The Importance of Engaging Families in Recovery

Addiction is a family disease, making it also a disease of relationships.

In a recent webinar, Harmony Foundation family therapist Morgan Roy explained the impact of addiction on the family dynamic. Family engagement plays a vital role in recovery for the individual and the family system.

Family engagement is not an easy task as all family systems are different but one rule always applies: Everybody in the family system is deeply affected by the behavior of the addicted individual. Roy likened the “ripple effect” of addiction to the break shot in eightball pool billiards where the cue ball impacts all other balls on the table.

“Families need to recover, too,” said Roy, “and family support increases the likelihood of successful treatment, it can improve psychiatric symptoms, and help prevent a relapse.”

Addiction strains the relationships in the family no matter which member is the addicted person. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a parent, child, spouse, or sibling,” said Roy. “Every member of the family system struggles. Living with someone in active addiction is a daily challenge for everyone in the home.”

Roy emphasized the importance of systemic thinking. “All parts of the system are inter-connected and inter-related. If one part of the system changes, the other parts must change to accommodate those changes.”

The good news is that small, feasible changes can lead to big improvements. “Small changes lead to bigger changes,” explained Roy.

The key is family engagement and education. When families learn about the disease of addiction while their loved one is in treatment, “they are able to see that they are not alone in this process.” Knowledge is power for families. “When their person returns home from treatment, they will be able to meet them where they are at” and “there is a deeper understanding for what is happening in their person’s world.”

Family members typically have many questions:

  • How do I help my family member?
  • What do I do when my person comes home?
  • Is there more that I can do?
  • How do I trust them again?
  • How do we start over?
  • Could I have done more?

These are all important questions and they can be addressed in our family program. Families also learn the three Cs: They didn’t CAUSE the addiction, they cannot CURE it, and they cannot CONTROL it.

But Family members can SUPPORT their loved one by engaging with their own recovery plan and meet the person with the addiction where they are at rather than clinging to overly ambitious expectations. There is no cause for pessimism: families with addiction are “not broken but breaking through,” Morgan Roy told the participants of the webinar.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harmony is currently offering a modified family engagement workshop that is available to all families of current and former clients. This virtual education group has two goals. The first is to provide education to family members about the disease model of addiction and how it can help them come to understand their loved one’s condition.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, or you have questions about our programs, call us today at (970) 432-8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.