Alcoholism is not just a disease of the individual; alcoholism is a family disease that infiltrates every family member’s life, especially those living under the same roof as the alcoholic. Sending an alcoholic family member to rehab is a good first step to combating the disease, but the healing doesn’t end there. Families must learn how to support their loved one in a healthy way and also learn how to rebuild their own healthy attitudes and behaviors that were destroyed by the alcoholic’s behavior.
Alcohol Rehab and Families: Healing the Alcoholic
During alcohol rehab, your loved one will finally be given the tools and taught the skills he or she needs to live a life free of alcohol. He or she will receive medical care, group therapy, individual counseling and a balanced diet — everything necessary to help your loved one heal from the physical and emotional damage their alcoholism caused. Your loved one will also be encouraged to face the underlying emotional issues that have caused them to turn to alcohol as an escape.
Living with an alcoholic is a tumultuous and chaotic experience, and can lead to years of resentment, shame, hurt and anger. These painful emotions can lead some family members to “wash their hands” of the alcoholic while they’re in rehab, but it’s important for family members to participate in any family counseling the alcohol rehab offers. Studies show that alcoholics who receive couples treatment during rehab have much better outcomes compared to substance abuse treatments that don’t involve spouses. It increases the chances of sobriety and helps family members cope with their own emotional issues caused by the alcoholic family member.
Alcohol Rehab and Families: Healing the Family
The alcoholic isn’t the only person who needs to heal. Family members also suffer from years of emotional turmoil at the hands of the alcoholic’s disease. It’s very common for family members to learn a variety of behaviors to help them cope, including rationalization, denial and resentment. And since alcoholism is a progressive disease, the severity of it can sneak up on family members so that extreme and unacceptable behavior seems “normal.” Without outside help, it can be very difficult to reverse these behaviors and relearn how to live a healthy, normal life.
While your loved one is in alcohol rehab, you should also seek help for yourself. There are a variety of resources available, ranging from family counseling to individual therapy to professional marriage counseling. There are also free support groups available, such as Al-Anon or Naranon for spouses and Alateen for children. Educating yourself about alcoholism and addiction and how it can affect every member of your family can be a positive and life-changing experience.
Alcohol Rehab and Families: After Rehab
The days and months after rehab are a very delicate time for a recovering alcoholic. Remaining sober is ultimately up to the individual, but the family’s behavior plays a critical role in helping to prevent relapse. A study published in Behavior Therapy confirms that Al-Anon’s approach of offering “understanding and encouragement” is the best approach family members can take when dealing with a loved one’s drinking problem. A spouse’s attitude, in particular, can directly affect an alcoholic’s relapse. The study found that the amount of criticism an alcoholic receives after rehab is directly related to the likelihood that they will relapse.
Help your family heal from the devastating effects of alcoholism by actively seeking help for every member of the family. Call an alcohol rehab today and ask how you can start the healing process for you and your loved ones.