It is a well-known fact that addiction or substance use disorder does not only impact the individual dealing with the illness but rather impacts so many others. Friends, employers, employees, the local community, and others. The impact of a single person’s addiction is evident in its economic impact on society and the local or national workforce. It impacts healthcare workers and emergency medical personnel. It can potentially impact local crime rates and the court system. But other than the individual sufferer of substance use disorder, the people most impacted by addiction are the people closest to them in their family.


“Addiction is a family disease” is a phrase often associated with the disease of addiction, and it couldn’t be more truthful. As the person suffering from substance abuse deals with fear, powerless, loneliness, pain, trauma, frustration, despair, chaos and the like, so do the family members of that person deal with the exact same issues and feelings. It may even be worse as a parent, watching their child go through the pain and hopelessness of addiction.


Hopefully the shame and stigma of addiction do not prevent the sufferer from addiction from reaching out for help, and hopefully, the shame and stigma of addiction does not prevent their family from immediately seeking help for them. Parents, spouses and family members jump at the first chance at getting a loved one help for addiction. They call therapists, and psychiatrists, and treatment centers. Perhaps they contact a close family friend or colleague they know is in recovery or has dealt with a family member in recovery. Hopefully they are directed to a qualified rehab that meets the clinical needs of their loved one, and hopefully, the person with addiction engages in treatment. Hopefully, they are appropriately treated for the chronic health condition that is addiction and begin receiving the appropriate clinical services and support. And hopefully, they begin a personal journey of sustainable recovery, finding hope, new direction and purpose, new success, and new meaning.


But what of the family left behind? While their loved one with addiction is receiving the abundance of clinical help and recovery support for themselves, what becomes of the family members that have suffered through the chaos, dealing with fear, lack of control, anxiety, depression, and a host of other feelings, emotions, and situations? What of the family members that are not, in some ways, survivors of a chaotic, traumatic situation that may have spanned decades, and are left with at least some semblance of PTSD? For many, the belief that “my loved one had the problem, and now that they are finding health, everything will be okay” is commonplace. But this isn’t exactly the truth.


Any parent or spouse that has lived through a loved one’s addiction has lived through trauma. They have dealt with terrifying human emotions. They have developed negative coping mechanisms to deal with the fear, and the chaos, and the uncertainty of loving someone with substance use disorder. Therefore, the loved ones that have dealt with addiction need help too!


Parents, spouses, and other family members that have dealt with a loved one’s addiction, in order to return to health, need to find healing through their own journey of recovery. They need support, coaching, guidance, and quite possibly, clinical services such as therapy. When their loved one’s journey of addiction recovery begins, so must their journey of health take place.


Studies have demonstrated that when a family unit finds recovery and heals, the chances that the loved one suffering from addiction are increased exponentially. Parents, spouses, and loved ones must seek out their own health, healing and recovery. They must deal with the trauma they have suffered. They must learn how to create healthy boundaries. They must relearn how to have a healthy relationship with their loved ones. They often need to work on the relationships with other family members, since they have no doubt been damaged and turned unhealthy due to the addiction that the family has been dealing with through the years.


At Maryland Addiction Recovery Center, we believe that the family unit needs to heal to give the loved one the best chance to recovery from addiction. Family involvement is crucial throughout the entire addiction treatment experience while in rehab, which includes family therapy sessions, but also consistent coaching and support. Additionally, peer-to-peer support like our weekly MARC/Caron Weekly Family Support Group on Wednesday evenings are important to connect with other families that have been through addiction and come out on the other side. Outside community support groups, like Al-Anon and others, are beneficial. Many family members on their own need to seek individual, family or couples counseling or therapy through local clinical services. Specialized clinical support through services such as family recovery coaching or case management offer additional support and guidance walking the path from addiction, through treatment, and into long-term recovery. The family must never neglect their own needs and never simply assume that because their loved one has found recovery from addiction, that they themselves don’t need their own help and support to heal.


If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at [email protected]. For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at

family therapy for substance abuse - Understanding Addiction

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