In her song “Drinkin’ Problem,” Lori McKenna describes the effects of a “drinking problem” in excruciating detail:
I can’t hardly get out of bed, I can’t hardly clear my head
Of last night’s spinning, smokey memories
I call in sick to work, I tell ‘em my whole body hurts
Yeah, I think this drinkin’ just might be the death of me.
Towards the end of the song, we realize that the singer is not a drinker; instead, these ill effects are due to her partner’s drinking:
I swear that every bottle you bring home
Leaves me feeling that much more alone…
No, I never touch the stuff, but, honey, I’ll tell you what
You can’t count all the ways it touches me
As McKenna’s song graphically illustrates, the tragedy and disruption accompanying compulsive or destructive behaviors or the use of substances can devastate individuals, families, and loved ones. People with addiction may neglect caretaking, vocational, and other responsibilities; they may withdraw emotionally, lash out verbally or physically, and get in legal trouble. Family members may experience painful anger, hurt, loneliness, and anxiety and have problems functioning. They often live in despair of meeting their needs or fear what may happen next. Loved ones may even develop unhealthy coping behaviors; others may unwittingly enable addiction, often out of the desire to avoid conflict.
But just as they suffer from addiction, family members can be crucial to healing. The love, compassion, and insight of loved ones can powerfully influence the recovery of those with addiction. Family therapy, often used in conjunction with other interventions, can help families break cycles of behavior that are a part of addiction and provide a forum for relationship healing.
Here is what families can expect from family therapy when addiction is involved: