Chemical Dependency Family Information

To the family suffering the effects of chemical dependency;

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The person you care for is in recovery. That's great! You can relax and know that they are safe. They stand at the turning point, and there is an excellent chance that they will achieve a stable sobriety. They may have further problems, but this is a major step in the right direction. You have done the right thing and you can feel good about it.

The following information will help you begin to understand this disease.

  • Chemical dependency affects everyone it touches; spouses, significant others, children, friends and employers.

  • Chemically dependent persons and everyone close to them are adversely affected

  • No one wants a loved one to be sick, so the family members pretend the disease isn't there.

  • The average chemically dependent person has been ill for years before the family realizes that there is a problem. After the problem has been identified, even more years pass before the chemically dependent person receives help.

  • The individuals may not feel good about coming to recovery right now. They may feel angry or rejected. They may still believe that they don't have a problem. This is called denial. Denial is very common and it is one of the surest signs that the disease is present. Chemical dependency demands that people lie to themselves. The person is fooled into believing that they are okay even when their life is falling apart.

  • It is important for you to understand that it is not only the chemically dependent person who is having problems. If you have lived close to a chemically dependent person, you are having problems too. All of these problems have, at their source, subtle distortions of reality. Family members change reality into something that doesn't make them so anxious. Trying to keep the reality of chemical dependency hidden is like hiding an elephant in your living room. The problem is there, and it is big, so it takes large misrepresentations of reality to keep it hidden. The family tries to pretend there is not a problem. As the problem gets larger, it takes larger fabrications of reality to keep it secret.

  • The distorting begins with minimizing. Family members pretend the problem is not so bad. They believe that other people have more problems than they do. They think that the drinking or using is not that bad. It could be worse. They minimize to the point that they can't see the real effect of the illness on themselves and the other family members. But the problem is big. They focus on the addicted person and as they do, they become cut off from their own feelings. They have no time for themselves. This sinks the family deeper into an unreal world.

  • The next lie families tell themselves is that there is a good excuse for the problem. This is called rationalization. It's not the drugs or alcohol, it's the job, or the boss, or maybe even me. The family members, even children, may feel responsible for the chemically dependent person's drinking or drug use. They blame themselves, other people, institutions, money, whatever it takes to get their mind off the real problem. The family actually believes that it is these other things that are the problem, not the chemicals.

  • The last falsification of reality is called denial. This is where the family members do not experience the full impact of their lives. They have developed such a tolerance for the craziness that they think it is normal. Their lives may be coming apart, but they still think everything is still under control.

    Now is the time to get honest with yourself. Don't make things seem smaller than they are.

    Please complete the questionnaire exactly as you see it; bring or send it at time of admission.

The questionnaire can be found and printed here.

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