Often times, a loved one will hand off an alcoholic to an alcohol treatment center that lists family counseling as one of its treatment techniques. Then an odd thing happens; the family never shows up. When the alcoholic is eventually discharged and drinks again, sometimes these same loved ones throw up their hands in frustration. There need not be any, though.
When an alcohol treatment program includes family counseling in its treatment methods, the reaction should not be, “Oh, isn’t that nice?”
It should be, “Wow, we are going to have to put a lot into this as well.”
It is not merely a suggestion. Many times, the lack of a support system is what inevitably brings an alcoholic back to the bottle. Meetings and the Fellowship can help, but we cannot spend our days hiding in meetings, and eventually, we have to go home.
We understand where the loved ones are coming from, though. After all, he or she is the one with the drinking problem; why should you have to go to one of these programs, too?
Family counseling treats the disease not just the person
Alcoholism is a family disease—and not just about the act of drinking either. Alcoholism is a reflection of far deeper issues that drove a person to place inside where they needed to find refuge from the outside world.
Whether that consists of feelings of insecurity, a past history of abuse, or any other multitude of factors does not matter. Alcoholism still exists even when the drink or the drugs are taken away, and let’s face it, when a person lacks the tools to deal with life on life’s terms, nothing numbs people out quite like drugs and alcohol. It is ultimately the go-to solution for addicts and alcoholics.
It is for this same reason that we cannot just “fix” an alcoholic, and send him or her back into the same environment, expecting that they will continue to be clean and sober.
Getting an addict or alcoholic to go to treatment is not the end—it is just the beginning. Family counseling helps prepare both the alcoholic as well as his or her family for a life of recovery in everyday situations.
It might sound crazy, but the alcoholic or addict is usually the healthiest person in the family. When there is nowhere to escape from a dysfunctional environment, it only makes sense that someone would do the next logical thing—they check out. It just so happens that drugs and alcohol are a fantastic way to do just that.
Family counseling gives everyone in the family unit the tools to communicate effectively and to be healthy. Alcohol treatment is not just a responsibility of an alcoholic to see through—it is a group responsibility. If the madness, misery, and chaos is enough that loved ones can see it ruining the alcoholic’s life, it should make sense that the same madness, misery, and chaos are affecting themselves, and that there is a way out for them, too.