If you are a loved one of someone who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, then you are all-too-aware of just how devastating and debilitating this disease can be for both you and the person that is using. And, the rest of your family suffers a great deal as a result of the individual’s addiction, too.
The term “two sickies don’t make a wellie” is one that can often be heard in family therapy sessions around the country. Basically, it reiterates what some of us already know – that when one of our loved ones is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, that we, too, become “sick” as we attempt to manage our lives based on the actions of the user. We tend to, even if we do not intentionally mean to, enable our loved ones who are addicted by attempting to ignore the fact that they abuse drugs and/or alcohol, continue to provide them with shelter, either give them cash or use our own cash to pay for things like clothes and food, and so on. As we do these things, we prevent our loved ones from hitting rock bottom and stop ourselves from finding appropriate ways to manage our feelings and behaviors surrounding his or her addiction. This is merely just one example of how we, as the loved ones of an addict, find ourselves to be just as “sick”.
Unfortunately, it often times takes family therapy to point this out to us. We have been living life in survival mode while our loved one continues to use, and truly feel that we are doing the very best we can. Sadly, though, we tend to make the situation more pervasive and damaging to everyone involved. Family therapy is an excellent way to address issues like these in a setting where both the family and the addict can work together to develop a healthy way of functioning.
5 Reasons Why Family Therapy Can Help Everyone
In the therapeutic world, families are viewed as systems in which addiction becomes a symptom of chaos and discord within the family. When one member of the system is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, the rest of the system becomes negatively affected. This means that even though some members of the system are not struggling with a condition as painful as addiction, they are still engaging in unhealthy behaviors due to the presence of it in their lives. Through family therapy, however, we as family members and addicts can unravel how our systems are functioning and begin to benefit from the help provided to us.
It is not uncommon for families to struggle with communication when addiction is present. In many cases, communication is non-existent, strained, or fueled with anger and sadness. Family therapy can help everyone in the system begin communicating in a manner that promotes healing. Having a therapist working as a “moderator”, the family can begin learning what approaches, tones, and techniques to utilize when speaking to one another so that everyone feels respected. To start, one of the most effective ways to communicate with family members when emotions are high can include using the phrase, “when you (fill in the blank), I feel (fill in the blank)”. For example, “when you abuse drugs, I feel scared”.
Once trust is broken, it can be extremely complicated to rebuild. In some cases, it cannot be restored. However, when members of a family engage in family therapy, they can begin openly and honestly sharing feelings, thoughts, and emotions in a transparent manner that promotes trust amongst one another. Family therapy can help provide the tools to help re-establish trust, however it often takes time, patience, and the utilization of these tools to restore trust.
When a member of the family is abusing drugs and/or alcohol, boundaries can become extremely blurred. In fact, boundaries might not even exist within the family system, depending on how affected everyone is by the addiction. Family therapy can fix that by talking with each member of the family and asking what he or she thinks are comfortable and acceptable boundaries for him or her. Setting these boundaries, as well as informing other members of them, can help preserve respect and personal wellbeing.
Addiction can easily cause everyone who is affected by it to lose their ability to put themselves first. Instead of focusing on oneself, family members tend to put their needs aside just to keep their loved one who is addicted afloat. This is extremely dangerous, as it typically just perpetuates the problems that are already occurring within the family. When receiving family therapy, however, each family member can learn how to practice good self-care. Whether it is taking time each night to read for pleasure, getting involved in an activity, or simply putting oneself in positive situations only, self-care can help everyone in the family strive to be happy and healthy.
Learning about the family
While it sounds slightly ridiculous to say that family therapy can help you learn about the family you have been in your whole life, it is absolutely true that it can do just that. When someone else, like a therapist, can adopt an outsider’s view of how your family interacts with one another, he or she can help you shed light on the causes and effects of everyone’s actions within the system. Once you know better, you can do better, meaning that if you are aware that when you jump to conclusions, you cause frustration within your family, then you can prevent that action for the betterment of yourself and your loved ones.
These are simply just a few of the many ways in which family therapy can help everyone. The majority of treatment centers throughout the country offer regular family therapy sessions, while others offer either a weekend or a full week of family therapy.
If your loved one is in treatment and family therapy is available for you and yours, making the effort to participate can be extremely beneficial in not only your loved one’s recovery, but yours, too.
Getting Help Today
It is certainly not easy to live in a family unit when one of the members is struggling with drug and/or alcohol addiction. In fact, it can be one of the most challenging times of you and your loved ones’ lives. Thankfully, there are a plethora of treatment options available to not only address the issues that the addict in your family is dealing with, but also the issues that you and the rest of the family are experiencing.
If you and your loved ones need help, please do not wait any longer. Contact us right now to get the help you deserve.
Chris Clancy is the in-house Content Manager for JourneyPure’s Digital Marketing team, where he gets to explore a wide variety of substance abuse- and mental health-related topics. He has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist and researcher, with strong working knowledge of hospital systems, health insurance, content strategy, and public relations. He lives in Nashville with his wife and two kids.