Family members of addicts often feel isolated, sad and confused because they don't know how to help addicted loved one. Family members often suffer under heavy emotional burdens such as fear, worry, and despair as they attempt to control an escalating situation.
To help family members better understand how to assist addicted loved ones, Renaissance Ranch is hosting two free family education seminars. The first is Feb. 6 at 6:30 p.m. in Farmington. The second is Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m. in Sandy. Those interested can register at renaissanceranch.com.
Knowing how to be the most effective support person for their addicted loved one can help family members find peace and healing for themselves amid the chaos of addiction.
Christine Dixon, co-owner of the Renaissance Ranch Addiction Recovery Treatment Center and a Utah mother who has been working with the addicted and family members for more than 10 years, offered these tips:
Addiction is a family illness
Addiction affects each member of the family. Addiction is chronic, progressive, and potentially fatal. It is a very serious matter, yet there is great hope! Addicted loved ones are often viewed as bad individuals who need to be good instead of sick people who need appropriate help to become well.
“As a mother with two sons recovering from heroin addiction, I will be forever grateful someone told me to treat my sons’ addiction as though they had cancer, Dixon explained. “If they had cancer, I would research the best hospital, doctor, medication, and treatment. Learning that addiction is a chronic brain disease helped my husband and me to stop judging our sons for their seemingly poor choices and gave us a sense of urgency to find the best help possible for them.
“What we didn’t realize at the time was that as family members, knowledge about recovery principles and practices would not only help us to more appropriately help our sons but would also help us heal in profound ways individually and as an entire family!”
Family members have choices
Just as family members hope loved ones will use their agency to choose to heal from addiction, family members can use their agency to move from hurting to healing.
Dixon said the best advice she was given 12 years ago to help her sons, marriage and family, was for her and her husband to start attending 12-step addiction recovery meetings.
“This allowed us to become educated in the process of recovery and to network with people who had found success and serenity amid the storm of addiction.”
As family members work the 12 steps for themselves, they are able to distinguish the fine line between what is helpful and what is hurtful in family relationships.
Learning how to help
In traditional family meetings such as AA’s family program (Al-Anon), participants learn they didn’t cause and can’t control or cure the addiction. While this may be true, family members often unknowingly contribute to the cycle of addiction through destructive codependent behaviors such as enabling, persecuting, or suffering behaviors.
There is an understanding in the recovery world that addiction is a symptom of underlying causes and conditions. Individuals often report relationship conflict as the primary cause of relapse back into addiction, which almost always involves the parental or spousal relationship.
“Attending Family Group classes (with a 12-step emphasis) while my sons were in treatment was life-changing for me to recognize ways I could support my sons in their recovery and not support their addiction,” Dixon said.
Historically treatment has targeted primarily the addicted loved one; however, studies today underscore the critical importance of involving family members in the recovery process. Doing so can encourage addicted loved ones to seek, adhere to treatment recommendations and increase the likelihood of long-term sobriety.
Family members attending family groups are more likely to achieve peace from the despair of addiction if they help their loved ones find treatment, attend family education groups, and work their own 12 step program!
For free public family group education classes go to renaissanceranch.com.