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Alcohol & Sub. Dep.: Family Struggling with Sobriety
On the last track, we discussed the three important aspects of the ‘collapse’ stage of recovery. These are, letting go of long-standing routines and rituals, letting go of old attitudes and behaviors, and the fear of ‘walking backwards’.
On this track, we will discuss the entry into family recovery in its early stages. We will specifically discuss the four aspects of parallel recovery. These are, rebuilding is slow, personal examination, the family is still divided, and parallel recovery is only partial recovery.
As you know, parallel recovery focuses on the need for family members to focus on a period of personal recovery, so that each individual can develop a healthy self in preparation for later rebuilding the family. When describing parallel recovery to my clients, I use the metaphor of two children in a sandbox, each building their own castle. Each is aware of each other, but they have little interaction except to ask for a shovel, or squabble over a bucket. I explain that in parallel recovery, each family member is building their own castle, but the other family members are still close by.
# 1 - Rebuilding is Slow
Mark stated, “I thought once Donna got sober, I’d have her back, but I don’t! They have her now! She’s at those AA meetings half the nights of the week!” Obviously, it is dangerous for a family to push too quickly for closeness and normalcy. Changing from a firmly established way of life, even a negative one, is difficult.
# 2 - Personal Examination
Everyone is looking for someone else to blame. I find that it is essential to recovery for family members to relearn personal examination, and honesty. Do you agree that is as important for the family members to examine how they have betrayed their family, their friends, and themselves as it is for the addict in recovery?
# 3 - The Family is Still Divided
As you are aware, “camps”, as we discussed in Track 2, must be disbanded, and the family must be able to become vulnerable to each other, as trust develop once again. I find that the perspectives of the addict and co-addicts at this point can be quite different, and family members often do not have a long-term vision of what recovery will mean. Do you have a client who, in the early stages of recovery, still errs on the side of short-term stability instead of long-term mutual growth?
# 4 - Parallel Recovery is only Partial Recovery
Thomas, 18, came to my office as part of family treatment for his older brother Anthony, who had an addiction to cocaine. Thomas stated, “Things are better. There aren’t shouting matches any more. But at night we all sit at home watching TV, nobody talking. What am I supposed to say? How do I say sorry differently than I have a million times? Does Anthony feel bad for stealing the money I was going to use to go on spring break with my friends? Does he even remember?”
As you are aware, in this partial recovery, the distance between family members has not yet closed up. Although the family has found a way to stop the destructive aspects caused by the addiction, it has not found a way to recreate a shared values system. Do you find that many families get ‘stuck’ in the pattern of settling for this partial recovery?
“Accepting Better, Going for Great" Technique, 3 Steps
On this track, we have discussed the entry into family recovery in its early stages. We specifically discussed the four aspects of parallel recovery. These are, rebuilding is slow, personal examination, the family is still divided, and parallel recovery is only partial recovery.
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