work, but the effort pays off when everyone benefits from deepening their relationships. As your loved one works through their recovery plan, be willing to seek new ways to provide them with the support that helps your entire family grow stronger.