Family Therapy: Your Time For Treatment
When you love someone who has begun outpatient or residential treatment for substance abuse, it’s important to seek guidance so that you can be an effective part of that person’s recovery. While almost all rehab centers include family therapy as a component of treatment, you also need to find others like yourself so that you can share your experiences and realize that you’re not alone in your struggle to recreate your family.
Certainly the family group counseling at the rehab center will help, and it’s important to participate in those sessions. They give you opportunities to communicate directly with the counselors who are working with your loved one; they are then better able to assemble a true picture of what’s going on in his life. You also need to understand why this person has been lying to you, stealing from you, and totally throwing your love and trust right back in your face.
You’ve also heard of Al-Anon groups that offer parents, spouses, siblings, and children of addicts the opportunity to meet and learn how to apply the 12 steps to their own situations. Another option in some areas is Families Anonymous. Visit the Families Anonymous website and click on U.S. Group Listing to find out if there is a meeting near you.
At Families Anonymous, and indeed throughout your individual and group sessions, you will learn about issues such as codependency, enabling, and detachment. You’ll come to understand what “tough love” really is and how you deliver it. These concepts are important because you cannot continue the old patterns of covering up his behaviors and letting him off the hook for his responsibilities.
Over the past 30 or so years, we as parents have developed parenting patterns that let the abuser escape the realities of life. From the time our kids were in kindergarten, we swooped in on our little parenting helicopters to rescue them—whether we fought their battles when a mean kid bullied them, gave up our free time to entertain them, or did their homework because the teacher was just expecting too much. If a child or parent in the neighborhood came to us with some accusation against our child, we angrily defended him, because how dare someone else butt into our business?
Unfortunately, we produced a generation or two of children, now grown into adults, who are totally bewildered at the idea of being held accountable for their actions. Even if they hold down jobs or have families of their own, they depend upon some other person to continue your pattern of covering up their defects and rescuing them. When they discover they have developed a substance use disorder, they most often refuse to go into treatment unless they are backed into a corner, either legally or by some family- or employer-issued ultimatum.
As someone who still loves the addict, you’ve got to learn to stop rescuing him. If he loses his job or a college scholarship or has to stay in jail because you won’t bail him out, those are the consequences of not getting treatment for his addiction. You can learn detachment, which refers to the ability to put distance between yourself and the addict. You can learn tough love.
Both Families Anonymous and Al-Anon offer 12-step programming for people who love an addict. You will learn to recognize your actions that enabled his addiction to persist and you will have to face some of the mistakes you may have made. But you won’t be doing it alone. While the person you love is admitted into residential treatment for substance abuse, you can take steps to ensure that when he comes home to you, it will be a new environment, where you can both move forward into the happier existence you both always dreamed of.