Kevin’s FAQs from Concerned Family Members
With several years of experience in addiction therapy and family case management, Kevin Petersen, MA, LMFT has heard his share of questions from concerned family members. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions from concerned family members:
Q: How can I best support my family member’s recovery?
A: Get into your own recovery. Nothing will change the relationship more than your own recovery. Also consider 12 step recovery, CODA, ALANON or NARANON. Try them out and see which one fits you. Read books on codependency and family systems and ultimately, educate yourself on addiction and codependency. Some resources that can help:
- Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
- Chronic Hope: Parenting the Addicted Child by Kevin
- Daring Greatly by Brene Brown (also watch her TED Talks from 2010 (Vulnerability) and
- 2012 (Shame) on vulnerability and shame. These will help you understand what your family member is experiencing.
- Parenting Teens with Love and Logic by Cline and Fay – It doesn’t matter if your family member in treatment is 16, 26, 36 or 46 this book will help you with setting boundaries and preparing for when they leave treatment.
- “Pleasure Unwoven” by Kevin McCauley – This documentary is a great resource for families to understand the medical science of addiction as well as the psychological.
Also feel free to attend the treatment center’s family weekend and weekly family meetings and share your experiences with the other families or ask questions if you need help or support.
Q: What do you say when your family member is in treatment?
A: It’s normal to wonder ‘what do we tell our friends and family?’ You don’t have to keep secrets anymore and you’re not obligated to share anything with anyone that you don’t want to. If someone is asking about your family member, tell them to ask them directly, not ask you about them.
Q: Should we allow the addict to make mistakes and not solve their problem?
A: Yes, that’s how they learn. Every time you rescue him, you are robbing him of a chance to learn from his mistakes. “No” is a complete sentence. The hardest part for the family is standing back and watching and not rescuing.
Q: What do we do if they relapse? Do we have to take them back?
A: Hold the same boundaries you did when they entered treatment. Tell them, “We love you and if you want to get sober, we will help you. If you don’t want to get sober then we still love you but
we are going to choose to have boundaries.” Only keep paying for treatment if you can afford it and want to. You can be okay whether they are sober or not.
Q: What do we do when they call with problems and issues with the treatment center?
A: That sounds like something you should talk to your therapist/case manager or sponsor about and determine how you’re going to deal with that. Remember: we have to heal the family system just like we have to heal the addict. You are not responsible for your family member’s addiction, but you are responsible for how you respond to it. Addiction has a ripple effect in the family and creates trauma for everyone involved.
Q: Does addiction ever go away or does the addict get healed?
A: The reality is that if you are an addict, you are always an addict and will always need to treat your addiction. The good news is that being sober and in recovery is awesome and fun! Recovery is not a chore or a sentence to being miserable for the rest of your life.