Alcoholism takes a devastating toll both on the person who suffers from it and their family and friends. When you love and care about someone, watching them spiral into alcoholism is a painful and life-altering experience. It’s no wonder, then, that alcohol treatment doesn’t just seek to treat the alcoholic. The purpose of treatment is to treat the entire network of people who have been affected by the alcoholic’s life and by extension put a healthy family unit back together during recovery. So how does alcohol treatment aid in healing relationships after active alcoholism?
Alcoholism and Family Dynamics
If an alcoholic lives with a spouse or partner and then children, there will be certain family dynamics that come into play during active use. The family will see the alcoholic’s personality change, experience financial hardship with the alcoholic, and experience any violence or turmoil that results from use. It’s not just the alcoholic in this situation. Even if an alcoholic lives alone, family and friends will witness their gradual descent into alcoholism and experience the tragedy of loss as the alcoholic loses jobs, friends, financial stability, and health.
When something happens to the alcoholic, it happens to the people that love them. For example, if an alcoholic is arrested for a DUI, the whole family may suffer financial consequences and loss of stability. Even if the family doesn’t live with the alcoholic, they will worry for their loved one and feel sad that they are in jail. They’ll worry about the alcoholic’s safety and not know if they’re okay. The alcoholic’s lifestyle will inevitably change family dynamics from something healthy to something very unhealthy. Fights may occur, both verbal and sometimes even physical. During recovery, the goal is to assess the unhealthy parts of the alcoholic’s addiction and then replace that with the healthy boundaries and lifestyle of recovery.
Family and Group Counseling
Multiple organizations exist that operate separate from AA. A good many of these services offer group meetings for families of recovering alcoholics. The idea is that when an alcoholic has lived with the family, the family also has to recover from the unhealthy mentality that they’ve endured during the alcoholic’s active addiction. Families get well, too.
Individual counseling and then group meetings give families the benefit of both psychological help to cope with what they’ve lived with during active addiction and then provide a support network that will help them as they go through the beautiful stages of recovery. Recovery can be an uphill battle, too, but once you get over that hill, it is an inspirational view at the top with a whole new world laid out before your eyes. Family counseling and group meetings help:
- Give you fresh insight on what others also go through with alcoholism
- Provide an outlet to discuss your resentments and pain
- Create opportunities for fun social outings that are healthy
- Create an entire new group of healthier people to get to know
Healing Takes Time
Just like the alcoholic has to work through loss and grief and then learn how to live sober again, the family unit also has to learn these same lessons. Dad/mom/step-parent won’t be drinking anymore. A sibling who had a problem will no longer be drinking. It’s like the calm after the storm where nobody quite knows what to do first or how to enjoy life in this brand new, healthy environment. Wounds from the past might still spring up. Children of alcoholics may have resentments that they have to work through; alcoholics who have suffered to get well will obviously be hurt when things don’t just go back to normal. These things are all part of the healing process.
Before beginning the journey, it’s wise to accept that healing takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight, nor should it. Savor the journey, even when it gets rocky. The early days of recovery are full of obstacles, old resentments, and sometimes pain and anger. It’s okay. What matters is that the entire family cares enough to heal together and grows stronger with every passing day they’re able to enjoy newfound sobriety on the part of their loved one. Professionals are trained to help family units understand the dynamics of alcoholism and how it has affected them so that they can create a new, healthy life together. No one is alone in this struggle.
If your family needs to heal, please call now at 302-842-2390.