By Beverly Buncher, MA, PCC, CTPC

boy in therapy

Anyone who has been in recovery knows that sustaining The Miracle of Recovery often carries with it a tremendous amount of work, sweat and tears. And to get to the point of recovery is often fraught with pain and struggle.

But what about the family?

Five years ago, the Mathesons came into family recovery. Their son was struggling mightily with heroin, their daughter with alcohol. Understandably, the parents were beside themselves, wondering when the nightmare would end and what they could do to help their once healthy children to return to an upright life.

“What’s wrong with you?” Mr. Matheson yelled. “I can’t take it,” his
wife added.

The two young adults they had raised, hardly seemed like what a 22 and 24-year-old should be like… Their daughter came home drunk at all hours of the night, and their son often stayed away for days at a time. Neither had finished college or held down a job. It was way past being too much for the parents to handle.

Finally, they figured out how to get their kids into treatment. Having spent years directing each child’s’ every move, the parents were shocked that the treatment center wasn’t looking for their daily reports on how happy or sad their children were in treatment, ways to improve the cooking, or how it would really would be better for their son to get a better roommate or counselor…

If you ask a treatment center what they think about a family like the Mathesons, you may hear something like, “Well, the family is often sicker than the person with the use disorder. They just need to step back and let us do our job with their loved one.”

If you ask the family member, you may hear something like, “We are lost. The treatment center is keeping us in the dark. We have no idea how to talk to our loved one anymore or how to help. They don’t seem to care about what we or our children think or feel…”

If you ask the person with the use disorder they may say, “My mom’s driving me crazy. Her worry and anxiety may take me under. She just keeps on top of me to such an extent that I feel like I can’t breathe. I’m here in treatment and she is still trying to control my every move.”

The answer to this question of “What about the family?” is proven through research to be a critical piece of a loved one’s recovery puzzle. Yet, it has often been overlooked and rejected as irrelevant, partly because it seems so difficult to effectively address.

In my work over the past 11 years as a Family Recovery Life Coach, I have found that it is possible to solve the family puzzle through empowering families with Information, Transformation, and Support. This may seem like a simple formula, but actually, it provides families with an all-encompassing path forward to their own and hopefully their loved one’s freedom from use disorders.

In fact, these three components form the critical triad when it comes to helping families play a viable positive role in their loved one’s recovery.

Take the Matheson’s for instance. When the treatment center first introduced them to the information that they are always either contributing to their loved one’s use disorder or their recovery, they were sure they had always been helpful. After a few conversations on what it means to contribute to recovery, and what it means to contribute to the addiction, they saw that perhaps their constant bailing their son out of jail wasn’t helpful and that calling their daughter’s boss to get her out of trouble when she was late for work might NOT be the best approach…

That was just the beginning, but enough of one to get them interested in learning more. Soon they stopped calling the treatment center to advocate for their daughter and son’s desires and began encouraging them to focus on their recovery rather than on their comfort…

Prior to engaging in these three components, family members are often clingy, anxious, angry, and completely lost. Once they begin to receive valid information about use disorders, how change happens, the family’s role and what to do and not do in order to contribute to recovery, these same family members look like a huge stone has been lifted off of their backs. Hope begins to return and it is evident in their eyes and posture.

Then comes the transformation. This is a change process that every person must go through in order to sustain the ability to see the world through new eyes and act accordingly. Essential to its success is the family’s development of healthy inner and outer awareness. In other words, a sense of peace, objectivity and nonjudgment replace the former sense of outrage and discouragement. The family members learn how to observe without hovering, see without judging, and the loved one may say things like, “For the first time you are really listening to me” or “Who took my mother?”

For the Matheson’s, this came when they began learning how to use their
breath to calm down. Soon they were moving from reacting to breathing
through upsetting news and then responding in a calm mindset.

The third component of this process of helping families is called support and it can come in the form of group support, one-onone therapy or one-on-one coaching. The key is that it supports the new way of life the family member is striving to create. And support can be an amazing accelerator when both information and transformation are firmly in place just as information and transformation are powerful accelerators for support!

The weekly coaching groups at the treatment center helped the Matheson’s a lot. They were in class learning new recovery information, practicing new mindfulness activities at home, and sharing what they were going through with a skilled coach and other family members all of whom understood and could help them move to their next level of growth.

The key to this process of providing effective family recovery access is to remember all three: Educate parents with information. Provide transformational activities and exercises, a daily peaceful practice of mindfulness, for instance, to help them see the world through the eyes of love, connection, and peace. Be there with support so that they are ready and able to put into practice all they have learned.

Remember: Information. Transformation. Support. The Key to Helping Families Contribute to Their Loved One’s Recovery.

Beverly Buncher is known as the foremost Family Recovery Life Coach in the nation, is the Founder and CEO of Family Recovery Resources, LLC, and the BALM® (Be A Loving Mirror®) Training Institute for Family Recovery Services. (https://balmfamilyrecovery.com) The BALM® Program is designed for families impacted by substance use (SUD) and other use disorders, professionals who are called to help families affected by use disorders, and recovery treatment centers looking for a holistic family program to add to their facilities’ services. To learn more about inviting Bev to speak at your organization or facility, click here: https://balmfamilyrecovery.com/beverlys-media-kit-page/