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What Role does Family and Friends Play in Addiction Recovery?

What role does family and friends play in addiction recovery, addiction
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What role does family and friends play in addiction recovery? Substance abuse and addiction can damage the dynamics of family and friendships, erode trust, and weaken communication. Family and friends who experience one battling with a substance use disorder (SUD) often endure a host of painful emotions. Equally frustrating is the hopelessness the individual feels in response to substance abuse. Family and friends may feel at a loss when seeing one caught in the grips of substance abuse. However, family and friends can help their loved one achieve and maintain sobriety. Despite seeing one struggle, family and friends can ideally play a major role in the treatment process. The role of family and friends in addiction recovery is large and important.

Dysfunctional Roles Family and Friends Can Play in An Active Addiction

The family or friend that is impacted by substance abuse inevitably develops into a dysfunctional system. In this system, members unknowingly take on “roles” to cope. These roles have been named many things, and this is a version of what they are and how they play out. What role does family and friends play in addiction recovery?

The Savior or Hero

The Savior or Hero is the shining star of the addicted family or friend system. They look good, achieve well, and never disappoint their family or friends. They compensate for the shame the family or friends feel around the addict by being the family or friend superstar. They may cover for the individual with a SUD, attempting to make the individual look pleasing to everyone. They may be in denial, overlooking major problems that require professional intervention. They also compensate for feeling empty and helpless due to the dysfunctional family or friendship dynamic.

The Mascot

The Mascot provides comic relief for hyper-stressed family members or friends. Sometimes humor is tactlessly aimed at the individual suffering from the SUD. The Mascot uses humor to minimize the pain in situations and to deflect hurt. This often becomes a maladaptive coping skill.

The Lost Child

The Lost Child hides out, both physically and emotionally. They can be counted on to never “rock the boat.” They avoid conflict and suppress their emotions. They do not drain the limited emotional resources of the family members or friends but suffer deeply internally.

The Scapegoat

The Scapegoat is the person in the family or friendship who is blamed. The Scapegoat creates other problems and concerns in order to deflect attention away from the real issue. They are very successful at distracting other family members and friends from the individual with a SUD.

The Enabler/Rescuer/Caregiver

The Enabler insulates the addicted individual by excusing their behaviors. The Enabler is unwilling or unable to hold the addicted individual accountable for their actions. They smooth things over and run interference to keep the addict from experiencing the logical consequences of their poor choices. This behavior often stems from their desire to avoid shame and embarrassment. They will often stunt the addict’s ability to recover if they don’t change their patterns.

Healthy Roles of Family Members in Addiction Recovery

What role does family and friends play in addiction recovery? Family members can assume healthy roles and behaviors to encourage and support recovery. For example, a parent may play the role of a supportive but firm caregiver who encourages their loved one to take thoughtful and positive action. Healthy family roles and behaviors include holding the loved one accountable for their behavior and creating rewards for positive choices. Family members may attend support groups with their loved ones or attend their own support groups for families of addicts. The creation of healthy boundaries is a building block of recovery for the family.

Family Involvement in Adolescent Substance Abuse

Adolescents battling SUD are often profoundly affected by it. Since adolescents are still developing social and behavioral patterns, early substance abuse can complicate future events. For example, adolescents are more likely to struggle with a lifelong SUD if they do not get help at a young age. Adolescents may also explore many drugs, seeking strong and novel highs. They may even combine several chemicals, unknowingly increasing the risk of a fatal overdose. The role of the family is important at this stage, as they can intervene in their young loved one’s life to discourage drug use.

Family members and others involved may feel frustration as the adolescent skips school, gets poor grades, or befriends other teens who abuse drugs. Family members often feel anxiety over their child’s whereabouts and sudden changes in their social circles. In response, primary guardians and parental figures demonstrate a wide variety of behaviors and attitudes. Some may tune in and out, being inconsistently emotionally available for their child. Others may feel denial and misdirect their anger, sparking communication breakdowns.

It also is not unheard of for a parent to abuse drugs or alcohol in response to teens abusing harmful chemicals. In such cases, parents must be mindful of being an example of strength for children. Strong support and connection can help encourage their teens to get clean and possibly reduce the rate of relapse. 

 Support Groups and Addiction Treatment

Both inpatient and outpatient facilities offer support groups for patients to connect with peer groups. Among the most common are the 12-Step groups. 12-Step groups offer personal accountability and spirituality to help maintain sobriety.

Al-Anon is a support group focusing on families and other relationships affected by substance abuse. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, and cousins, as well as other close relationships such as friendships, discuss their challenges regarding the substance abuse of the individual. Like other 12-Step groups, Al-Anon members use spiritual themes to encourage acceptance and compassion.

Ala-teen is another support group that includes teen family members and friends that can help each other heal and discuss complications from witnessing the one who abuses harmful substances. With both support groups, all involved can feel connected to the recovery process and provide input on their experiences.

  Narc-Anon sees the involved members of the individual who have become dependent on Narcotics discuss and problem-solve in a group setting.

And finally, and most importantly the church often has supportive groups, which can offer that spiritual support as the process of gaining one’s recovery can weigh heavily on all involved. Through one-on-one and family counseling this type of ministry can bring comfort to weary hearts. 

Get Help Today

Our families and friends are a part of our most valuable support groups, even though the damage done by abusing harmful substances can be lasting. However, there is hope for both the family members and associates of the individual suffering from a SUD and for the individual abusing harmful chemicals. Select facilities may offer family therapy, incorporating innovative communication exercises, and relationship-strengthening activities led by licensed therapists.

Know that it is never too late to fix broken relationships with the help of our Care Coaches, medical health professionals, the church, and support groups. Reaching out and requesting help is the first step in getting started. You can go forward in your life.

There is true hope for you. Please watch the Great News video on this page for more information.

We invite you to watch the “Great News” video on this page and find out more about God’s love for you and how you can receive forgiveness and eternal life – today!

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The Prayer of Salvation

Jesus, I don't know You, and I don't know what Your plan is for me. But thank you for coming to die in my place. I'm sorry for anything I've ever done wrong in my life. I don't understand how You could ever forgive me, but if You really would, I would like to accept your free gift of grace and complete forgiveness. Please come into my life and take control, and help me trust You. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

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