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Detox and the Family

Written on: June 4th, 2010 By:

Family of people struggling with the disease of addiction often find themselves feeling confused and helpless, wishing the substance use would stop as soon as possible. However, this may not be in anyone’s best interests. Abrupt abstinence has certain risks, including withdrawal symptoms with serious medical repercussions. Many people need to be admitted to a treatment center for detoxification to help them physically withdraw.

Properly monitored detox is a crucial beginning to treatment. Not only does it lay the foundation for a strong recovery, but the unsupervised cycle of detox/withdrawal often drives one to continue or worsen their drug or alcohol use.

Many family members of those suffering from addiction want to help, but are uncertain how to begin the healing process. It’s widely recognized that the most precarious stage of recovery is the earliest, when one is physiologically detoxifying, and gaining thorough footing is paramount.

Active use of drugs and alcohol causes incalculable damage to family systems, and we often want to believe that elimination altogether is the solution. However, detox and the family are effected when a drug’s absence alters one’s brain chemistry. Mood swings, defensiveness and acting out are among the hurtful behaviors which often create additional feelings of hurt, shame and remorse, furthermore stressing the importance of separating detox and the family.

A recovering drug/alcohol user is without fail struggling with detox and the family, despite its best intentions, may make this process more difficult. It’s important to show encouragement during a loved one’s detox and the family to display their ongoing support.

Many drug and alcohol users have tried to recover on their own and found that the coupling of their emotional vulnerability during detox and the family‘s feelings of helplessness result in a relapse. A health care professional or substance use counselor can act as an invaluable mediator during this challenging process.

Even when detoxification is not required, admission to a formal, structured treatment program is highly encouraged as a crucial key to sustain ongoing abstinence and engaging recovery. Often therapies such as multi-dimensional family therapy are employed to mend family systems. Beyond the stages of detox and treatment, family-based recovery support groups, such as Al-Anon or Al-Ateen, are exceptional tools in continued family recovery.

Detox is a delicate yet critical beginning to one’s recovery. However, if we persevere we find that healing only begins with detox and the family fully recovers together.


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