It is not unusual for clinicians to get phone calls from family members wanting to talk about how to get their loved ones to seek and even want recovery. The hurting and fearful family member will describe in detail what the behaviors of the addict/alcoholic have been and the chaos and insanity of the situation. They are angry, hurt, sad and of course afraid. This is a crisis that warrants a crisis response and it is a very normal reaction. Professionals can offer valuable services such as interventions to compel the person into treatment. Sometimes just a phone call to a familiar recovering person to come and talk with their struggling loved one does the trick. Sometimes all the best efforts available are to no avail and the situation appears stuck with little hope. An addicted person is a serious situation that can’t be taken lightly. Unfortunately, the family member becomes so invested in saving their struggling loved one that they aren’t aware of the need for their own care and nurturance. There just isn’t enough space and energy left for themselves. Bitterness, resentment and fear have replaced what were once dreams of the future.
While it is important of course for the addicted person to have the best chance at recovery, it is also just as paramount for the family member to have access to healing. Shame and embarrassment will usually block the family member from seeking help for themselves. They understandable will believe that if the addict gets recovery, they will be okay again. It is hard to see that they now are traumatized from the addiction cycle. These folks need patient and understanding care for themselves now and their needs should be validated. We have worked in our society to destigmatize alcoholism/addiction so people can stand with dignity in their community as recovering people. Actors, rock stars and public figure are given accolades for their sobriety in today’s world and this is as it should for recovery is often very challenging and takes courage. But let’s not forget our unsung heroes that are the family members. Let’s make sure their shame and pain as a spouse or parent does not go unattended. Love, faith and community are needed as much for our family members as the addicts themselves. As we continue to make it more acceptable to own the disease of addiction and be supported in recovery, lets make sure the same dignity is always present for those who have suffered from the disease in the shadows as well.