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Recovery Plus 48 Feb 2016 Family matters: throwing a lifeline The World Health Organisation defined alcoholism (addiction) as a family disease in 1956. It took the 1955 American Medical Association definition of alcoholism being a disease, one step further. “Family disease” is not arbitrary terminology. This statement could not be clearer. With this clarity in mind, how many treatment centres in the world have a family workshop component in their residential clinical care programme? How many treatment centres collude with the unhealthy system of fault finding and blaming the scapegoat/addict by ignoring the family in pain? Having conducted family work since the mid 1980s, it is easy to see that codependent family members are often at their wits’ end as they struggle to understand why they cannot ‘control’ or ‘cure’ their addict/alcoholic while they subconsciously believe they are often the ‘cause’ of the designated patient´s problems. Families struggle with dysfunction, disease, addiction and everyone finds themselves plunged into crisis. Feelings of hurt and anger emerge while those who feel unloved attempt to make things right for everyone. Instead of normal coping that occurs when problems arise, unhealthy alliances form. This drives family members further apart. Family members know something is wrong and it must be fixed, due to love being replaced with contempt. The next order of things is an intervention to deliver the designated patient into the hands of professionals (rehab). The family has tried everything and nothing seems to work. What the family does not realise is that the whole system’s way of coping has become toxic. After coping with a long-term chronic situation of stress, families need something to relieve them of the unhealthy alliances and the dysfunctional coping which they have used as a defence from the illness and pain caused by everyone feeling abandoned, lost and wounded. Next... the suggestion for family therapy is made. Most often, the first response from the family is resistance, or denial. “Why should WE get help?” “They’re the problem” and “How much does it cost?” In reality, everyone in moments of despair knows that they need help but are afraid of being exposed, revisiting the pain and potential confrontations. Family members are especially afraid of what will happen if they relinquish their defences and allow themselves to love and be vulnerable again. What if the family´s resistance to get help is too strong? What if they resist a family workshop which is one of the most effective adjunct therapies connected to the addict’s treatment process? If the family does not enter the therapy process – with or without the designated patient – they will stay in the unconscious rigid patterns of feelings and behaviours. Anger, shame and disappointment will persist and the addict, on returning home/reconnecting, will walk into that wall of anger and rigidity and they find no place for their newfound self and behaviour. Since people’s communication is often of a circular nature, old ways of thinking, old attitudes and old patterns of communicating will be immediately present and will set the The online issue of Recovery Plus will also link you to the author’s presentation at Recovery Plus 2015 – just click the logo shown below when you access us online: Click for presentation Click


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