When someone struggling with addiction or alcoholism makes the decision to enter inpatient treatment and recover, it can be a huge relief for everyone who loves them. Everyone prays that the individual is successful and that they don’t go back to using. Whether the individual is successful or not, there is still a lot of healing that needs to be done and more often than not, family members need support as well.
Many loved ones and family members find that they too feel misunderstood, outcasted, and alone in their struggles. It can be difficult for loved ones to find support in the community, as the stigma of addiction affects both the individual and the family.
Luckily, resources have been created for just this purpose. The really cool part is that they actually allow the family members to work the same steps that individuals in AA or NA will work. Families who heal together, grow together!
The program of Al-Anon was founded by the spouses of the original 100 alcoholics who created Alcoholics Anonymous. They learned that, while their loved ones were healing, they themselves still felt resentment, anxiety, fear, and a need for connection and spiritual growth.
The founders of Al-anon discovered that just because their loved one wasn’t drinking anymore, didn’t mean that ALL of their problems went away. In order for they themselves to heal, they decided to work the same 12 steps that are laid out in the program of AA, which dozens of other 12 step programs have been based on since then.
These twelve steps are:
- We Admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable
- Came to believe in a Power greater than ourselves that could return us to sanity
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
- Admitted to God, ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
- Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out
- Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
One of the greatest benefits of Al-Anon is that it allows spouses, family members, and loved ones who once felt outcast, misunderstood, and taken advantage of to find support, strength, and hope. It is also completely free, requires no initiation, and no minimum or maximum length of participation. It is simply a program that provides family support for those who want it.
A common theme among family members and especially spouses of alcoholics and addicts is codependent behaviors. Many times, these loved ones are well aware that they are hurting in their relationships, but it is often easy to fall into the thought pattern that the addict or alcoholic is always to blame.
Research shows that addiction is a “family disease”. While yes, genetics do play a role in the likelihood of developing addictive qualities, family behavior patterns, generational trauma, and lack of family support have also been shown to be contributing factors among addicts and alcoholics.
Codependent behaviors are often attributed to both the addicts and alcoholics themselves as well as those who love them. Codependents Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who gather to overcome these behaviors such as:
- Denial of one’s own needs
- People Pleasing
- Need for Control
- Depression, Anxiety, Insecurity
- Poor Boundary holding
The unfortunate causation between being in any sort of relationship with an addict or alcoholic is that is can become so easy to fall into these behaviors for members of the family who lack healthy support. Simply through watching them struggle, contributing, enabling, trying to get them to stop, etc., people fall into self-defeating and unhealthy relationships with their loved ones.
Codependents Anonymous is both for people who identify as codependents and have left unhealthy relationships, and also for loved ones and members of the family who need support in this arena.
It can be easy for a parent to fall into codependent behaviors, just as easily as it can be for a spouse, a child, and a friend. CODA is designed for anyone who experiences codependent behaviors to heal and learn to set healthy boundaries.
Family support can also come in the form of therapy. Whether it be as a collective group, or for specific individuals, there can be an immense amount of healing and growth from working with a therapist. For many of us, we can get so wrapped up in how WE see the world, that we struggle with putting ourselves into someone else’s shoes, or changing our own perspective on a situation.
This is where a therapist can come into play. They are trained at deciphering our words and behaviors and pinpointing why we are hurt, where it is coming from, and how we can manage and heal that pain in our everyday lives. Another benefit of therapy is how many different styles are available that focus around family support.
For the loved ones of those who struggle with addiction, alcoholism, mental health disorders, and beyond, family support is available to anyone who is ready!