Real Families Healed, 2017

Most of these people with addiction recently came to us in relapse after treatment (with most having repeated treatment many times, with subsequent relapses). Treatment provides structure for beginning to obtain early recovery skills to combat brain craving for early recovery. But, addicts and families also need to develop the capacity as a family unit to deal with loss, grief, small and larger trauma. Family addiction education (Level 2) (Doherty and Baird, 1986), at best, only begins such a process; but is almost always absent the addict. Without the capacity to grieve and abate the impact of trauma, with mutual support in the family, relapse occurs.

Few treatment centers offer therapeutic grief skill support for the person with addiction, and even fewer offer such for the addict with his/her family. In a positive and affirming manner, the Family Recovery Process (FRP) facilitates family members enacting healing and healthy relational skills, developing coping capacities, and dealing with loss and trauma; together with the addict. This supports the family at the highest Level 5 of support (Doherty and Baird, 1986). Children begin and end the session with the family, but engage in art therapy separately while the adults get support for developing and enacting healthy emotional and relational skills. Then, the kids rejoin the adults and together all receive direct facilitation in enacting healthy relational skills for healing, and abating the adverse impact of trauma, as a family unit.

For many of the addicts, treatment is necessary to cease the relapse, while for others no additional traditional treatment is needed. Many treatment centers do not believe addicts and family can have sessions together early in recovery; because they do not use this healing technology.

All names below are pseudonyms.

*30yo Jim, had 3 previous treatment experiences and was chronically unemployed. In consultation with a physician, we identified the likely SLC 6A4 genetic pattern (serotonin transported deficiency). Breaking his pattern of relapse, he is now in the longest period of sobriety in his adult life having used appropriate medication while engaged in FRP. He is sober since January 2016, and building healthy relational capacity. His parents were surprised and thrilled in his staying sober as he not only dealt with the April 2016 loss of his dog (his pet since high school), but he also supported his partner and step-kids in healthily grieving this profound family loss. Together with FRP facilitation, they have worked hard at developing the parenting skills neither previously had. As of January, 2017, he is still sober and doing well.

*Forty-three year old Elaine is 3 years in recovery from methamphetamine. Her husband, Wil, finished residential treatment in November, then moving into an Oxford House. In the first FRP session the couple learned to engage in trust-building communication, handing each other tissues for the first tears of healing and emotional “intimacy” (Wil’s word) they had ever experienced together. Entering the second session they were in crisis having been at odds in parenting with their 13yo child regarding her inappropriate use of the internet; Wil stating he was fearing divorce. Building on the communication skills of the previous session they both learned and began to implement fundamental skills of parenting, together. By the conclusion of the session they shared joy, smiles, and hugs in coming together to parent as a team.

The kids then became involved in sessions and by the end of December 2016, Wil moved back home. Many sessions then focused on supporting the 11yo daughter and her previous preoccupation with death and evil. Together they all are grieving the losses from the parents addiction, and developing healthy bonding.

*Alan is a 61yo Dr. and licensed health care professional. He arrived to our program abstinent 1 week in November of 2015. He did not do traditional treatment; instead he and his family began to develop the capacity to deal with pain and loss. Midway into the FRP process we then employed family trauma abatement strategies to support his addressing the trauma of childhood. Now, sober since November 2015, with FRP he not only can cry healthy tears, but is in an active healing and bonding process with his wife of 30 years and with his adult children and their spouses. He is the one sober person from his family of origin, though many of them have been to rehab, repeatedly.

*48yo Mandy is a mom of a 9yo son. She did treatment 3 times with subsequent relapses. Then she was referred to us by CPS and now with FRP & EMDR is sober since May, 2015. Breaking her pattern of relapse, she is in her longest period of sobriety and has completed the CPS reunification process with her son. In FRP, she and her son built healthy relational capacity and healing, with he getting to learn from his mom the emotional and relational skills of healthy bonding and that prevent addiction. She gained critical parenting skills she did not have nor was provided by the addiction recovery system.

*Donna is a 30 year old mom of three kids whose mother died a year ago. Even after her children were taken away by CPS and she was in intensive outpatient counseling, she risked using drug and was busted purchasing. After inpatient treatment, with FRP she, the kids, and her sister’s family began to develop healthy relational capacity. With direct guidance and support, she was thrilled for the direct support in learning how to be an effective parent. In combination with art therapy for the kids and EMDR for herself, she and they are addressing and resolving the grief and trauma of her troubled childhood, played out again in her children’s lives. She and her sister’s families are finally learning how to survive the grief, and large and small traumas that adversely impacted their lives and drove addicted drug use.

These sisters are amazed at how orderly the children now come into the waiting room; sitting patiently for the therapy session; mannered and respectfully engaging in art therapy; and then come into the whole family session to present their artwork; expressing their feelings and for the first time in the transgenerational process of addiction, the adults learning how to be responsive to the emotions of the children; this yielding responsible and behaved kids with a lowered risk of addiction when adults. In addition, the kids work harder at homework with their chores getting done, while they are happier. FRP is family-centered addiction recovery that supports the entire family in being relationally and emotionally healthy and happy through sobriety.

*45yo Sherry has an 11yo daughter. She tried 10 expensive treatment centers in 6 years, and after the family finances had been decimated, they came to us in June 2015. Breaking his pattern of relapse with FRP and enacting healthier relational skills with her mother, she is sober now for the longest period ever and engaged in EMDR. In addition, she got support for reengaging with her daughter, building bonding skills; becoming a more effective parent.

*30yo Randy went into and aborted treatment 8 times in 2 years with subsequent relapses. Since FRP, he is now sober October 2015, and reengaged with his family since January. When his roommate refused to be abstinent or engage in treatment, he moved back in with his parents; as they now get along and support each other in recovery. The family recovery process periodically includes the baby’s mom (also now in recovery 10 months) and his parents; all sober and building relational capacity as an extended family. As needed in the sessions, family system trauma abatement strategies are employed. With FRP, he is now in his longest period of recovery since childhood and has effected a family intervention both for his uncle and a friend. Forty years difference, both he and his parents are learning to enact healthier parenting and relational skills.

*In the last year Stan’s business has been teetering on disaster, while his wife graduated from her health care technician program with straight A’s, but is only able to work part-time because of severe health problems. Loving her, he withheld his problems to not add to her stress. Just a little bit of cocaine and alcohol grew into a real problem again, like 18 years ago. So with more depression, tremendous guilt, and two teenagers feeling ignored (his daughter becoming very angry), he could not handle the stress.

Intensive outpatient treatment would have given him support for continuing to not use the drug while refreshing his basic recovery skills, including re-engaging in a sober support network. But, in his leaving the house and family an additional 15-hours a week to group counseling with more guilt away from his ailing wife, it would not have done what family recovery has. He’s now living addiction recovery, comfortably acknowledging his addiction, attending AA and looking for a sponsor, and showing abstinence with clean UAs. But, with FRP he is also living his recovery and directly healing with his partner by together grieving their losses of financial security and her intact health; working together with relapse prevention strategies, problem-solving with new relational capacity based on abstinence and sobriety; supporting each other in growing as partners and parents. They feel closer, more empowered and bonded, more mutually supportive of each other than ever before. This is the healing of family-centered addiction recovery.

*Billy is 22yo and was kicked out of his fraternity at his second university; having to leave his first because of too many drug offenses; this including him having severe damage to his face after taking on 3 upperclassmen in an ally while he was drunk; months after crashing an ATV drunk; after lying to his family many, many times, and stealing and lying for drugs.

The family easily shifted from intervention to FRP when he returned from inpatient treatment for over 100 days, where his eating disorder was identified. Now, he, his parents and sisters, are not just supporting him in strengthening his recovery. They each are readdressing their own drug and alcohol misuse and pathological eating challenges, as the entire family grows in mutual support for recovery.

*Jeff and Johnnie are both 43yo, already having many encounters with CPS. They have many kids and too-early-a grandchild. The intervention process precipitated Jeff going, not into inpatient treatment as recommended, but intensive outpatient in November, 2016. With continuing pre-discharge intervention support for he and Johnnie making immediate and necessary changes in their marital relationship, he continues verified sobriety. Once they both have resolved a bolus of their own respective childhood trauma with EMDR, they will then be able to engage in the healing FRP process for building the healthy marital and parenting relational capacity for growth that supports sobriety.

*17yo Mindy was using many drugs. With no drug treatment, only her parents attending 5 sessions of FRP, the parents learned to work together and address their own needs as partners, and parents. Now their daughter is sober and back at home away from the drug using and supplying boyfriend, while the family is building greater healthy relational capacity. The FRP directly supports addiction recovery, relationship building and improved parenting. Her mom sent this thank you email in January, 2015:

A couple of stories of our successes and to show that your help is making a change in our lives!  Per our new ‘style’ from our meeting with you, Eric and I are talking together more than ever and the talks have helped me to see a problem that has been really bothering Eric for years.  I myself do not have any sort of health insurance….

Second success story:  Last night Tina (pseudonym) got very upset and I ended going into her room to talk with her.  After at least an hour of my (very awkwardly) reflecting the emotion instead of offering a solution, she told me “Wow, you have really changed.  I keep thinking you are the same person as when I was eight.  You really aren’t that person anymore.”  I say, Wow, Joe!  That is pretty amazing coming out of the mouth of the daughter who has been so angry for so many years.  Thank you (no exclamation mark since I am closer to tears than bubbly joy).  Thank you, she is home and off of drugs.

*Barney (23yo) has a loving family that was very concerned about his changing behavior and opioid use. In November 2016, they reached out to drug professionals who, counter to research findings, said he had to be on Suboxone®, whether he went to treatment or not. The fly-in interventionist they consulted was emphatic that Barney had to be ambushed in an intervention toward inpatient treatment or he was going to die from his addiction.
With nationally recognized expertise in intervention, we employed advanced intervention strategies. Though apprehensive, Barney came to the second session, with no ambush. He was psychologically dependent on opioids and beginning his physical dependence (using every 2 days). With complete abstinence as the norm, he and his three sibs and mom began healing from the psychological abuse of mom’s second husband and the tragic loss to addiction of their biological dad. Rather than all six (including his brother-in-law) going to separate counselors for their depression and addiction, they learned how to engage in healing and healthy relationships together. Barney’s UAs show he remains drug free while he and family see him coping with life better than any other time. Addiction is a family disease and can be treated best with the family as the center, while adding inpatient and outpatient care as indicated.

*53yo Bob is self-made millionaire and alcoholic with no treatment history, but much unresolved grief. With FRP, his marriage has been restored and he is sober since October, 2015. He and his wife are also enjoying physical as well as emotional intimacy that had been absent for many, many years.

*23yo Shannon has a 4 month old baby that was supervised by CPS and back from inpatient treatment in June 2016 engaged in FRP while she attended an intensive outpatient program. As a family, they obtained the support for building the problem-solving and healthy relational capacity for coping, growing, and healing together as a sober family; capable of supporting she in her addiction recovery while they all learn to work together to support recovery and new parenthood. CPS has closed their case as a success and at last check both she and fiancée have obtained new and better jobs and are planning their wedding.

*26yo Danny did treatment 2 times with relapses, then, he and his family found us. He is now post-surgery for a leg injury and sober since November 2015 with FRP. They are a loving and close family now supporting each other in processing pain and relational conflicts that triggered relapses. They were traumatized by an extended-family member’s public legal and moral crisis 3 years ago. With family trauma abatement strategies, the family finally began to heal in June of 2016. Recently, he just enacted an intervention with an old high school friend suffering addiction who kept inviting him to relapse. He continues his recovery despite challenges at work.

*25yo Danny, did treatment 3 times with relapses over 3 years. Then, he came to us for family recovery. Since beginning FRP in September, the family has finally gotten support and skills to deal with losses and, and he is in his longest period of sobriety.

*26yo Mark and his 24yo brother are members of a close extended Native American family and both using alcohol and meth. Mark’s children were living with his periodic benzo-using mother and daily cannabis dependent father. With the FRP and periodic addition of family trauma abatement strategies they are healing. Not only did Mark get sober and move back from the homeless shelter after two treatment stays, but his brother, who was expecting his first child, also got sober. At last check, dad was still sober of the cannabis and mom had stopped her antianxiety medication. She and the family had learned to talk through problems and deal with loss and pain.

*35yo Ann and 38yo Ron were drinking so much that they were not providing a safe environment for their children. CPS intervened and took custody of their kids whom they dearly love but to which addiction had impaired their expression of. With she completing a treatment program, how would they magically heal and not only repair but build a healthy relationship supporting each other in sobriety? Treatment does not do that. No other program in the Inland Northwest specializes in facilitating and empowering these two in face-to-face healing from addiction. But, they now have the opportunity to learn to enact with their children with skills for healing and capacity-building to not only develop trust and fidelity in the marriage, but engage with their children to negate their future addiction risks.

*29yo Lanny went to treatment 3 times with subsequent relapses. With only a few FRP sessions (his divorced elderly parents live out of state), they have been able to heal. Lanny now sees the synergy between 12-step work, regular addiction counseling, and being able to grow and heal with his parents. His frail father and he had a session in January, 2017. With tears in his eyes, his father spoke of having no use for religion, but for the first time in his life, feeling a spiritual connection with his son. This was possible with Lanny now having 9 months of sobriety, and able to engage with his father without the fake connection felt with alcohol. Dad also spoke of not having long to live, but now able to live, and die, with peace sharing in his son’s sobriety.

*24yo Charlie is the son of a chemical dependency counselor. He went to treatment 3 times with relapses, then they found us. Breaking his pattern of relapse, he is now in his longest period of sobriety with support for growth in the FRP.

*24yo James did treatment 4 times with subsequent relapses in 2 years. Then, he and family came to us and engaged in FRP. I just sat with him last week, he is still in his longest period of sobriety and working full-time; since May 2015.

*40yo Jerry did treatment 3 times with the last being 4 years ago; many were at expensive and nationally known centers. But, none addressed his history of physical & emotional abuse as a child. Breaking his pattern of relapse, he now is sober since October 2015 with FRP and is starting EMDR.

*John is a 40yo doctoral-level health care provider. He came in October 2016, in crisis after his wife asserted divorce due to his gambling and alcohol addiction. He is still sober today and for the first time in his marriage, building healthy coping skills. Both he and his wife grew up in admittedly dysfunctional homes. He could go to treatment 10 times and yet he and his spouse would not learn how to develop healthy relational coping sufficient to support his addiction recovery. He was seen last week and is still sober.

The traditional model of addiction recovery (which we use for about half of our cases to help stop the drug/alcohol use) is designed to separate addict from family in their treatment and counseling change processes. But, the traditional system alone has only rare opportunity for families and addicts to grow and develop together the healthy relational skills necessary for sustained recovery. This may be why research shows that across the US, 67% of addicts relapse within the first year of treatment. Most of our clients come to us after many treatment and relapse cycles. And as with those above, find lasting recovery through the Family Recovery Process.

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