So what happens when a loved one finally gets help and what can the family expect?
When an addicted family member finally enters recovery in a rehab like Hope Trust, the rest of the family often breathes a collective sigh of relief. For months or years, they have likely experienced many emotional responses to the chaos of substance abuse – anger, fear, embarrassment, guilt, shame, frustration, disappointment, and helplessness. With the addict’s sobriety, the family members sense that the nightmare is over, the painful feelings are in the past, and their loved one will rejoin the family as a fully participating member. At long last, the family can now hope to return to normal.
Such hopeful anticipation is common, but it fails to consider that family dysfunction has become the norm during the period of substance abuse. The void created by removing the problematic substance is not automatically filled with healthy feelings and behaviours. Non-addicted spouses and partners may continue to experience lingering resentments, find it difficult to engage in conversation, and feel uneasy about re-establishing a close relationship with their newly recovered family member. Children may have found alternatives to home as a place of safety, continue to suffer from the previous absence of parental involvement, or simply have grown up and lost the opportunity to experience the presence of a parent.
Families need to recognize that recovery is a process, not an event. The family’s working dynamics, previously skewed by substance abuse, will essentially need to be dismantled and reconstructed. Achieving sobriety is the first step – a courageous act to be regarded with gratitude, respect, and acceptance of the addiction as a disease. All family members who are willing to become involved must then commit to maintaining an ongoing recovery lifestyle, which requires leaving behind old, unhealthy patterns of relating to each other. Recovery requires respect for the interests and rights of other family members, willingness to explore new ways of interacting as a family unit, and communicating legitimate needs without fear of rejection or ridicule. Each family will experience its own pace of recovery.
When a client enters a recovery program at Hope Trust, the family is also encouraged to get involved in the recovery process. The Hope Family Support Program aims at initiating a process of healing for all those affected by addiction, not merely the alcoholic or addict. The treatment program at Hope includes family counselling, education, interventions, communication exercises, special sessions on 'rebuilding relationships', and participation in family support groups such as Al-anon and Alateen.
Hope Trust even has a specialist on board to help kids affected by addiction of a parent.