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Families – And The Roles They Play


“The stones thrown from close-up hurt more than those thrown from afar”

“You can choose your friends, but you sho’ can’t choose your family.” ~ Harper Lee

There’s no shortage of quotes about families, their issues and dysfunction. And, in many cases, those family dynamics have shaped our environments from birth. It is therefore no wonder that families often contribute to both the problem and the solution in addiction and mental health.

For some, the dysfunction may come in the form of parents who mean well, but simply did not have the proper parenting skills – often acting as enablers to addictive behavior. Others may not have offered the warmth or support that their children needed. There are, of course, tragic family relationships with histories of abuse and neglect. Family issues do not have to end in childhood however – relationships and marriages strain, crack and fall apart on a regular basis. The list of dysfunctions is virtually endless. And while many of us believe that we can fight these dysfunctions on our own, it is easier said than done. Ultimately, any and all of these issues can lead to feelings of guilt, low self esteem, mental illness, addiction and even suicide.

The Role Of Family In Treatment

Virtually every drug or alcohol treatment facility will want to include the family in the therapeutic process, regardless of family history. Even if certain family members, or the family as a whole, are not the root cause of the behavioral problems, they can play a significant role in overcoming obstacles. After all, treatment lasts 90 days, but recovery lasts a lifetime. This means that when a recovering addict leaves treatment, they will need rock-solid support and unconditional love.

Bringing families around to help in the therapeutic process can be a daunting and difficult task. Wounds are often fresh and there seems to be no forgiveness in sight. These are very natural and normal feelings that are explored in the family portion of therapy. A counselor adept at their craft can often develop lines of communication between the recovering addict and their families – estranged or not.

When a family is not available, emotionally or physically, friends and sponsors can, at least partially, fill the void. Having a solid support structure can create a safety net that is both emotionally and physically beneficial.

Can people change? It’s a complicated question that has no real answer. However, what we can do is bring out the innate desire for people to have strong, healthy relationships with each other. The first step is accepting behavioral therapy as a viable option to reach that end.