Dealing with the dysfunction
One of the most important facts about addiction is that it is a family disease, which affects not only the addict, but his or her entire family. Similarly, “recovery from addiction is a family affair,” according to Misshay White, a counselor who leads New Life's family support group. Education is the primary focus of the group, White says – giving family members the information they need to better understand what is going on with the addict or alcoholic, and nd out how they can help themselves. A mutual healing process
“They usually think addiction is just a matter of choice; they have to understand that addiction is a disease of choice.” – Misshay White, New Life
New Life's family support group gives family and friends an opportunity to look at their involvement in the cycle of enabling and codependency that accompanies addiction, learn how to take care of themselves, and also ways to support the client. Experts on addiction say the support that a family provides to a client recovering from addiction is crucial to that client's success.
further out, while at the same time learning how to say 'No' and developing coping skills.” She also helps family members understand the concept of codependency, and encourages them to seek out a 12-step support group like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon – programs developed to help the family members and friends of people who are battling addiction. Family members need to learn how to say “no.” They also need to learn how to communicate – “lack of communication is one of the reasons why addicts do what they do,” White explains. “They need to learn the best thing they can do for the addict or alcoholic is to be an example of balance and self-care. We are all still responsible for our own self-care.” When family members get involved in a healthy way, under counselor supervision, the addict or alcoholic has a better chance of achieving recovery, White says. Clients are encouraged to ask their family members to take advantage of the family group opportunity. In treatment, “we let the client know, 'It will work better for you and your family if you heal at the same time.'” Over time, White says she has seen more clients taking an active role by inviting their family members to participate in the group. And “once I share with a client that their family has attended, I can see them take on more responsibility and accountability for their own recovery.” Family members also need to learn that “after they do all that, the addict still has to make a choice: to choose life or death.”
One of the rst things White does during group is make sure family members understand that, as the client heals, there should also be healing taking place within themselves. “Usually, when family members come to me, they have a notepad and pen and a list of questions,” White says. “The rst question is often 'How can we x this person?' Family members often think there is a switch they can turn on or off to get them well; they think the problem is just with the person and not them.” Sometimes, family members don't understand the disease concept of addiction. “They usually think addiction is just a matter of choice; they have to understand that addiction is a disease of choice.” “Living with an addict is truly exhausting,” says White, who provides information on how addiction can destroy families and individuals within the family. She also suggests things the family members can do for the addict and themselves. One of the most important things family members can do for the addict is to take care of themselves, White says. Family members often blame themselves for the addict's behavior, and feel they haven't done enough to help them – or that they may have done too much, White says. An important principle she emphasizes is that “the family members should not work harder than the addict.” She helps family members learn what not to do to avoid “assisting the addict to move further into their addiction – they learn how to stop the name-calling and pushing the addict
“We let the client know, ‘It will work better for you and your family if you heal at the same time.’” – Misshay White, family group counselor, New Life
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