Addiction is a Family Disease
An addict’s net cast wide…” HBO Mini Series The Night Of, August 28, 2016In five simple words, the above quote manages to capture the essence of the disease of addiction. It is a family disease, not unlike any other chronic disorder. It requires family work. It is a two-sided problem. But for some reason, an addiction diagnosis, like many mental health disorders, often carries with it elements of shame and guilt. With any health diagnosis one can experience an array of emotions: shock, terror, fear, resentment, confusion...and so the story goes. How we learn of a family member’s addiction diagnosis will vary. One might be standing in a hospital emergency department, one could receive the phone call in the middle of the night from a jail, one may find himself at a parent-teacher conference listening to someone describe their child’s unexplained behavior. Every parent has their own story. But most parents won’t share their story after receiving a final diagnosis of addiction. They will pull inward, feeling guilt, shame and fear of the unknown.
So, what steps should parents pursue to start the family’s recovery?First and foremost, the family must understand and accept they are not alone. An estimated 21 to 25 million Americans struggle with substance abuse. Indeed, last month the U.S. Surgeon General reported that one in seven Americans struggle with substance abuse. To put that number in perspective, if you live in a neighborhood of 100 people, then 14-15 could be dealing with addiction. And each of those 15 have a story they are afraid to share. Secondly, get the facts. If you have a family primary care physician, seek their advice. If your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), then determine what programs might be available for your loved one. Third, take a deep breath, have a family meeting and make a plan. If planning doesn’t come easy, then perhaps you need an interventionist to guide you in this process. Fourth, if an intensive primary care substance abuse treatment program or intensive outpatient treatment program are in order, then review your health insurance policy and move forward. Finally, take the first step and start to care for yourself; learn to set your boundaries. Seek out an Al-Anon meeting and understand the three “C’s”: You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it. Work your own program of recovery and allow your loved one to work their program.
Dr. Phil helps one young man take his first stepThis past November Dr. Phil viewers were allowed to meet one young man and his parents. If you happened to tune-in, you may have been shocked to hear their story. But if you have a family member with an addiction diagnosis...then you may have been empathetic and hopeful that this family will find recovery. Here is how Dr. Phil guided the family to consider PACE Recovery Center’s multi-pronged approach to addiction and co-occurring disorders. In his own words, Dr. Phil explained:
There is an organization called PACE Recovery Center and it is a gender specific, extended care program for young men struggling with chemical dependency and behavioral health issues, such as immaturity, the inability to modulate, regulate, predict their behavior. Whether it is neurological, psychological, or whatever. The PACE approach utilizes a model of integrating philosophies and research and clinical practices from medical, psychiatric, psychological, social, familial and self-help communities. I mean this is a very integrated model."If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.