Ending Enablement and Co-Dependency: The Family’s Role in an Addict’s Recovery

Without a family providing shelter, food, and money, most people wouldn’t have the personal resources at hand to sustain an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, many families think if they don’t “help” an addict by putting a roof over their heads and money in their pockets (symptoms of codependency), that they will either end up in the streets, in jail, or dead. The presence of the addict in the home only furthers the tension, resentment, and overall dysfunction of the family ecosystem.

The good news, however, is that a family taking an active role in the recovery process is one of the most powerful tools in successful addiction treatment and long-term recovery. The family role in the recovery process is emphasized at BlueCrest Recovery Center, as we believe that therapy for the family of a substance abuser is just as important as care for the addict. We believe that teaching the patient to live life substance-free is only one piece of the puzzle in addiction treatment, and we heal the family as a whole.

Chaos: Addiction and Family Life

Tension, resentment, and miscommunication: these are some of the hallmarks of life with an addict. Every person who lives with an addict will feel the effects of an individual’s substance abuse before they enter addiction treatment. Addicts affect their families in several key ways. Although every family is different, most have similar circumstances if they have an addict in the home, including:

  1. Financial Instability. An addict only rarely has the personal resources to sustain an addiction out of their own bank accounts. To make matters worse, full-blown addicts rarely function well enough to hold down steady employment and often don’t have the money to spend even on rent, and they rely on others for food, shelter, and money, all of which can take their toll on the family’s finances. What’s more, the addict may steal cash or pawn valuables from the home to get more money.
  1. Having a substance abuser in the family can be deeply embarrassing. For this reason, the addict may choose not to interact with the family and withdraw from both family and social activities. Some family members, too, might choose to distance themselves from the addicted loved one due to their seeming inability to help the addict and from their friends due to embarrassment.
  1. Enabling and Co-Dependency. These are the two main behaviors addressed in family therapy. This dysfunctional relationship between the addict and his/her family, usually one family member, in particular, often is under the guise of “helping,” but instead it allows the addict to live a life virtually consequence-free.

Dysfunctional Behaviors Addressed in Family Therapy

Part of what is address in family therapy is enablement, which is addressed in family therapy in substance abuse treatment. Enabling happens when one family member removes the natural consequences to the addict of his or her behavior. While this individual just wants to help, it may start out as constructive help but then build into full-blown co-dependency.

A co-dependent individual wants to help the addict by giving him or her money to, for example, stay off the streets. The money only serves to enable the addict to get more of their preferred substance, giving him or her no incentive to change. However, there are many more ways than giving the addict money that fall under the category of enablement and/or co-dependency.

This may include cleaning up vomit and moving a passed-out addict into bed, or even behavior that doesn’t involve the addict directly, like making excuses or lying about the addict’s behavior to neighbors and/or extended family.

The Family’s Role in Addiction Treatment Centers

Staying Strong After Addiction RecoveryA family may feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and helpless when a loved one has a substance abuse disorder. The good news is that addicts can and do recover.

Treating the addict is only part of the process. Improving their treatment outcomes also relies on effective treatment of the family. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), individuals who have family support are more likely to recover from substance abuse. The goal of family therapy is to intervene and change dysfunctional family patterns and bring about productive change to the way the family interacts with the addict. Enabling and co-dependency are two common overarching themes in family involvement in addiction treatment.

Family treatment is a useful tool in substance abuse treatment because it serves two purposes:

  1. Family therapy encourages the family to build on its good qualities and existing strengths and resources, all of which are helpful in aiding their loved one to live life without drugs or alcohol.
  1. It encourages everyone in the family to overcome the psychological damage caused by drug addiction.

Family Support in the Recovery Process

Families can and should take an active role in drug rehab centers, but they must also realize that drug rehab isn’t a quick fix. Remember, addiction is a chronic disease, and no one is ever really “cured” of their addiction, but, rather, continuing in their recovery journey for a lifetime. Addiction recovery is a lifelong, day-by-day process, one made easier with support.

The recovery process doesn’t occur overnight, and kicking the substance is only one part of an addict’s getting his or her life back on track. Unfortunately, some families may feel some ongoing frustration with their recovering family member as he or she goes through recovery. Even if the recovering addict is doing as well as possible, s/he may still face ongoing health issues, continued financial instability, and issues finding gainful employment.

The family may have lingering resentment from the past, but this is the time when the family must be at its most supportive and involved. Staying in family therapy with the recovering addict is the best way to keep him or her on the path to lasting recovery. In therapy sessions, the person overcoming addiction can hear family members describe the impact the addict has had on their lives and the family as a whole, which can provide the motivation to stay on the recovery path.

How Can You Help a Recovering Family Member?

Family's Support in RecoveryPart of the recovery process is learning how to change behaviors that enabled the addict. Learning to stand firm but being encouraging to the addict can be a difficult tightrope to walk, but there are ways a family can help their loved one who is in the midst of addiction recovery. These include setting a positive example, having a good attitude, standing firm with boundaries previously established in family therapy, and encouraging the recovering addict to keep participating in outpatient therapy or local support groups.

BlueCrest Recovery Center Addiction Treatment Program

As a patient at BlueCrest Recovery Center, we take a multifaceted approach by combining clinical, spiritual, and holistic methods to get you back on track and enjoying life drug-free again. Our belief is that we must dissect all aspects of the disease of addiction by healing the mind, body, and spirit—because drugs do not just affect the body. If that were true, addicts would be healed the moment the substance was taken from them. By addressing all three of these aspects, BlueCrest believes that any client can successfully maintain lifelong sobriety.

If you need or a loved one needs family involvement in drug treatment, please call our Woodland Park, NJ drug rehab center to start your lifelong recovery process. Please call us at 888.292.9652 today and learn how we can help you and your family overcome substance abuse and mend bridges with your loved ones.

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