Dealing with the Family !

There is an assumption that an alcoholic, upon entering a rehab will have some type of family as part of their lives.

This is not always the case but in the majority of situations it is. A family may consist of an immediate family, an extended or birth or natural family, a group of close friends or possibly even a company or business where co-workers are concerned and feel close to the alcoholic.

The important point is not so much the nature of the family, but the sense that there are a number of people who in some way or close to a concerned with an alcoholic who have acted as some degree of pressure to get the alcoholic into a rehab, and acknowledge they have a problem with alcohol/alcoholism.

The focus of being in a rehab is twofold. The main focus is primarily on the alcoholic and in helping them, or trying to help them understand the nature of their alcoholism, the recovery process and what it involves, and hopefully give them some sense of a way forward once they have left a rehab, and how they can rebuild their lives through programs such as that of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The rehab will also have a focus towards the family of an alcoholic. This will be in some ways at a practical level. A rehab will have a number of what it refers to as either family days or family meetings. These can often be quite tense affairs. The nature of the relationship between an alcoholic and his or her family, is likely to be quite strained putting it mildly.

A rehab should recognise this and should use the family days more as a way of trying to open an understanding between the two sides, rather than act as any type of mediation or family group therapy. In many ways the people who are closest to an alcoholic will have been hurt as much at the alcoholic themselves by the alcoholics drinking and behaviour.

A rehab will hopefully have an approach that can give the family members an opening into organisations such as Al-Anon, possibly family therapy and any other appropriate group of help.

Whatever approach a rehab takes, part of its mission should be to help a family understand that they have been damaged as much, if not in many ways more, than the alcoholic themselves. If they are to rebuild any type of relationship either with themselves, or with the alcoholic, then they need to own that they have been affected by the person’s alcoholism and need help themselves.

A rehab can do much to help an alcoholic in the process of recovery. A rehab can also do much to help the family understand the context of what has happened to them and to the alcoholic. Bringing the two together is a lifelong process, and raises the question of what part a rehab can really play in that process.

Perhaps the best that can happen whilst in a rehab is that both sides can realise that they have been affected by alcoholism and need help. Only if all parties try and help themselves, will they stop blaming each other for what has happened, and have any hope of a happy and secure future.