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Why does the family of the addict or alcoholic need to participate anyway? I’m not the sick one.

Several key concepts are in order here. McClelland wrote a seminal article in the prestigious JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) which compared addiction to other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and asthma. As you know from this column, these conditions have many similarities. They all respond to medication and lifestyle treatments, they all recur when those efforts are stopped, and they all respond when those treatments are restarted. They even have similar relapse rates. So, many family members would consider it perfectly normal to be supportive of the partner in efforts to stop smoking, to cut down on fat and salt, to increase exercise, to manage stress, and to comply with whatever medication regime the medical provider prescribed. The family learns as much as possible about the illness in the family.

So why isn’t this as true with addiction? In another article we talk more about codependency, and the efforts to deny or evade dealing with painful truths. The family doesn’t need to go because it is their fault (see paragraph one). They need to go because every addict or alcoholic’s behavior affects at least seven other people. Some of that seven are surely in the immediate family. Many times there is anger at the using family member, that the family dynamics revolved around them when using and now it revolves around them going to all those meetings. Better meetings at churches, Alano clubs and treatment centers than meetings on street corners or bars. The treatment center or support meetings for all family members help confront the denial, the lies, the disconnection, and the resentments which have built but have never been able to be resolved. Indeed your question sounds like resentments and anger have been building for a while. Maybe individual psychotherapy is in order, and then some family work. Watch some WYNK flash videos, and then consider getting some individual psychotherapy, family therapy, and perhaps even support group work. Well, would you if it were for a family member with asthma or diabetes or heart disease?

by: Lois Cochrane Schlutter, Ph.D. L.P.

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