Addiction is a Family Disease

young couple hugging at psychologist officeAddiction is a Family Disease -Dr. Julia Summers, PhD, LPC

Traditionally when an individual in the family is struggling with addiction, the focus is centered on the individual who is suffering with the disease due to acting out with unhealthy, dangerous behaviors that can include, self-harm, suicidal attempts, and possible family of origin domestic violence that can result in legal dilemmas that impact families as a whole.

Many times, shame, guilt, and trauma for the addiction behaviors create significant damage to family relationships, communication, resilience and openness to understand and heal.  It can take years for families to recover from the hurts and traumas and unfortunately in many families the damage is never repaired.  Without question, overwhelming emotions, traumas, education on addictions and lack of resilience to work through and repair relationships can cause families to struggle for years to come.  How can we help these families recover and begin to heal from the pain and suffering?

Listed below are nine ways from the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence for families to recover from the disease of addiction and assist in building resilience, forgiveness, and promote understanding and education for about the dangers and challenges of family resilience to overcome  tremendous impacts by families who are touched forever by this disease.

  1. End Isolation and Connect:  By joining an education or support group. Education is important to understanding the roles and impacts that all family members play in this disease. Having supports of other families facing similar struggles can be fundamental in reduction of the stigma and pain.
  2. Education on Addiction and the Family:  Understanding how addiction affects both the addicted person and the family is an essential foundation to encourage understanding and potential for moving on.
  3. Learn Communication Skills:  Active addiction destroys family communication.  It is critical to develop healthier communication and interactions essential to family recovery.
  4. Detachment and Responsibility for Self:  Learning to detach with love and focus on assuming responsibility of each family member for our own behavior.
  5. Stop Old Behaviors:  Many of our old ways of coping are ineffective and contribute to the problem not the solution:  enabling, denial, blaming and minimizing the problem only makes problems worst.
  6. Engage the Children:  As a parent, depending on ages, you play a critically important role in providing support and protection for the children.  But, engaging them in their own recovery is very important.
  7. Build on Resilience:  Surviving active addiction to alcohol and drugs is never easy.  Use the recovery process as a means of building on your personal and family strengths.
  8. Engage in Personal and Family Activities:  working alone and together to find activities that serve as a source of personal and family fulfillment and spending time to rebuild and work on forgiveness.
  9. Understand and Prepare for Relapse:  Relapse into old behaviors is as real for family members as it is for those addicted to alcohol and drugs.  Family members need to develop strategies for dealing with their own relapse issues including the triggers, enabling, and family dynamics and impact the whole family.
*National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.
 217 Broadway, Suite 712, New York, NY 10007 | Phone: 212-269-7797 | Fax 212-269-7510
Email: national@ncadd.org http://www.ncadd.org
HOPE LINE: 800 NCACALL (24 hour Affiliate referral)

Dr. Julia Summers PhD, LPC is a licensed professional counselor with a PhD in family counseling. Dr. Summers specializes in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and works with all the clients at Viewpoint Dual Recovery Center.