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Support Groups and 12 Step Programs for Families of Addicts

Most people are aware that support groups exist for individuals who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, and other substances. But there are also support groups and 12 step programs for families of addicts as well. It can be extremely difficult to watch your loved one struggle with substance abuse and addiction, and that is why these groups exist. Friends and family members of those who need substance abuse treatment actually benefit from similar treatment options, and these can help you deal with your own conflicting issues about a loved one’s substance abuse.

Why Do Support Groups/12 Step Programs Exist for Families of Addicts?

addiction recovery in the family

Coming together with other family members and loved ones of addicts in a mutual support group-setting is very helpful to everyone involved.

Often, family members can go through much grief as a result of someone’s drug addiction, in some cases, just as much. According to the NLM, regular abuse of drugs, alcohol, and other substances can cause “loss of interest in school, work, family, and friends” which can be extremely hard on loved ones. The addict in your life may cease to be close to you which can take a toll on your own life in general and make it much harder for you to cope with their substance abuse and your feelings toward it.

Other issues family members of addicts face are:

  • Hostility, physical and verbal abuse, and (as a result of some drug abuse) even dangerous actions from their loved one
  • Monetary issues as a result of the individual spending money meant for other things on their habit
  • Loneliness, stress, depression, confusion, etc.
  • Resentment toward the loved one who is no longer in control of their own actions
  • Misunderstandings about what their loved one is actually going through
  • Legal and financial battles that the drug addicted individual cannot fight because they are in treatment, jail, etc.

Dealing with a loved one’s addiction, treatment, and eventual recovery can be a source of many problematic feelings and difficult issues for those individuals who are still there to help pick up the pieces. For this reason, “Multidimensional family therapy” and other family therapy models exist to “address… a range of influences on [a person’s] drug abuse patterns” and are “designed to improve overall family functioning” (NIDA).

But what if family members of addicts needs a specific place they can go where other individuals who are dealing with the same issues are present? This is where support groups and 12 step programs for families of addicts are necessary. In these groups, individuals can focus on how it feels to be the loved one of an addict and help one another through these difficult times.

Pros of Families of Addicts Support Groups

Some of the pros associated with these groups are:

  • They are usually free so family members aren’t paying extra for their own treatment.
  • Individuals can share their feelings with others who understand.
  • They meet often in person and, sometimes, even online.
  • Family members who go to these support groups can often help motivate addicted loved ones to go to their own groups as well.
  • They are especially beneficial to parents of teens who are addicted to or abusing one or more dangerous substances.

What are Some of the Possible Groups I Can Attend?

Depending on your situation and your loved one’s, there are different support and 12 step groups that you may want to attend. In some cases, those designed for the family members of addicts are also very specific.

  • When a teenager becomes addicted to a substance, it is difficult for everyone involved, and treatment can often be more successful for an individual teen when a parent or loved one is present.
  • According to the NIDA, “Support groups for family members of people with addictions, like Alateen,” are very helpful for some individuals.
    • Alateen is a support group that pledges to provide “strength and hope for friends and families of problem drinkers.”
    • Alateen is mostly a group for individuals whose teenaged children and loved ones abuse alcohol.
  • The VDMH states that there are several other mutual help groups that were “developed to support the family members and friends of individuals with substance use problems” such as:
  • AI-Anon (the equivalent of Alateen but for those with adult loved ones who are addicts)
  • Nar-Anon (a 12 step program for the families and friends of substance abusers and addicts)
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) (another 12 step program that focuses on those who have experienced life as children of alcoholic parents)

Any of these groups can be attended by family members and/or friends of addicts. Because it can be so difficult on these individuals and they can often feel like they have no one to talk to, these groups can be incredibly helpful, inexpensive, resourceful, and remedying of guilty feelings which loved ones of addicts often feel just like addicts themselves do.

Which Type of Group is Right for Me?

It is important that you consider the different groups and ask yourself which one is really right for you. If you decide you want to attend one of these support groups or 12 step programs, make sure that you understand what they entail. For example:

  • 12 step programs can often be based on religious principles and the belief in a higher power. For many individuals, this is incredibly comforting and helps them find a way to change their perspective for the better. Consequentially, others may not feel comfortable in a religious group and may want to choose a non-religious option instead. Making sure you know the principles each group abides by will help you decide, and these can often be found on the group’s website.
  • Some groups are specific to loved ones of alcoholics, narcotic addicts, etc. Others, like the ACA, are even more specific. Knowing the perimeters of your group will help you choose the one that fits your needs.
  • If you ever feel uncomfortable or like you have chosen a group that harms rather than helps, try a different one. There are many.

Support groups and 12 step programs exist for the families and friends of addicts because they also have a difficult journey of recovery and self discovery and, in some cases, it can be one that affects their entire lives.

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