Three months after completing an inpatient program for opiate addiction, Jimmy came to us with his extended family. He had already been through many hard times in a loving family that did not know how to support him in recovery, as they were not in recovery themselves, nor had they had specific support for such from the treatment center. The first month out of the reputable inpatient program he relapsed on the opiates. In a fiercely independent family where each takes care of his own, he believed he had to rely upon himself to prove worthy to his family and therefore dragged himself, cold-turkey, back into abstinence. But struggling with the isolation of being estranged from his wife (also a recovering addict), jobless, and feeling the burden of having harmed his entire family repeatedly, he sought the support of a physician for the crippling guilt and anxiety. Prescribed a benzodiazepine and a kappa agonist opiate, he and his family did not realize until they came to see us for the first session that he was already retrapped in a new cycle of physical dependence with his addiction; and now more complicated than before. We immediately arranged for medical intervention including his beginning Suboxone® for detox. For the family, from that first session they were learning how to healthily support him in his recovery, as they each now were in their own. We were not providing them family addiction education. Rather, they were engaged in a family-centered recovery process toward sobriety making significant and fundamental changes in how they interact and work as a family, even within the first hour of our contact with them.
Jimmy and his family learned how to do what healthy families do to work together, solve problems, and support each other’s growth. In time the skills learned by those attending sessions were spreading to other family members who had not been involved. The family traditions of being fiercely independent and holding your own until deterioration and death were transforming into patterns of talking and working together. It was critical for this family as soon both Jimmy and his wife were each having major medical surgeries and needed powerful painkilling medications. The entire family was immersed in providing not just emotional support but healthy assistance in decision-making to resolve the dilemma of necessary painkillers for these two recovering addicts.