Individual and group therapy is a crucial aspect of the recovery process for addicts, and, for this reason, is integrated into the treatment programs of both in-patient and out-patient rehabilitation facilities. Therapy helps addicts address the emotional issues that lead to substance abuse and the development of the addiction; the damage that was done to career, relationships, and self-image as a result of the addiction; and the anxieties and challenges they face when attempting to live a sober life.
While most family members and friends of addicts recognize the importance of therapy for the addict, they sometimes ignore or underestimate their own painful emotions, which they have likely bottled up for years or even decades. If you find yourself feeling angry, hurt, disrespected, guilty, resentful, ashamed, terrified, neglected, or any other negative emotion related to a current or recovering addict, you may benefit from seeking professional help to feel more at peace with the situation, especially if it seems unlikely that change will happen in the near future. If one or more of the scenarios below applies to you, speaking with a therapist may help you regain a sense of normalcy.
Your feelings about the addict are disrupting your life in some way. Did the addict break your trust at some point, and are you carrying this experience and a feeling of distrust into other relationships? Do you have trouble concentrating because you feel so much anger toward the addict? Do you avoid family gatherings because you don’t want to be forced to interact with this person? Even long after addicts have recovered and moved on with their lives, family and friends may still feel the emotional aftermath disrupting every aspect of their life, especially if they do not take active steps toward resolving their internal conflicts.
You feel personally responsible for the addict’s behavior and choices. Are you a parent who worries that you made an error when raising your child? Do you believe that something you did drove your spouse to alcoholism? Are you haunted by thoughts of “what if” about your childhood and an addict parent? Addicts are ultimately responsible for the decisions that they make, but it is sometimes difficult to separate your role in their life from the outcome of the choices that they make.
You find yourself wishing the addict could be punished in some way for the pain they have inflicted on you and your family. To a certain extent, desiring a sense of justice is normal. But, in the real world, forgiveness is sometimes the only realistic way to achieve closure. If you have attempted to forgive the addict unsuccessfully, you may be doing yourself an injustice by not finding a way to move on with your life.
The addict refuses help, and you are anxious about their future and well-being. Fearing a future that you are unable to control is a vicious, self-defeating cycle, and being constantly consumed with worry will make it nearly impossible for you to lead an independent, fulfilling life.
Things that the addict did or said make you question your value and feel ashamed, depressed, or unworthy of love. Substances can make people say or do horrible and deprecating things. Speaking with a counselor can help you look at the situation more objectively, and give you a new, more positive sense of identity and self-worth.
You realize that you have been enabling the addict, but are afraid of what breaking the cycle would do to your relationship with them. Co-dependency can make addictions last longer than necessary, but it can be difficult to take the first step toward recovery when you are worried that a negative reaction would end or damage a valuable relationship.