Addiction is a devastating challenge for families, one that is as heart-breaking as a sudden death. When a member of a business family has an addiction, whether to alcohol, drugs, gambling or other substance or behavior, the addict is not the only one likely to require assistance. Families need help too.

One reason families need help is that family support can be decisive when it comes to helping the addicts recover. In the same way the instructions for aircraft emergency oxygen masks tell adults to put them on before assisting children, family members have to take care of themselves so they can be available to help addicts.

Another reason families of addicts need help is that they are themselves at risk. Research published in Drug and Alcohol Review found families of addicts experienced more depression, stress, psychiatric illness and generally lower well-being than a matched control group. According to another study in the journal Medical Care, family members of addicts, including both adults and children, were more likely to be diagnosed with many medical conditions, especially substance abuse and depression.

Education is perhaps the most useful kind of help for a family member of an addicted person. Learning about the science of addiction and its treatment can boost family members’ confidence and keep them from blaming themselves and others. Many informative books on addiction are available through bookstores and public libraries. And the Internet is bursting with online resources from authoritative sources such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration(SAMHSA).

Social support is also important for families coping with a member’s addiction. Peer organizations like Al-Anon,Alateenand Co-Anonprovide environments where family members can speak honestly about their challenges and find others who have had similar experiences. However, it is important to remember that the dangerous effects of codependency do not vanish simply because the addict has entered a treatment program. A book like “Codependent No More” can help family members understand their own behaviors and how they may be contributing to the problem.

Family therapy is another potential source of support. Family therapy, according to SAMHSA aims to help not just addicts but all members of the family recover from the stress, frustration, distrust, guilt and other damaging effects of addition. It involves the entire family meeting together with a trained counselor. Sessions may include spouses, children, siblings, parents, friends, colleagues and extended family.

Individual therapy can also be beneficial. In private sessions with skilled counselors, family members can learn useful skills for coping with the addict’s destructive behaviors. They can also get coaching in ways to handle their own hurts, habits, hangups and other intra-personal challenges.

If you are interested in help starting the healing process with a family member’s addiction, REGENERATION has trained consultants who can assist you in this challenging situation.

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