Whole Family Treatment
Substance dependence impacts the whole family. Significant others, close family members, and friends are affected by substance abuse and addiction. Addiction within families can result in generalized dysfunction. As a result, many people can become adult children of alcoholics (ACOAs). To assist in the growth of our guests, we believe whole family treatment can bring together families who are dealing with the effects of addiction.
Whole Family Treatment
Recovery for the whole family, like addiction recovery itself, starts by acknowledging your own needs. If you are expected to play a role in the recovery of your loved one, it’s important that it goes both ways. For this reason, if you try to provide support for your loved one in recovery without receiving any assistance in return, you need to start putting your own needs first and foremost.
Issues can arise when the person in recovery from addiction doesn’t assist in the healing process of their family members. In fact, an unbalanced relationship of give-and-take may perpetuate a “sicker than thou” attitude in a recovering person. In turn, this defines the family as “other” which erases the individual identities of other family members. Unfortunately, the erasure of the individual is a destructive and suffocating part of codependency.
In order for a whole family to recover, the willingness to help each other heal must be present. Similarly, codependent family members must realize that their reason for healing can not be for their loved ones. You can’t “cure” your loved one’s substance use disorder by fixing your codependent behaviors. For this reason, it is important that every person in whole family treatment enters with the goal of healing themselves.
The Importance of Whole Family Treatment
Like addiction recovery itself, recovery for the whole family is not a do-it-yourself project. Whole family treatment requires professional guidance and support from people who share the same experiences. Nothing compares to the insight you can get from those who know exactly what you have gone through.
People say that the five most important words in recovery are “I know how you feel.”
Having others listen to you and empathize with your pain is an immensely healing experience. For family members, sharing their stories for the first time, they often feel like the clouds are finally starting to part.
The genuine connections that form during whole family treatment validate your feelings and erase your feelings of isolation. Once you begin to open up to people, you are freed from the belief that everything is your fault. Similarly, listening to other people echo your feelings back to you reminds you that you are not alone.
The support you can receive from other people who have had similar experiences to your own holds more value than anything you can read or listen to. It is the genuine connection that brings about the most comfort, which is why support groups like Al-anon and Nar-anon exist.
Likewise, seeing other people tending to their own needs and doing something about their own problems helps you to understand that looking after yourself is not selfish. Not only will you recognize that deserve time to heal, but that it’s necessary to rebuild connections with the people in your life. Being around people who freely express their misgivings, pain, and successes can give you hope. At the same time, it will also make it easier for you to stop denying that your life has been difficult.
Getting Past Denial in Whole Family Treatment
Acknowledging that codependency can result from the unhealthy relationship dynamics caused by addiction can be a great relief, because the label explains all of the symptoms you’ve been having while at the same time carrying with it the possibility of recovery.
When codependents are given a name for what they are experiencing, they can distinguish it from being inadequate in their quest to cure their loved one from addiction. This helps family members get past denial and begin to recover.
Most codependents aren’t aware that they suffer from an illness that’s caused by the illness of their partner or parent. They think that they’re just human beings like anybody else, and they simply don’t have the right stuff to deal efficiently with this family problem. They feel like failures because they couldn’t get their partner or loved one to quit.
The truth is, nobody can get somebody else to quit unless that person wants to, and the disease of codependence is not a symptom of weakness or poor character. Accepting the label can open a new perspective on life, provide a new framework for understanding the past, and offer hope for a different future.
It may be strange that someone who is suffering would persist in denying it, but people in dependent families do all sorts of things in their efforts to achieve some normality—however false. Denying the pain is part of denying the problem. Many codependents become so confused, they can’t distinguish between their feelings or their loved one’s feelings.
Changing the Codependent Family Dynamic in Recovery
Using willpower to survive intolerable situations gives the illusion of control—but it is only an illusion. In truth, everything is completely out of control. Having perfected this role, it’s frightening to be asked to give it up. This is especially true if you haven’t yet figured out what’s going to take its place. Codependents often resist this as strongly as if they were giving up something truly valuable.
During family therapy, you learn to replace codependent behaviors with self-love and compassion for your experience. Starting to live for yourself and your own best interests will begin to set you free during whole family treatment. Additionally, you will forgive yourself for past behaviors, knowing that you were trying to help your loved one.
You also learn to accept you can only control your own decisions. While this may sound selfish, addiction is a selfish disease that won’t allow outsiders to control it. The only path to recovery for codependent family members is to focus on healthy behaviors that serve their own happiness.
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