The Importance of Educating the Entire Family About Recovery

The family is often the first to detect if a loved one is struggling with addiction. Often no one knows more than the immediate family, and often no one is more affected by addiction than the family. However, while the family is usually the saving grace for many struggling family members, they can be overlooked when it comes to their own recovery.

There is consensus among those in the recovery field that addiction affects the entire family. It is a “family disease.” As a result, it must be wholly treated if the entire family is to recover. This recovery process can be initiated by first educating the family on what recovery actually entails.

It can be cumbersome when an entire family is struggling with the effects of an individual’s alcohol or substance misuse. This creates the potential for the healthcare professional to be spread too thin. The positive news is that those in the professional sphere can utilize 12-Step recovery to help the entire family.

Understanding the Destructive Nature of a “Family Disease”

Sadly there are still stigmas that persist today regarding addiction and the family. One of these stigmas is self-imposed. It is the belief that there is some form of weakness or failure on the part of the family in not being able to prevent or “cure” the individual. Of course, this is false. Accessing a 12-Step program and/or a 12-Step focused recovery center can help address this stigma.

The primary issue with this stigma is that it minimizes the struggles that the family is experiencing. Addiction is not a “fault.” It is a disease, and it has been classified as such. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences,” and “addiction is a lot like other diseases, such as heart disease. Both disrupt the normal, healthy functioning of an organ in the body, both have serious harmful effects, and both are, in many cases, preventable and treatable.”

As with any chronic disease, addiction can create a wide swath of detriment for everyone it touches. This is why even back in 1939 when the primary text of Alcoholics Anonymous was written, they devoted an entire chapter to helping the family, entitled “The Family Afterward.”

The Specific Focus of 12-Step Programs on the Family

A passage from “The Family Afterward” states that “Cessation of drinking is but the first step away from a highly strained, abnormal condition. A doctor said to us, ‘Years of living with an alcoholic is almost sure to make any wife or child neurotic. The entire family is, to some extent, ill.’” Yet again, we see the intermingling of the medical and 12-Step recovery field from nearly its inception.

Yes, the family is “ill.” 12-Step recovery can also help those professionals that already have a family focus better educate the family on addiction. The ability to offer the family a 12-Step program can be paramount not just for their recovery but also opens up the opportunity for the individual that is struggling to focus on their work with their professional.

For those in the professional sphere that do not yet have a focus on the family, a 12-step program can open up this opportunity. If the goal is to grow in recovery options, adding a family focus is a great way to do so.

Treating the Family Separate From the Individual

The Twelve Steps are also no longer specific to those that struggle with alcohol misuse or alcohol use disorder (AUD). It has long expanded in the realm of substance misuse, eating disorders, gambling addictions, and, yes, Twelve Steps specific for family recovery.

Al-Anon was co-founded in 1951 by Lois Wilson, the wife of AA founder and original High Watch Recovery board member Bill Wilson. It was founded with the primary purpose of helping those affected by the behavior of loved ones struggling with addiction. Now it helps countless families move on from addiction and reunify for successful and healthy long-term recoveries.

Family Growth for Long-Term Recovery

AA, Al-Anon, and countless other 12-Step programs have gone on to help secure recovery for countless families over the years. These programs are now understood as highly effective tools within the recovery industry.

Ultimately, by helping families get the help they need, professionals are helping their primary guests recover by bolstering their chances for long-term recovery. For those that want to expand what they can offer, addressing the entire family is a great way to do it.

Those of us in both the healthcare and 12-Step spheres have the same primary purpose. To help those struggling by utilizing every resource at our disposal. High Watch Recovery Center has been doing so for over 80 years. We carry this purpose with you proudly and in perpetuity.