Finding Support Groups for Families of Addicts
Authored by Audra Franchini
Our Addictions Recovery Centers Can Help
As a social worker who works with active and recovering patients dealing with a substance- abuse disorder, you’ve probably been asked by family members what they could do to help their loved ones. It’s a natural question for them to ask during such a tumultuous time. So, you play a pivotal role in restoring a family by facilitating support for both the patient and the patient’s family. To the patient, you can suggest a variety of treatment options, but family support solutions may not be as easy. We suggest finding support groups for families of addicts. Families can educate themselves about addiction; express their emotions, thoughts, and concerns; and share their experiences with other families in similar situations.
Who Benefits from Family Support Groups?
Support groups for families of addicts can benefit all family members in a variety of ways. When suggesting support groups to families, keep the following family members in mind, as they may experience addiction differently and require different support groups to cope with addiction.
Spouses, Significant Others, and Committed Partners
According to Project Know, “Recovery for the spouse shares characteristics with the recovery process for an addict, as both depend on acknowledging the problem, learning about the disease that helped create the dysfunction, and adopting new coping skills. Support groups can be instrumental in giving spouses a safe place. Here they can express their fears, find comfort, and discover new ways of interacting with family members.”
Parents or Guardians
At our addictions recovery center, we’ve had many parents and guardians of alcoholics and addicts blame themselves for their child’s addiction and seek to “fix” the situation. “By joining a support group such as Al-Anon,” according to Project Know, “they meet other parents who are struggling with their child’s addictions. They also hear the stories of parents who have developed more effective ways of interacting with their addicted children.”
Children and Dependents
Children of parents struggling with an addiction “can become overwhelmed by powerful emotions that they are not equipped to understand. Guilt, shame, and fear lead them to walk on eggshells, trying to control a chaotic environment” (Project Know). “A support group is often the only place where children of alcoholic or addicted parents feel that they can be themselves. Among people their own age who are going through the same thing, they have an opportunity to overcome the denial that has kept them quiet about their feelings.”
Siblings of addicts and alcoholics can be overlooked when discussing support groups for families of addicts, but they shouldn’t be. They often experience the same feelings of guilt, anger, embarrassment, helplessness, and fear that parents and children experience. They may also resent the addicted sibling if they don’t see substance abuse as a medical disorder. According to Project Know, “Support groups give the brothers and sisters of an alcoholic a place where they fit in. They learn that their feelings are a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Also, they discover new ways of coping with home life. While they may not need to attend a support group, the siblings are likely to benefit from doing so.”
What Is Your Role?
As a professional social worker, you already understand your role. You are a facilitator of support for individuals and families struggling with addiction. You could also encourage the patient’s family members to seek support of their own. One of the most effective ways is to connect family members with family support groups.
For more information on support groups for families of addicts and treatment services at our addictions recovery center, contact Recovery Centers of America today by calling 1-800-RECOVERY.