Family health and communication is important for all families. The effects of growing up or living in a dysfunctional family can last a lifetime and leave family members with lingering anger and distrust that extends well beyond their family dynamic. Achieving and maintaining family health and communication takes on a heightened sense of importance when the family is dealing with a member who is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Addiction is a family disease, and it can rip a family apart if the underlying structure of that family is not strong enough to handle the trials and tribulations of the addiction.
Each Person Has a Role
Families can take some simple steps to strengthen their group health and communication skills either when they are dealing with an addicted family member or when they are concerned with strengthening the family unit. First, like all good teams and high-functioning groups, each family member needs to understand his or her role within the family structure. Parents might take the lead to manage and lead the family, but if one or both parents are suffering from addiction, the lead role will need to pass on to another family member. All family members will have an opportunity to manage specific family matters. Rather than just taking charge, which can risk offending another family member, all family members should first articulate how they perceive their own roles within the family, and under what circumstances those roles will place them in a controlling position.
Those Roles Support One Another
Second, all family members should examine how their roles within the family affect their personal lives. A person who assumes a role that is not natural to him or her will be forced to act outside of his or her comfort zone. Psychotherapists often emphasize that an individual will experience the greatest stress when he or she is asked or required to act in a manner that is inconsistent with his or her personality. Family dynamics can force family members into these positions, in which event all family members should understand the resulting heightened stress on one or more of those members. Talking about the stress and discomfort and acknowledging sacrifices that some family members are making will go a long way toward easing that stress.
Be Ready to Adapt and Change
Third, family members need to adapt and change to internal family circumstances and, if they are not able to change, they need to accept their own limitations and rely on other family members to fill gaps that they are unable or unwilling to fill. No one family member can be all things to all people. Particularly when dealing with an addicted family member, one person in the family cannot be expected to do everything. The entire family, or as much of the family as is possible, should contribute time and energy toward curing the addiction. Again, addiction is a family disease and a combined and coordinated family is often needed to cure that disease.
Families can continue to work together by sharing ideas that will help an addicted family member, including reaching an agreement to not enable a member’s addiction and to seek outside help from one or more family support groups. Families that allow one or more members to continue life as an addict are harming both that addict and the family unit as a whole.
If you need additional suggestions or information on improving your family’s overall health and internal communications, please contact the counselors and therapists at the Last Resort Recovery Center (near Austin, Texas) at 512-360-3600. We have helped countless families to regain and develop their core strength and we can provide the assistance you need to handle a family member’s substance abuse problems.