A “Family Program” Is About Creating Change – Change In You And Change In your Family Dynamic

US journalist and commentator Bill Moyers
US journalist and commentator Bill Moyers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I will never forget the first day at the family program when he was in treatment and a family of five from a Southern city – the father a successful banker and leader in the community – trooped in like bedraggled creatures who had been caught in a rainstorm: their oldest child had just arrived in treatment, too, and they were just as bewildered as I was. I never felt alone after that and slowly came to see addiction as a disease which no family is immune.  ~ Bill Moyers

Bill Moyers’ eloquent words capture the sentiments of any parent who suddenly discovers that their child is addicted to alcohol and/or some substance (legal or illegal). We use the word suddenly, because often a child successfully moves through life completing grade school, middle school, high school, college and even succeeds in their profession life without their parents ever suspecting that the child has not been sober for a very long time. It happens, time and time again. Then one day you wake up and you realize that even though you thought you were living the dream…you find yourself in the middle of the worst nightmare. You feel frightened and isolated, most of all because you can’t imagine that any other family is going through what you are. But a Family Program is about creating change…change in you and change in your family dynamic.

What is a Family Program?

Cottonwood Tucson offers a Family Program:

The goal of family program is to help families relearn behavioral interaction so that healthy behaviors become logical. Interpersonal change that can be sustained after treatment requires a movement from following direction (first order change) to internalizing new ways of interacting (second order change). Families shift from obsessive worry and controlling behaviors to acknowledging that which is outside of their control and learn to focus on their own personal needs and boundaries. They learn to detach from the pain, and not from the person.

It is important to understand that over the course of five days families come together and are educated about  addiction and other behavioral health issues, they are taught effective ways of communicating and they do this together. Working together with therapists and counselors along with your own family members and several different families allows you to learn from each other and from others’ experiences. You won’t feel alone.

Families also learn from support groups and others’ memoirs…

During a family program participants will learn about the importance of participating in support groups after returning home. Four such groups are Al-Anon, Alateen, Adult Children of Alcoholics and Co-Dependents Anonymous. Additionally, the family therapist might supply a “reading list.” These books might be about addiction, co-dependency, eating disorders, etc. There are a number of books written by individuals who have walked in your shoes, they know the confusion that a family member faces when their loved one is suffering from the disease of addiction. Again, these books will provide insight and reinforce that you are not alone.

Some books to consider…

  • Not About The Medal by Leah Pells.  Ms. Pell’s memoir was published April 2012 and she wrote to deliver a message of hope to all children and adults who were or are being raised by an alcoholic.
  • Formerly Known As Tank by Ann Miketa. Published in June 2012, this memoir deals with growing up in an alcoholic family and the role this pathology plays in one’s life.
  • The Lost Years by Kristina Wandzilak and Constance Curry. Published in 2006, this is a true life story of addiction and recovery that reveals the brutal details of the worst that can happen to an ordinary family and how they triumphed over adversity.
  • Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption by William Cope Moyers. Published in 2007 Broken relates with unforgettable clarity the story of how a young man with every advantage found himself spiraling into a love affair with crack cocaine that led him to the brink of death-and how a deep spirituality allowed him to conquer his shame, transform his life, and dedicate himself to changing America’s politics of addiction.
  • Terry: My Daughter’s Life-and-Death Struggle With Alcoholism by the late Senator George S. McGovern. Published in 1997 The New York Times wrote: “McGovern’s story is riveting as he investigates his daughter’s life, reads her anguished and accusatory diaries, interviews her friends and doctors, sifts through the sordid police and medical records…a family drama of love and loss.”

So Now What?

Haven’t we all asked ourselves the proverbial “Now what?” Whenever you come to the end of a “process” or a “fork in the road”…we stop and consider “Now what?” A life changing event like childbirth, graduation, job elimination, sickness, loss of a loved one, a promotion, an accident, divorce, new job…the list is endless and even though we may not utter the question out loud, we are quietly wondering “Now what?”  

On October 23, 2012, William Cope Moyers published his latest book: Now What?: An Insider’s Guide to Addiction and Recovery. As Mr. Moyers told Martha Rosenberg writing for the Huffington Post:

“This book is not profound or deep like a memoir. It is meant to be practical and get people from the problem to the solution. The book tries to break down the walls of denial that stand between the addict, the addict’s family and the community. The solution is really very simple and I stress the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous because this is how I stopped drinking and drugging, and how many millions of people like me recover.”

A Family Program can be your first step to recovery

In closing, we hope that anyone who has a family member who is searching for recovery and/or is in treatment will take advantage of a Family Program. Does your family need a family week, but you do not have a loved one in
treatment?  Cottonwood Tucson’s family program is available on an
outpatient basis to families who want to strengthen and improve their
current family communication and interaction patterns.  Call (888) 727-0441 and ask
how this family program may benefit your family.

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