Support for the Family

"No one ever recovers on their own."

Every medical professional understands that a person's recovery from any disease is enhanced by care and support from loved ones. Yet while a family's frustration and sadness over the patient's condition is to be expected, with drug or alcohol addiction there's a lot more going on.

Physicians and therapists, 12-step groups and sponsors all play a role in recovery, but family support is crucial. The specialists at the nonprofit Livengrin assist families of nurses with the many difficulties they can have in coping with a loved one in treatment.

We know from experience and research that the family needs to recover from the addiction along with the patient. They're usually carrying frustration, guilt, anger, disappointment, fear… they've experienced a lot.

Those close to a person with an addiction develop their own thinking and behavior to deal with the situation. This may go on for years. They cope, rationalize, threaten penalties, give up trying to help, avoid confrontation (or perhaps instigate it), or go through many other responses. This is all quite natural, but none of it really helps anyone.

It's common for family members and friends to feel powerless to stop the continued downward spiral of drug and alcohol abuse. In some cases, they have become "enablers" by hoping that the problem will go away, that's it's just a phase, or will fix itself.

As one of our therapists put it, "Begging, pleading, bargaining and threats are all useless in the family's attempt to prevent their loved one from destroying himself or herself. They have no understanding how a person who is supposed to love them can hurt them so much. As a result, they often feel responsible for their loved one's substance abuse."

When the patient does return home from treatment (feeling better and more confident about their ability to apply new life-skills), why would anyone expect the family to feel equally well? Fear and anxieties, distrust and sadness, and other patterns of thinking have built up over months and years.

Addiction is a "family disease", and we address its many facets in the Nurses Lifeline Program.

Through Livengrin's "Day of Enlightenment," revealing questionnaires and private family meetings, loved ones learn how to take care of themselves, how to stop their own enabling behaviors, and how to help the patient adapt to a life without drugs or alcohol.

Family members learn that they are not at fault, and that it's important to acquire the tools and understanding needed to protect themselves from possible emotional hurts in the future. A family can heal and grow again.

For specific inquiries, contact the Family Program via email: family@livengrin.org