Johan Hari says, “The antidote to addiction is connection.” and I couldn’t agree more. I’d like to take that a step further and include the family in that statement. The family can become as isolated as the addict, perpetuated by the same feelings of guilt and shame the addict or alcoholic feels associated with their addiction.
Addicts or alcoholics isolate from friends and family, chasing the high, wanting to be with people who accept their addiction or alcoholism without judgement, criticism or mockery. They remove themselves from family functions, close contact and interactions because they don’t want to answer the questions, hear the comments or be subject to what they perceive as interrogations. They don’t know how to deal with the guilt and shame except to stuff it with more drugs or more alcohol. The family removes themselves from the addict’s life because they can’t stand watching their loved one in pain or they’ve been told to walk away, be tougher or stop helping – tough love.
The family also feels the isolation, but without the substances to buffer the feelings.
Four things happen to the family members
Both the addict and the family members experience significant isolation as part of the cycle of addiction. The interesting thing is, if the family members can break their isolation and develop a community of supportive people who understand their situation, the healing for everyone, including the addict, can begin. Family members no longer feel judged. They can speak freely about their experiences without fear of being chastised or being ridiculed. They have people they can confide in and no longer feel like an island, all alone. Moms can connect with other moms and immediately begin cultivating a bond. No one empathizes like another mother. The same can be said for dads, spouses, siblings, children and other family members. A bond is formed and suddenly, family members feel accepted. They have empathy for each other and they can deal with the guilt and shame they have experienced with others who have no comprehension of the family’s experience.
As the family members let down their guarded fortress of feelings, they start to share their challenges and their behaviour, aware they are no longer feeling the judgement and scorn that caused them to isolate in the beginning. They begin to listen to the experiences of others and a connection is formed. This bond becomes the connection that keeps the family from spiralling further into the isolation of addiction.
Five things happen to the family.
How do families find connection with others? There are several avenues.
12-step programs for families and friends.
SMART Recovery Family and Friends
Based on science and CRAFT (Community Reinforcement Approach Family Training), Smart recovery family and friends is an alternate approach from 12-step fellowship. Families are given tools to help the addicted loved one find recovery.
Families Do Recover - Family Support Groups
Families Do Recover offers three different support groups for families.
For more information about any of these program, please click on the associated blue link. The staff at Families Do Recover is more than happy to guide you to the appropriate group for your needs. Book a free 15-minute consultation and get started on building connections and lasting friendships.
is a Vancouver-based Addictions Specialist and Family Therapist with training and experience in numerous areas related to healing and recovery from the devastation of addiction & alcoholism.