Family Members in Recovery

familyWhat does it mean to be in recovery?
What if I don’t want to go to AA or another 12-step program to recover?
What is a 12-step program?
What is co-dependency?
I have worked with many individuals and families “in recovery.” Recovery is a process that begins when a person admits how damaging the role of alcohol or other addictions in the family have become to her/himself. To be in recovery, one must acknowledge the problem and become sober. However, recovery is more than just getting sober; it is entering into an active process of change, discovery, healing and self empowerment. Recovery presents many challenges, but as challenging as it might be, it is also exciting, life affirming and fulfilling. To me, to watch a person recover is like watching leaves grow back on the trees at the end of a long winter.
When one member of a family has a substance abuse problem or a chemical dependency, it affects all members of the family. The problem could be with alcohol or any other substance, including prescription drugs. When a member is sexually addicted, families suffer similarly. Families can be in different stages of dealing with the problem, from denial to active recovery from the negative effects of the addiction. Family members tend to create roles to deal with the problem member or they may become co-dependent. There are too many examples of co-dependency to mention here. Basically, co- dependency occurs when a person has become so focused and centered on the person with the problem, that s/he loses touch with her/his own life and needs and instead becomes obsessed with the addict. The co-dependent may look more functional than the addict, but s/he suffers from a deep dysfunction and needs treatment to recover.
Support is a critical ingredient to recovery. There is no doubt that AA is an extremely effective program in treating alcoholism, so I highly recommend it. I have also worked with people to create an effective recovery program for themselves without a 12-step group. All 12-step programs are modeled after the AA program and the 12 steps that the founders articulated as crucial to recovery. 12-step programs exist for many problems: Narcotics Anonymous, Sexual Addicts Anonymous, Children of Alcoholics, Alanon for family members, Co-dependency and Relationship addiction groups, etc. Millions of people have been helped by these recovery programs.
Information on AA: