Coping Mechanisms for Families

Jellenek Curve for families and addiction

When addiction comes to an individual it visits the whole family. When the disease is being treated the whole family needs to be helped.

Addiction can have a devastating impact on families and friends. One of the most corrosive effects of addiction is the sense of guilt, shame and self-reproach that ripples through those closest to an addict. These feelings often manifest themselves in negative coping mechanisms that can include isolation, depression and even suicide attempts. But it doesn’t have to be like this.

A Visualisation of a Family’s Journey Through Addiction

This version of the “Jellenek Curve” shows the typical progression and recovery of a family afflicted by addiction. The symptoms are based on the most common experiences of family members in these situations. The message is simple: seek help.

Without help there is a cycle of blame; blame directed towards the addict and self-blame (“if only I had tried hard enough then this wouldn’t have happened…if I had been a better mother…a better wife”). This spiral downwards, possibly into anger and empty threats (which just make the situation worse).

But when help is sought there is an upward chain reaction. The curve shows a process beginning with awareness & acceptance and ending with joy, happiness & a sense of being ‘at ease with life’.

When addiction comes to an individual it visits the whole family. When the disease is being treated the whole family needs to be helped.

Families & Friends are not Responsible for Addiction

It is no coincidence that ‘awareness’ is the first step on the road to recovery. Families need to understand that they are not responsible for addiction. It’s not their fault. It is not a behaviour they can control, and no family is able to cure the disease of addiction.

Those Touched by Addiction Should Seek Help

People out there don’t know that there is help for the families too. Usually it is just the chemically dependent person who is treated, but not the family.

Rather than bottling up unhappiness, stress and pain, families that are affected by addiction need to reach out and get help — from an addiction therapist, a treatment centre or Al Anon (which is a really supportive organisation specifically set up to help the families of addicts).

Becoming Part of the Solution

Therapy for family and friends can turn round situations for those who have been driven to the edge of insanity by the behaviour of their addicted loved ones. If a family can get psychological help, they can break the negative cycles, they can learn positive coping mechanisms and they can become a big part of the solution.

Where Can You Find Help?

Al-Anon is “a support group for people who have been affected by someone else’s drinking. (eg/. parents, children, spouses, partners, brothers, sisters, other family members, friends, employers, employees, and coworkers of alcoholics).”

http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/

CODA is “a fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healthy relationships. The only requirement for membership is a desire for healthy and loving relationships.”

http://www.coda.org/

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