Benefits of family involvement in Drug & Alcohol Treatment
When I first accessed rehabilitation treatment for my drug and alcohol issues at the age of 27 I thought that I was the only one with the problem and that my alcohol and drug abuse wasn’t affecting anyone else but myself. I started drinking in my teens, going to parties and then into the clubbing scene, but most of my drinking towards the end had been in the confines of my own home, unable to predict my behaviour after a few drinks and often in blackout it was safe to drink at home, alone. So I justified to myself that I wasn’t hurting anyone but myself.
I remember waking up in hospital after being on a binge for several days with my dad sitting beside me.
It had been a horrendous year. I had been abusing cannabis, amphetamines, heroin, cocaine ice, GHB, prescription medications and alcohol. He had flown in from interstate after my flatmate had called him. I was heavily medicated on valium but I still clearly realised that this was serious. Over the next week I left hospital and moved back into my childhood home as it wasn't safe for me to return to my flat. My parents spoke to me about seeking professional help and we made the decision, somewhat reluctantly on my behalf to access professional support and the services I needed. I didn’t really want to stop drinking, I just wanted the consequences of my drinking to stop.
I was so angry, confused and bewildered at how I had managed to stuff my life up so badly, I felt like a complete failure, without hope. I had always carried so much shame and guilt about my addictions that I had lied and pretended as best as I could that I had it all together. I didn’t know how to ask for help but having finally been desperate enough to enter treatmentI realised that I couldn’t do it alone. I learnt that it was okay to be an alcoholic and met other people who were just like me.
I started family counselling with my parents and brother. At first it was very confronting as I came to the realisation that my drinking had actually affected them deeply. It was the most profound experience for us all. If it wasn’t for my family picking me up and pointing me in the right direction when I was broken I don’t know where I would be today.
Including my family in my addiction treatmentnot only meant that I had their support and they understood better about the nature of my addiction and so were better equipped to go through the journey of recovery with me, but also meant that they too had the opportunity to heal as well. Over the years they had faced heartache, worry and a sense of powerlessness faced with the baffling and often incomprehensible nature of my behaviour in the throes of active alcohol and drug addiction.
Together we healed, we learnt that we could change our thinking and our attitudes toward one another, that we were not suck in the same toxic behaviours and we learnt to speak to each other with respect and love. My family was given the help and resources they needed to change and recover and the therapeutic process has allowed us all to be free from the evil and corrosive effects of addiction.
Characteristics of Addiction
Addiction to alcohol and other drugs is a chronic, progressive, and sometimes fatal disease. It is also a manageable disease.
In 1956 the American Medical Association first recognized addiction to alcohol and other drugs as a chronic disease. It is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and abuse and by long-lasting chemical changes in the brain. Addiction is the same whether the drug is alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, nicotine, or a prescription medication.
Continued use of the addictive substance causes changes in the brain that lead to tolerance, physical dependence, uncontrollable craving, relapse, and, in severe cases, death.
The stigma of addiction as a moral failing or a lack of willpower can keep individuals from seeking help for an alcohol or other drug problem. The concept of addiction as a disease can encourage and empower individuals to seek help.
Does Drug Abuse Affect Different People in Different Ways?
Yes. One person can take and abuse drugs, yet never become addicted, while another merely has one experience and seems to be immediately hooked.
Drug addiction is a complex illness characterized by intense and, at times, uncontrollable drug craving, along with compulsive drug seeking and use that persist even in the face of devastating consequences.
Common drugs of abuse include cannabis, amphetamines, heroin, cocaine ice, GHB, prescription medications and alcohol.
People with an addiction use the drug(s) repeatedly, regardless of the damage it does to:
their relationships with friends and the community
How Does Addiction Affect a Co-occurring Psychiatric Disorder?
People with a severe mental illness or an addictive disorder face many challenges. Persons with both disorders, and co-occurring disorders, face even more challenges.
They have a greater tendency for violence, medication noncompliance, and failure to respond to treatment at any Alcohol Treatment Centre.
These problems can extend to and affect the person’s family, friends, and co-workers.
How Does Addiction Affect the Brain?
Does a dependence on drugs cause an individual’s brain to malfunction?
Or does the brain malfunction cause a dependence to drugs?
Research has shown the latter is true. A drug on its own is not capable of producing dependence unless several factors (genetics, for example) are in place. Brain chemistry that has gone awry is what leads to compulsive use and impaired control. The drug is only a trigger for the disease.
Is Addiction Treatable?
Yes. Like diabetes or other chronic diseases, addiction can be treated and managed.
Treatment can involve detoxification, taking medications, or receiving individual or group therapy in an outpatient, hospital, or residential setting.