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Families suffer too – Test 02

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Addiction is an all-consuming relationship with a substance or behaviour that is driven by a conscious or unconscious urge to feel something different which becomes self-perpetuating despite a range of harmful consequences.

It is clear that families or close ones do not have to be addicted to a substance or behaviour to suffer from addiction, however they can easily find themselves in a similarly consuming relationship. This too is based on an urge to experience something different. In this case, it is to be achieved by somehow getting the addicted person to change; to stop their addictive behaviour and therefore all the harm associated with it.

Families can live on what has been called “hopium”; the hope and belief that they will one day find that trick, magic, technique or way of being that will result in the addicted person changing.

As with an addiction to a substance or behaviour, life can begin to reduce to obsessive, consuming preoccupation with what is happening with the addicted person. This is a struggle. Families and family members experience chronic stress and may experience anxiety, depression, emotional volatility and low self-esteem. They may experience a loss of mental capacity, be distracted and be involved in conflict. There may be physical manifestations such as aches and pains, nervous tension, energy loss, stomach upset, injuries and the immune system may be compromised.

Families and family members find ways of coping either as individuals or as a system. Very often the ways of coping are counterproductive. Addiction becomes the organising dynamic, re-setting and determining the norms of behaviour within the family. It is usually the case that so much focus has been placed on the family member with the addiction and often in a counterproductive way that the needs of others become neglected. They suffer as a consequence. We help them to retrieve and recover themselves from addiction, restoring their health and wellbeing in the process.

While the family can play an important part in the treatment and recovery of a loved one, it is important for families to recognize that their own wellbeing needs attention.  There is no point in addiction dragging everyone in the family down. If family members can find their own path to recovery they will be much better placed to provide the right kind of support and help to the family member. This is why we use the phrase helping families and family members in their own right, not just in relation to the person that is addicted. And that is also why we offer family programmes, even when the addicted person doesn’t want to participate.