Families in Crisis: The Importance of Comprehensive Care
When a person abuses drugs or alcohol, their addiction demands focus as it churns constant crises around them—physical, psychological, financial, and legal.
While the addicted person stands at the center of their self-made tornado of destruction, their family and friends are continually bruised and battered by the indiscriminate winds that whip around them.
Spouses, children, parents, siblings, and close friends suffer from disproportionately high levels of depression and anxiety compared to those without an addicted loved one. They are more frequently victims of physical, emotional, sexual abuse, both child and domestic, and divorce rates skyrocket when addiction is present.
Children of those with addiction may suffer the most. They are far more likely to abuse substances in their teens and adulthood and struggle with low self-worth, chronic depression, and fears of abandonment throughout their lives.
So, as we consider what comprehensive care looks like, broadening our view to include the entire family system is essential to the long-term recovery and health of the addicted person and their entire family.
Family systems therapy is one approach that acknowledges both the role each family plays and the ways in which they are affected by addiction and the dysfunctional relationships they have with each other. As the therapist evaluates which role each family member has (often unwittingly) assumed, they begin to restructure the family system to reflect more appropriate, healthy, and supportive relationships with each other.
The tricky part is that families inherently want to maintain balance in their family structure—even when that balance is unhealthy and actually hurts them. But what is familiar most often is what feels safe, and it’s scary to think about doing things differently. The fear of the unknown is a powerful force, especially in dysfunctional families.
Yet compassionately shining a light on how each person contributes to maintaining the problem and gently guiding them in a healthier direction can allow real healing to happen and create an environment in which the addicted person might have a better chance of staying sober longer.
In addition to taking part in family therapy, family members can focus on several areas of self-care as they navigate their loved one’s addiction alongside them.
- Individual therapy allows them to work through their personal needs and concerns with someone focused solely on them.
- Peer support groups like Alanon and Alateen offer the unique support that comes from others who are going through the same things.
- Healthy diet and exercise is often overlooked yet essential when a loved one is suffering from an addiction. Making sure they are at their best physically has a positive effect on family members’ mental and emotional wellbeing.
- Taking time for relaxing and fulfilling activities like reading, yoga, and spending time with friends can help recharge family members, giving them strength to face the challenges before them.