Our family support group is offered for family members to get help of their own. Alcoholism is a family disease; the family suffers too. In family support group, family members learn they are not alone. They learn about “tough love” and about tough boundaries which will not allow the alcoholic to keep a haven at home for drinking. They learn about making a contract, rather than listening to the alcoholic’s promises not to drink again. They learn how to say “no” when the alcoholic asks to use the car, to borrow money, to bring home unknown friends or to return home after another binge.
Family support group members learn how to support recovery rather than drinking. They reward progress in recovery rather than “promises” to do better outside a recovery program. They learn to “play the tape again” about the alcoholic’s history and to finally change it.
Family support group members learn that they can finally sleep again, that a recovery solution is a safe solution, that on the worst days the alcoholic is better off in recovery than anywhere else. Family support group also provides fellowship and a place to make new friends. Family members may feel isolated, alone, and guilty about the plight of the alcoholic. They learn instead that there is a reprieve, one day at a time, from the disease, and that the alcoholic has a solution.
Family members also learn they cannot keep the alcoholic sober, that a program of recovery is essential. Sometimes the alcoholic has been in other programs, but one more opportunity may be all they need to succeed. Programs such as California Recovery are often the “last house on the block” for alcoholics and addicts who have tried other programs.
Family members suffer too. Often they have been victimized by the disease to the extent that their homes have suffered, their jobs, their relationships. Part of the relief for the family member is to believe that there is a solution, that their refusal to tolerate alcohol and drugs is a major part of the solution, and that supporting recovery is much more important than supporting the alcoholic or addict. They also learn that the cost is too high to continue to support the alcoholic at home. The problem is not just the financial losses as a result of alcoholic behavior, including money, cars or even places to live, the problem is that the chaos continues until finally there is nothing left to lose.
Programs such as ours provide very low cost residential programs at a fraction of the cost the family has already paid and may never have to pay again. Most families can’t afford to continue losing money and prized possessions as a result of alcoholism. They need to progress in their family’s recovery from damage caused by alcoholics and addicts who are untreated. Everyone needs a support group. The family support group provides new sober relationships to families who have only known chaos and frustration since the onset of alcoholism in their family.
Families also need objective insights into their problems. For too long they have been left to their own analysis, which usually includes “what did I do wrong”. Now they learn that alcoholism is a major disease in the country and that families are too often targets for the alcoholic because of their sense of failure. They need to learn new facts, for example, that families influence their children only 25% of the time.
Families do have a responsibility to demonstrate a high standard of behavior, showing that they know how to “do the right thing”, and that tolerating alcohol, drugs and diseased behavior is completely unacceptable. When their family members do get sober, they begin to value these standards in a recovery program; they re-learn the values of honesty, open mindedness and willingness. They become grateful to parents and family who finally stopped accepting their destructive behavior. They become grateful for the time to learn about recovery in a safe and sober environment, where other alcoholics have succeeded and want to help them. Recovering alcoholics become their mentors, their teachers, and they need each other to stay on the path together recovery.
Families learn the value of investing in recovery instead of perpetuating the disease. When a family member is diagnosed with cancer, no effort is spared to get them to a hospital and experts to help them with a seemingly hopeless disease. When a family member becomes an alcoholic, this too is a seemingly hopeless disease that is most often terminal, without treatment. The family can and should focus on the solution: recovery. Experts in recovery are to be found in the recovery field. At California Recovery all the staff members are recovering alcoholics.
Some of the families bring alcoholics who only drink alcohol, but increasingly the problem is more likely to be drugs and alcohol. Prescription drugs are now so dangerous that more people died in 2009 from an alcohol and prescription drug combination than Heroin. Driving under the influence also has become so lethal, that many television shows, including 60 Minutes, are interviewing states where drivers under the influence are receiving penalties up to 20 years in prison. Courts in California are now levying charges such as “attempted murder” or “murder” if someone dies. The cost for families of legal fees alone is now astronomical, but it has no end, unless the alcoholic goes to prison, dies, or gets sober.
Finally, family support group members discover experience, strength and hope in their discussions and connections with other families who have overcome their guilt, remorse and shame. They have replaced their pain with knowledge of the disease and their conviction to make a difference for their family through Recovery. When the family decides to change, the alcoholic may be forced to change. Without recovery from drugs and alcoholic the family cannot recovery. When the alcoholic benefits, the entire family benefits.