Typically, joining a 12-step program like AA or NA is one of the first things people think of when they want to get sober. These programs are well known and widely available. Many people will need more intensive treatment, including psychotherapy, medical detox, outpatient services, or intensive inpatient treatment. These provide a level of care that 12-step programs can’t. However, 12-step programs are often an integral part of aftercare plans. They provide a sober network for greater support and accountability in recovery. Although you will initially benefit the most from programs like AA or NA, at some point you may want to consider also attending Al-Anon or Nar-Anon–programs designed to help family members of people with substance use disorders. Here’s why.
Addiction is a family disease.
Addiction is a family disease in every sense. Research shows there is a strong genetic component to addiction. About half your addiction risk is thought to be determined by genetic factors. If you have a parent or sibling with a substance use disorder, there’s about a 50 percent chance you will have one too. However, there is a saying that genes only load the gun; environment pulls the trigger. Just as problematic as a predisposition to addiction is growing up in an environment with a parent or guardian with a substance use disorder. Children who grow up in houses with addiction are far more likely to have adverse experiences such as suffering abuse or neglect, witnessing domestic violence, having a parent arrested, having parents get divorced, and others. The more of these experiences a child has, the greater his risk of addiction.
That means, if you have a substance use disorder, there’s a pretty good chance your parents or siblings also have a substance use disorder. In other words, you don’t only need support to cope with your own addiction; you need support coping with a family member’s addiction too, which is what Al-Anon is for. Coping with a family member’s addiction can be tremendously stressful and it helps to spend time with people who have been there and understand. It’s also important to keep in mind that if you have a substance use disorder, there’s a good chance that your children will too. Participating in Al-Anon can be a way to help them too.
Al-Anon can give you a different perspective.
In addition to helping you cope with a family member’s addiction, Al-Anon can give you valuable insight into what your own family has gone through dealing with your addiction. You can better understand their problems and use that empathy to strengthen important relationships. It can help you get a better sense of the family dynamics involved in addiction. Although many of the people there won’t have substance use disorders themselves, they all have had to deal with the consequences of having a family member with addiction, just as you have. Having the support of that community can help you work on your substance use issues from a different angle.
Everyone has a different set of issues when it comes to addiction. For many, family was part of the problem but family can also be part of the solution. At Tree House Recovery of Portland, Oregon, we help men find connection and build stronger lives free from addiction. Call us today at (503) 850-2474 to learn more about how our holistic treatment program can help you.