“Family intervention, however, is a necessary condition for the complete recovery of the alcoholic and his family. The family system is a more powerful force than the addiction itself and has great potential for overcoming or sustaining the alcoholism.”
This quote from M. A. Walsh Eells’ 1986 scholarly article “Interventions with Alcoholics and Their Families,” originally printed in The Nursing Clinics of North America, exemplifies exactly how powerful the family system is in alcoholism and, by extension, drug addiction.
“A family system is a more powerful force than the addiction itself.” That’s huge. That means the family has the power to help their loved one overcome addiction, but also the power to help their loved one be comfortable in getting drunk (or high).
Codependency and Addiction
Codependency means relegating one’s own wants, needs and limits to serve another, hoping for acceptance, approval or to feel good about oneself.
Codependency creates a dysfunctional relationship, especially as it relates to addiction, because one person ends up supporting the other person’s bad behavior, underachievement and addiction(s).
It can be frightening to make behavioral changes in the family because of the unknown. Even an unhealthy family dynamic is a familiar one, and there is comfort in familiarity.
However, Family First Intervention’s unique approach involves families in the entire recovery process and offers them healing along with the client.
The more comfortable the family makes the addict, the more the individual believes he or she can have both a great life and an addiction. When the family starts holding the loved one accountable for his or her actions, the addict is forced to choose between a great life at home or the addiction.
When family members change their behaviors, a healthier dynamic is created, giving testament to the mantra, “We all are responsible for our own choices.”
Enabling in Addiction Recovery
The relationship of an enabler to a drug addict or alcoholic is complicated by love, the desire to protect and the desire for approval, among other feelings.
For a healthier dynamic, the family must recognize their proper role. If an adult wants to be an addict or alcoholic, they should go do that. But the family’s job is to not enable them or help them get high or drunk.
The family can accept their loved one’s decision to be an alcoholic or drug addict, while expecting their loved one to accept the family’s decision not to help their loved one do something harmful.
If you wonder, “Am I enabling an addict?” you may want to discuss it with an addiction case manager.
Why You Need a Professional Interventionist
In cases of codependence and enabling, it is especially valuable to have a professional interventionist and case manager assisting your family. At Family First Intervention, our highly trained intervention counselors understand what families go through. It’s what we do.
Our intervention counselors:
- Give you perspective on your loved one’s behaviors.
- Guide your family through the intervention process.
- Lead the actual intervention.
- Help find the right treatment program.
- Facilitate family healing during the recovery process.
How to Deal with Codependency Issues in Treatment
Codependency and drug abuse issues plague families while their loved one is using. These issues impair the drug abuser’s motivation to seek rehab. If left untreated, these codependent issues arise during intervention, treatment and aftercare, potentially sabotaging the patient’s recovery.
If the family unit continues to enable and exhibit codependent traits during the various phases of addiction treatment, recovery will be derailed and relapse will be imminent.
Unless the family members receive education and healing themselves, the dynamics will remain the same and the person with the addiction will stay addicted. Even during the various recovery phases, the addict or alcoholic will manipulate the family to “help” him or her in self-sabotaging ways.
The addict has ingrained patterns of behavior that must be disintegrated to make way for a new lifestyle. They will naturally continue to respond to their family members in the same ways they always have — pushing emotional buttons.
In the instance of an alcoholic father, the mother has often made public excuses for his behavior. She may call him in sick to work when he’s hungover or buy him alcohol. At the intervention, the father might influence her to publicly cover for him now.
The eldest child may take on more adult responsibility when the mother is over-fatigued by caretaking. A younger child may play the role of the scapegoat. One child may play the role of peacemaker, fearing dad’s anger and a parental argument that results in divorce.
At the intervention, the addict might appeal to the children’s fears of their father leaving for rehab or influence them to say everything is fine as is, hoping to gang up on the mother or the interventionist.
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Addicts and alcoholics have learned how to manipulate people to feed their addiction, and when it comes to their families, they know how to manipulate emotions. Pretty soon, each family member is held hostage by their feelings and the drug abuser gets to keep his or her addiction.
In detox, this can translate to a son:
- Playing upon his mother’s heartstrings
- Citing the discomfort of detox and withdrawal
- Saying he will change on his own this time
…if only he can come home.
True codependency is often described as an addiction on its own. Codependency is an addiction to relationships. An addiction to love.
Addicts take advantage of codependent love by talking their families into advocating for them to leave rehab because they miss home or they can’t sleep on the too hard/soft/lumpy bed in rehab, or any other number of excuses. Codependent family members may feel compelled go give in to their loved one’s pleas.
Lying, hiding and even doing illegal activities often comes inherently with being an alcoholic or drug addict.
Even after the rehabilitation phase, recovering alcoholics and addicts can fall back into old habits after returning home if the family system does not remain strong and solidified. Families cannot let the loved one return home to live under the previous status quo again.
The Importance of a Case Manager for Addicts and Codependent Family Members
Families dealing with codependence and enabling issues can benefit greatly from a case manager before, during and after treatment of their loved one.
Addiction case management benefits not only the person struggling with addiction, but also the family members who need healing.
Addiction can make people irrational. Codependents can lose their sense of identity. Consequently, families need to recover from the trauma alongside the one abusing drugs.
At Family First Intervention, our professional interventionists are case managers as well, meaning they stay in touch with families throughout the treatment and recovery process. Get a sense of our family case management services by clicking below.