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On this track, we will discuss establishing cooperation within the family of an addict, through identifying who is most open to change, asking for help, finding allies outside the immediate family, and dealing with family members who refuse to cooperate.
As you are well aware, addiction isolates families. Family members are not only isolated from the outside world, but they are often isolated from each other. As we discussed in the last track, unspoken rules prevent negative feelings from being discussed. I find that the first step when working with the family member of an addict is to establish communication about the addiction with the other non-addicted members of their family. There are four steps in this process: identifying who is most open to change, asking for help, finding allies outside the immediate family, and dealing with family members who refuse to cooperate.
4 Steps to Establish Communication about the Addiction
Step # 1 - Identify who is Most Open to Change
Nancy, 35, discovered that all of her children were discontented with their father’s drinking. After leaving the military, Aaron began drinking heavily, often 120 shots of scotch a week. Nancy’s oldest son, Steve, age 11, became increasingly frustrated with Aaron’s behavior. Steve said, "I got a glider for my birthday, and I asked Dad to help me put it together. He told me ‘maybe someday, but not today’. That glider never got put together."
The day Aaron was fired, Nancy came home to find him completely intoxicated. Her younger son, Ben, was hiding under the kitchen table, scared. Nancy told me, "I took the kids down to the basement and asked them if they had noticed anything about their dad. Steve told me he was scared, and that Aaron looked depressed, and that his speech was slurred. I told them their dad had lost his job because of his drinking. It was the first time I had really talked to them about the problem."
Step # 2 - Asking for Help
Step # 3 - Finding Allies
Step # 4 - Dealing with Members who Refuse to Cooperate
Frequently, the first response from family members who refuse to cooperate is "I need more information". Although your client may want to rush right into an intervention, encourage them not to rush in to anything. In Nancy’s case, I helped her find children’s books and resources to teach her two sons about their father’s illness in terms they could understand.
'Building Up Courage Muscles' Exercise - 3 Steps
-- Step # 1 - Find Support
-- Step # 2 - Establish a History of Success
-- Step # 3 - Find a Talisman
On this track, we have discussed establishing communication within the family of an addict by identifying who is most open to change, asking for help, finding allies outside the immediate family, and dealing with family members who refuse to cooperate.
On the next track, we will discuss the three types of anger found in the family of an addict: instructive, safe-guarding, and relationship anger.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Church, S., Bhatia, U., Velleman, R., Velleman, G., Orford, J., Rane, A., & Nadkarni, A. (2018). Coping strategies and support structures of addiction affected families: A qualitative study from Goa, India. Families, Systems, & Health, 36(2), 216–224.
Eddie, D., White, W. L., Vilsaint, C. L., Bergman, B. G., & Kelly, J. F. (2021). Reasons to be cheerful: Personal, civic, and economic achievements after resolving an alcohol or drug problem in the United States population. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 35(4), 402–414.
Farmer, R. F., Seeley, J. R., Gau, J. M., Klein, D. N., Merikangas, K. R., Kosty, D. B., Duncan, S. C., & Lewinsohn, P. M. (2018). Clinical features associated with an increased risk for alcohol use disorders among family members. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 32(6), 628–638.
Otten, R., Harakeh, Z., Vermulst, A. A., Van den Eijnden, R. J. J. M., & Engels, R. C. M. E. (2007). Frequency and quality of parental communication as antecedents of adolescent smoking cognitions and smoking onset. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 21(1), 1–12.
Samek, D. R., Rueter, M. A., Keyes, M. A., McGue, M., & Iacono, W. G. (2015). Parent involvement, sibling companionship, and adolescent substance use: A longitudinal, genetically informed design. Journal of Family Psychology, 29(4), 614–623.
Wills, T. A., Gibbons, F. X., Gerrard, M., Murry, V. M., & Brody, G. H. (2003). Family Communication and Religiosity Related to Substance Use and Sexual Behavior in Early Adolescence: A Test for Pathways Through Self-Control and Prototype Perceptions. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 17(4), 312–323.
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