HOW CAN RELATIVES AND FRIENDS OF THE FAMILY HELP?

When a child’s family struggles with alcohol or other drug problems, the most powerful assistance to the child can come from a caring adult in their lives. Often the child turns to a relative or friend of the family who has acknowledged in some way that they are concerned and available, thus making it feel safe for the child to talk. It could be the grandmother who knows her son has a problem with prescription drugs, the neighbor who often observes the mother of the child next door drinking to excess, the coach who notices the child late for practice, and many others, whom the child can trust with their “biggest worry.” The goal here is to put tools in the hands of these caring family and friends so that they might do two things:

1 Be a consistent support and listening ear to the child.

2Be an advocate for the child by helping the addicted parent get the help they need.

Supporting the Child

Perhaps the most important gift is the bonding and attachment children attain in healthy relationships with others. As a result of broken promises, harsh words, and the threat of abuse, children in many alcoholic families learn the "Don't Trust" mantra all too well; silence and isolation can become constant companions. In their book The Resilient Self, Drs. Sybil and Steven Wolin describe "Relationships" as an integral part of the Resilience Mandala. In her ground-breaking research, Dr. Emmy Werner noted that resilient COAs often had a nurturing adult in their lives. Building trust is a process, not an event; time is the key. Simply caring about a child is all that it takes to start. Listening, regular time together, playing with, validating, respecting, and empowering a youngster will build a positive connection. Jerry Moe, national director of the Betty Ford Center Children's Programs, often reminds us that "children don't care about how much adults know until they know how much adults care." As bonding grows, a nurturing adult's words take on added meaning and significance as the youngster deeply considers the source. A child may hear accurate information about alcoholism in a brand new way. A parent, or another caring adult, can read through the Kit for Kids with a child to help them cope with his or her situation. Moreover, a kid can build upon his or her strengths and resilience as a result of the conscious modeling provided by that caring adult. There simply can't be resilient children unless caring adults lead the way. Whether we have children of our own or not, many of us can become a nurturing adult in a young child's life. A youngster desperately in need of such an alliance is very close by. You might want to start by downloading and sharing this booklet with that child.
Smiling grandfather surrounded by happy grandchildren
Grandparents can be a haven of stability, predictability and undemanding love, and they can help the child make sense of an unpredictable and irrational situation. Stephanie Abbott, MA, family counselor

GENERATIONAL ISSUES AFFECTING RECOVERY: FROM CHILDHOOD TO GRANDPARENTHOOD

In the spirit of the 2016 Recovery Month campaign - Our Families, Our Stories, Our Recovery - the 2016 Road to Recovery episode in April focused on a family’s intergenerational issues, and the hope that early intervention can bring for generations to come. Along with the video, a transcript and discussion guide is also available. The Road to Recovery series, provided by the SAMHSA Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, airs eight episodes featuring panels of nationwide experts from the field of recovery.

WHEN A FRIEND OR RELATIVE NEEDS HELP TO RECOVER

A GUIDE TO THE PROCESS

Most people are uncomfortable with the idea of approaching someone about problem drinking. But when a child’s well being is at stake, you may be the one to begin the process of reaching out to the problem drinker.

THE E.A.S.E. MODEL

Educate Yourself

...ABOUT THE DISEASE OF ALCOHOL ADDICTION AND ABOUT LOCAL AA GROUPTS AND TREATMENT FACILITIES

FIRST

Find someone knowledgeable about alcohol and other drug addiction to help you find the information and skills you need to move the person toward treatment. To ask for help you can call a local treatment center or call Alcoholics Anonymous. AA is listed on the first page of any phone book and online. In addition, you will find a Fact Sheet about alcoholism immediately after this article. A simple definition of alcoholism is “continued use of alcohol in spite of negative consequences in the family or on the job.”

SECOND

Know the Three STAGEs of Change and try to determine whether the person may be ready todiscuss the problem

STAGE

1

THE PERSON IS NOT THINKING ABOUT CHANGING AT ALL:

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” “You’re the one with a drinking problem.” “My drinking is none of your business.”

STAGE

2

THE PERSON IS THINKING ABOUT CHANGE BUT IT SEEMS THEY ARE NOT READY FOR CHANGE:

“I’m not drinking as much as I used to.” “I cut back but my wife is still nagging me about it.” “My son says I have a problem but what do kids know?”

STAGE

3

THE PERSON SEEMS READY TO ACCEPT THE IDEA THAT THEY NEED TO CHANGE

“I have tried to cut back but I can’t.” “My secretary said she is tired of covering for me.” “I don’t know what to do about it without losing my job.”

Approach

...THE PERSON WITH LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE WITH STATEMENTS SUCH AS:

“You know we’ve been friends for 20 years….” “Everyone on the committee admires you so much…” “I’ve noticed that you have been in a negative mood since you started drinking more.” “Remember how mad we used to get at Mom when she drank too much on the holidays?” “I wonder if you realize how you come across after your third drink?”

Start

...A CONVERSATION ABOUT YOUR CONCERN FOR THE PERSON AND THEIR FAMILY

“I’m really concerned about how you look when you leave for work in the morning.” “It must be hard to make it through the day feeling the way you do.” “I’m worried about the kids. They love you so much, but when you’ve been drinking, you start yelling at them, and I see the hurt in their eyes.”

ease

...INTO THE IDEA OF GETTING HELP AT AA OR OTHER TREATMENT PROGRAMS

“How about if you go for an evaluation and find out whether you need help or not.” “Did you know that Jane goes to AA? Maybe you could talk with her about it.” “You know Bob went through treatment for alcoholism. Maybe we can find out where he went.” “I will do anything I can to support your getting the hold alcohol has on you behind you. I’ll be with you every step of the way.”

Do's And Don'ts

XDON’T be discouraged if the conversation doesn’t go as you hoped it would and

XDON’T take it personally.

DO understand that recovery is a process and often takes people months or years

XDON’T think you have failed if the person doesn’t seek effective help right away

DO contact the person who helped you with the stages of change, for suggestions about which way to go from here.

DO follow up with the person when they are ready to talk again. Let them initiate.

XDON’T get into an argument with the person.

DO make statements like “I know this is hard to talk about.”

XDON’T criticize or come across as rejecting the person.

DO show them respect and understanding.

DO your best to support them whatever the outcome of the conversation.

DO leave them with the knowledge that they have your continued love and support.

Family in recovery relaxing together on grass

SHOULD THE DRINKING OR DRUG USE CONTINUE

At times, the best efforts to help the person struggling with alcohol &/or drugs are not met with a willingness to acknowledge and understand what is happening to him/her and heart-wrenching deterioration in the addicted person — physically, spiritually and socially — continues. The increased concern, anger, and feeling of helplessness grows as the family experiences alienation from the person they love who, in their view it seems, is choosing a relationship with alcohol over one with them.

The Myth of Hitting “Rock Bottom”

Watching a person struggle with addiction is incredibly painful. Denial can be strong, shielding a person from admitting that the addiction is affecting day to day living, performance at work, and/or the family. It is often thought that it requires significant challenge – losing a job, one’s family, a tragic accident or experience – to “wake up” a person to the truth that there is a problem. This epiphany, it is believed, results in a commitment to treatment and recovery. Unfortunately, the desperation at this level of challenge can make successful recovery appear insurmountable, and actually may be too late for effective behavioral change. Instead, structured family intervention with the assistance of a professional can help lead a loved one to accept help and the possibility of recovery, before such devastation occurs.

Intervention

An intervention is a meeting between an individual in denial about their excessive alcohol or other drug use, and their friends and family, for the purpose of assisting that individual to accept help and begin a process of recovery. A professional who is a specialist in conducting successful interventions facilitates the meeting. The person with the alcohol problem does not yet believe that their drinking is a problem, and the goal is for them to hear from loved ones the reality that the drinking causes them great emotional pain and anxiety about the person’s health and safety.

Prior to the Intervention Meeting

  • The family and friends who are concerned about the individual meet with the intervention specialist for a period of time sufficient to educate them about addiction, the effects of excessive alcohol and/or drug use and to talk about how this individual’s drinking has affected them.
  • Arrangements are made for the person in need of recovery to go directly from the meeting into a treatment program.
  • All family members are expected to have started their own recovery from the emotional pain they have endured as they are preparing for the intervention, most logically beginning with attendance at Al-Anon meetings (Alateen for adolescent and teen members of the family) for their own healing and sanity

During the Meeting:

  • Interventionist has welcomes the person with a warm introduction and an indication that all the people in the room are there because they care deeply about the person and hope that he will listen to their concerns.
  • Interventionist also indicates that after everyone has spoken, the person will be welcome to say whatever is on his mind.
  • Each person reads a letter/statement that describes how the drinking has affected them. The group asks the person to agree to get help so that they can restore a life and loving relationships that drinking has stolen.
  • The person may continue to deny the damage that has resulted from the drinking in the family, in their social relationships, and at the workplace
  • The person may blame those present for “ganging up” on them.
  • Alternative responses are also planned in advance, including each person's boundaries, and "bottom line" with the hope that these will not be needed.

After the Meeting

If all goes well, the individual’s denial is broken down by the love and concern of their friends and family, and the process of recovery has begun. The next steps are critical. The individual must be immediately joined with treatment personnel. The individual’s resources and the availability of quality treatment are significant variables, but should not be allowed as excuses. Alcoholics Anonymous volunteers can help the individual begin a 12-Step program in their area. This level of commitment is usually necessary for a solid recovery to take root. Whether the intervention is successful or not, family members benefit from attending Al-Anon (and Alateen) meetings, participat ing in a family program offered by a treatment facility, and taking part in age-appropriate educational support opportunities with their peers. Families need to recover from the impact of this "family disease" so that all can heal and begin to establish a healthy and emotionally stable family home. Family members should also be prepared to carry out their agreed-upon "boundaries" or ultimatums as expressed, should the diseased person refuse to take part in the recovery process. As recovering persons, family members will change the dynamics in the household. It can be difficult for the person with active alcoholism/addiction to live with a recovering family. This is the healthy continuation of the intervention, and the best way to support a loved one in their recovery efforts. For more on Intervention, read the article in the Recovery section: Saving Lives, Saving Families: A Look at Family Intervention
At times, the best efforts to help the person struggling with alcohol &/or drugs are not met with a willingness to acknowledge and understand what is happening to him/her and heart-wrenching deterioration in the addicted person — physically, spiritually and socially — continues. The increased concern, anger, and feeling of helplessness grows as the family experiences alienation from the person they love who, in their view it seems, is choosing a relationship with alcohol over one with them.

The Myth of Hitting “Rock Bottom”

Watching a person struggle with addiction is incredibly painful. Denial can be strong, shielding a person from admitting that the addiction is affecting day to day living, performance at work, and/or the family. It is often thought that it requires significant challenge – losing a job, one’s family, a tragic accident or experience – to “wake up” a person to the truth that there is a problem. This epiphany, it is believed, results in a commitment to treatment and recovery. Unfortunately, the desperation at this level of challenge can make successful recovery appear insurmountable, and actually may be too late for effective behavioral change. Instead, structured family intervention with the assistance of a professional can help lead a loved one to accept help and the possibility of recovery, before such devastation occurs.

Intervention

An intervention is a meeting between an individual in denial about their excessive alcohol or other drug use, and their friends and family, for the purpose of assisting that individual to accept help and begin a process of recovery. A professional who is a specialist in conducting successful interventions facilitates the meeting. The person with the alcohol problem does not yet believe that their drinking is a problem, and the goal is for them to hear from loved ones the reality that the drinking causes them great emotional pain and anxiety about the person’s health and safety. Read More »

Whether the intervention is successful or not, family members benefit from attending Al-Anon (and Alateen) meetings, participating in a family program offered by a treatment facility, and taking part in age-appropriate educational support opportunities with their peers. Families need to recover from the impact of this "family disease" so that all can heal and begin to establish a healthy and emotionally stable family home. Family members should also be prepared to carry out their agreed-upon "boundaries" or ultimatums as expressed, should the diseased person refuse to take part in the recovery process. As recovering persons, family members will change the dynamics in the household. It can be difficult for the person with active alcoholism/addiction to live with a recovering family. This is the healthy continuation of the intervention, and the best way to support a loved one in their recovery efforts. For more on Intervention, read the article in the Recovery section: Saving Lives, Saving Families: A Look at Family Intervention

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