The best approach to supporting someone struggling with addiction is a lot like dealing with an emergency situation on an airplane: secure your own mask before helping others.
As any friend or family member who’s had a front seat to a loved one with a substance use disorder can tell you, watching from the sidelines is really hard. Even though you’re not the one with the “problem”, the feeling of helplessness in the face of such suffering takes a heavy emotional toll. This, in turn, can leave you grappling with feelings of guilt, anger, grief, or anxiety–or perhaps a combination of all the above–which can affect your ability to show up and support your loved one.
As the support network to someone in recovery, it’s important you’re able to cope with your feelings; to be in a good mental place to extend sympathy, love, and grace to your loved one with addiction as they go through the highs and lows of recovery.
The Role of Family Support in Addiction Treatment
It’s well-documented that social support can play a significant role in increasing successful addiction treatment outcomes and family support is particularly crucial. Multiple studies have found that family involvement was a significant predictor of positive outcomes in addiction treatment programs (like this one or this one).
Family involvement can also help reduce the risk of relapse. According to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), family therapy and education can help individuals in recovery develop skills to manage triggers and stressors, which can reduce the risk of relapse.
Family support can also help improve mental health outcomes for individuals in addiction recovery. A study published in the Addiction Science & Clinical Practice Journal found an inverse relationship between family cohesion and support with mental distress.
Programs that incorporate support for families of addicts can improve the likelihood of long-term recovery but, there are other options if you can’t find a rehab that includes family involvement. Al-Anon is a support group for families of addicts and is a great (and free) alternative.
Why Are Support Groups for Families of Addicts Needed?
Addiction can have a profound impact on family dynamics, causing emotional, financial, and social problems. These issues can splinter relationships, harming both the family members as well as the addicted person, who may find recovery difficult without support.
Addiction can cause a great deal of emotional stress for family members. Watching a loved one struggle with substance abuse can be heartbreaking, and family members may experience feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, and anxiety. They may feel like they are walking on eggshells around their loved one, not knowing when the next outburst or crisis will occur. It can be especially difficult for children to cope with a parent’s addiction, as it can impact their sense of safety, security, and trust.
Addiction can be expensive, and family members may find themselves struggling to cover the costs of treatment, legal fees, or other expenses related to their loved one’s substance abuse. Addiction can also impact a family’s ability to earn income, as the individual struggling with addiction may struggle to hold down a job or may spend money on drugs or alcohol instead of basic necessities.
Addiction can also impact a family’s social life, as family members may feel isolated or ashamed to discuss their loved one’s addiction with friends and neighbors. They may feel like they are constantly making excuses for their loved one’s behavior or avoiding social situations altogether.
What Is Al-Anon?
Al-Anon is a mutual support program that provides help and support to family members and friends of individuals struggling with alcoholism. It is a fellowship of men and women who share their experiences, strength, and hope with each other in order to recover from the effects of someone else’s drinking.
Al-Anon is based on the principles of the 12-step program, which were originally developed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The program emphasizes self-care, self-awareness, and personal growth, and encourages participants to focus on their own well-being and recovery rather than trying to control the behavior of their loved ones who struggle with alcoholism.
Al-Anon meetings are available in many communities around the world and are free to attend. Members share their experiences, challenges, and successes in a confidential and supportive environment, and offer each other encouragement and guidance as they work to navigate the challenges of having a loved one with alcoholism.
Like Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon can be found all over the world. Click here to find in-person or online Al-Anon meetings near you today.