We like to say that addiction is but a symptom of an underlying issue, or string of issues. Someone who becomes dependent on drugs and/or alcohol does so as a coping mechanism for the other things that are negatively impacting their life. And while addiction may have spawned from any number of places, the family plays an integral role – at times feeding the addiction, or potentially subduing it.
Practically no other relationship is as tense or intimate as the one we share with our family members. As such, it can precipitate, or magnify addiction patterns. On a positive note, having a healthy relationship with your family can also help the recovering addict reach long-term sobriety. That’s often better said than done. This is why the Family Therapy Program at Lumiere Healing Centers of Ohio is such a highly recommended add-on within the continuum of care for any of our residents.
In planning the curriculum of the Family Therapy Program at Lumiere Heling Centers of Ohio, our therapy team first takes a detailed look into the history of the addict. Understanding their past, their patterns, and their feedback surrounding their addiction is critical in uncovering their trigger points. From there, we invite the family to join in on a collection of sessions to discuss the many touchpoints that have both led to their loved one’s addiction, while introducing them to techniques to support them in recovery.
Here are some of the topics we cover during a custom-tailored Family Therapy Program at Lumiere Healing Centers of Ohio:
Codependency + Enabling
Often, the most caring parents and family members fall victim to supporting their loved one too much. This can be the most difficult pattern to break for the parent who wants nothing more than to support their child. Codependency is a need to rely on another for emotional or monetary support, even when the relationship is destructive or consequential. Failure to feel independent, or capable of succeeding on one’s own, are also hallmarks of this manifestation. By “giving” your child or loved one anything that you feel will make them feel better, you are really just reiterating to them that they cannot do “it” on their own, and that you will always be there to save them. This can come in the form of bailing them out, giving them money, doing their chores, paying their rent and so on. Codependency can lead to “enabling”, which means that your support (often financial) is contributing to their destructive patterns, or inability to change. While it may be hard to put into practice, ceasing this pattern will force them to learn how to change once and for all.
Trauma is an extremely difficult experience to overcome, and often requires professional help from a therapist or team of therapists to move past. For the family, trauma in a loved one can go unnoticed if the individual never talks about it. Trauma can also be the result of negative family relationships. In either case, the trauma must be addressed in a way that helps the addict move on from the episode or episodes. When the family is not at fault, understanding the trauma can help them empathize with their loved one. If the family is part of the trauma, a secondary approach – where they are asked to seek therapeutic help as well – will be recommended. The truth is that no matter where the trauma has stemmed from, it is critical for it to be addressed and moved through so that the individual can recover.
Practically every person has family trigger points that set them off. Whether it’s teasing about things that make you angry, facial postures, comments, or any one of hundreds of other things that can instigate an argument, we all have these sore spots. Part of the reason for this is that we know our family only too well – and are apt to react to our experiences together, which have evolved over many years. Discussing trigger points in family therapy is critical in helping prevent episodes that may cause regression or a relapse. While it may be difficult to change our patterns or reactions, it’s deeply important to initiate a dialogue that at least addresses these pain points. Only with awareness may we begin to change our family dynamic, and hopefully improve upon it.
For the recovering addict, setting boundaries is one of the cornerstone elements to reaching long term recovery. Whether they set boundaries with people, places or things, they all need to be seriously honored in order to achieve long term recovery. For family members, this may mean that they need to prevent – or be mindful of – people, places and things that may negatively affect their loved one. Perhaps this means limiting or abstaining from serving alcohol, not inviting triggering personalities to family events or changing patterns that have led to their loved one’s destruction (i.e. raucous family vacations). Honoring boundaries is a really beneficial way that the family can support the recovering individual.
As a society, we have gotten the chance to speak more openly about the importance of positive relationships and relationship building with family members. We have also addressed the benefits of therapy in a way that was not more commonly accepted several decades ago. Many of us grew up in a time where sensitive topics just weren’t discussed, or relationships weren’t forged. For many, this dynamic has led to a feeling of loneliness, abandonment and resentment. The good news is that relationships can always be developed. Even if the addict does most of the work, building a positive relationship and mending those voids can provide the healing needed for the addict to really recover.
Another difficult concept for many is communication. It can feel hard or impossible to share our feelings, fears or concerns with one another. At times, one may not even know exactly how to communicate their feelings. This is where therapy is most helpful. With the help of our family therapy team, family members can begin working through simulations that help them better communicate. When we are able to understand what one another is feeling, and how they perceive the situation, it becomes much easier to formulate understanding, rather than pass judgement. Over time, positive communication can help heal the parts of the family dynamic that may have led to abuse, anger and resentment.
We all find ourselves in conflict with family members, and in sobriety, these isolated instances will not simply just “go away”. It’s ok to be in conflict, to have different points of view, and to even regress back into emotions that have caused pain. The important thing to understand is that there are ways to cope and that comes in the form of conflict resolution. Forgiveness is one of the most healing mechanisms we have at our fingertips. Many people live their life in anger due to their lack of forgiveness in others. Conflict resolution is a way in which we can address the issues and move past them, much like the art of forgiveness. Our team of family therapists will work with you to study conflict resolution, setting up mock scenarios to work through. In time, conflict resolution tools can help you and your family more effectively move past disagreements without harboring negative feelings.
Most of all, our family therapy sessions are meant to help the family members offer support for their loved one. This will look different for each family. For some, support may mean not offering financial help. For others, support may mean abstaining from drinking or using around their loved one. And for others, support may simply mean that they offer well wishes without judgement. To feel supported is one of the most important healing mechanisms for the recovering addict. When one feels supported, they also feel emboldened to take on challenges – to overcome the impossible. Having the support of one’s family is one of the most important elements in helping your loved one to really recover, from the inside out.
To learn more about our family therapy program at Lumiere Healing Centers of Ohio, we invite you to contact us at (513) 909-2225. You may also learn more about our facility by visiting our about page.