The family system is a significant part of an addict’s recovery. Even if no family members participate in treatment due to their resistance, the family still is an important part of anyone’s recovery. When family members are deceased, for example, we continue our relationships with them. The same is true when family members are estranged. We are never quite free of our family ties and their effects on us even though we may want to be. Present or absent, family or no family, we all carry a lot of family work that needs to be done eventually so we can have a good, solid recovery.
Addiction treatment now dedicates a good deal of emphasis upon the family of those in treatment. You typically will have family visits, family therapy and even other activities arranged in rehab to strengthen the family. Individual family members also can be treated and cared for because one’s addiction also takes a toll on those who love an addict.
Some of the work done in rehab is education and needs to be. There is a lot for everyone in the family to learn about addiction and recovery. This education can take place individually, in a family group or in groups with others in treatment. Also, each family member has a part to contribute to the addict’s healing process, but also to the family’s healing process. The family as a whole system has been damaged when one member is addicted. Therapy helps everyone process feelings, identify continuing problems and find solutions for each member and the family as a whole.
Family Roles in the Family System
All members of families in pain share the pain and we do that through the roles we play in the family during family crisis. Here are some of the family roles that family members take on to deal with the crisis and trauma of addiction:
- Over-responsibility–this is the family member who tries valiatnly to save the family through hard work. Sometimes we call this person the family hero. The overly responsible person demonstrates love and loyalty by taking on others’ problems and putting him/herself aside. It is an impossible task to try to heal everyone. It can’t be done by the things one does such as overworking, over-worrying, over-doing for others. Some overly-responsible people will try to be ‘perfect’–the best athlete, the best student, the best this or that. This is done to give the family hope and pride and while it is loving and even noble, it does nothing to heal the family.
- Over-adapting–this role is taken on to reduce the conflict and chaos in a distressed family. While others are fighting, for example, the overly adaptive person makes sure to ‘go with the flow’. His/her needs, feelings and opinions are suppressed. It feels important not to add anything else to the family’s plate. The problems for the overly adapting is, of course, that the self is lost in the fray. This person may flounder with no direction, no assertion of personal hopes and dreams. The family, for all intents and purposes, consumes the personal drive and motivation of this person. Everything is pushed aside for the sake of adding nothing else to the already chaotic mix.