Addiction and the Family

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Addiction and the Family

By The Fix staff 06/18/18

At Deer Hollow, all who participate in the family program find a comforting space where they feel safe to finally disclose all their unresolved issues that they never could discuss before.

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Man and woman sit on couch, therapist sits on chair with clipboard.
Therapy sessions aim to shed light on the darkness, revealing the unhealthy and harmful events and traumas of the past, thereby removing their power over us.

In the beginning stages of recovery, many family members and loved ones are surprised to learn that addiction is known as a “family disease.” While it’s easy for most to understand how the addict and their behaviors negatively impact those closest to them, it’s sometimes difficult to grasp how each person in the individual’s life also plays a role in the addiction. Now that the person struggling with substance abuse is finally getting help, family and friends may experience relief and hope, looking forward to a time when things can return to “normal,” and relationships can heal.

But a good recovery facility will incorporate family and loved ones in the recovery process throughout the various stages of care—from admission to aftercare. At Deer Hollow, clients and their families work together with a team of professionals to help identify and understand behavioral triggers and the emotional roles each member plays in the addict’s life. Further, family members come to understand how their own habits and responses to behavior can adversely affect the addict, and learn tools and healthy responses that can support lasting recovery.

By working together in a safe and supportive environment, families learn how to support the addict with the transition process back into their community. Through on-site educational groups, family process groups, individualized treatment with a primary therapist and access to necessary real-world resources, the family dynamic is supported through these changes, helping them to heal together.

How Does Addiction Affect the Family?

It is commonly said that “the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree.” In the world of addiction, this tends to mean that there are learned behaviors that must be addressed, both on the part of the client in recovery and each family member.

While there are many different roles found in a “shame-based family system,” one primary behavioral problem that is common in the family dynamic is codependency. Because loved ones want to try to maintain a peaceful home environment, habits are formed that enable the addict to continue their abusive behavior. When a cycle of addiction and codependency become the norm, unhealthy habits are constantly reinforced, with all family members playing active roles in maintaining the addictive behaviors.

Additional roles that Deer Hollow staff have encountered in working with families and individuals in recovery are typically exemplified by placating tendencies, scapegoating, those who identify as the “responsible one” and the “jokester,” among others. By identifying codependent and other unhealthy behaviors, loved ones typically learn about themselves on a deeper level, and can recognize the common coping symptoms of low self-esteem, difficulty saying “no,” control issues, fear, depression, anxiety and intimacy issues.

If I'm Not the Addict, Why Do I Have to Participate in Counseling?

In order to truly help the addict and the family dynamic heal, it’s crucial for all those affected by addiction to learn how to cope with typical issues that arise in addiction and recovery. At Deer Hollow, you will learn how to cope with stressful, triggering and emotional situations using healthy tools to stop enabling addictive behavior—like setting firm boundaries—to restore and rebuild the relationship to what it once was, or to develop a new one based on trust and honesty, better than you could have imagined.

What Can Family Members Expect from Therapy?

Deer Hollow knows how important it is for all involved in recovery to feel safe and supported in a healing environment conducive to growth. All who participate in the family program find a comforting space where they feel safe to finally disclose all their unresolved issues that they never could discuss before. Specifically, they can expect to have a session with just the primary therapist and their loved one and not have to sit in front of a large group-room setting with other families.

It is often said in recovery that we are “as sick as our secrets,” and as we build trust with each other, we find that it becomes easier to discuss topics, events and feelings that have been buried deep. There are secrets that the addict keeps to themselves, and secrets that their loved ones keep for them. Therapy sessions aim to shed light on the darkness, revealing the unhealthy and harmful events and traumas of the past, thereby removing their power over us.

For the addict, therapy is an invaluable tool that helps process all aspects of social, emotional and mental stresses that can lead to relapse. When the individuals in the addict’s life have access to those same tools and resources, the result is a powerful system of support.

Because there is no set number of family therapy sessions, Deer Hollow aims to make sure an appropriate number are available to help meet each client’s unique needs, to help everyone involved finally heal. Additionally, following the primary treatment programs, there is a three-month online course for clients and their families. By providing consistent, ongoing opportunities to continue participation in the recovery process, Deer Hollow clients are given the support they need to maintain a lifestyle and lifetime of sobriety and wellness.

Deer Hollow Recovery and Wellness features a unique integration of scientific, state-of the-art technologies, traditional talk therapy and alternative treatment methods to provide a well-rounded, holistic approach to recovery. With a commitment to treating the trauma behind substance abuse, clients can safely and effectively target the source of their suffering and heal past wounds. A committed and highly-trained staff work closely with clients to help bridge the gap between old habits and a new way of life.


Deer Hollow Recovery and Wellness provides integrated mental health and substance abuse treatment with a holistic approach to recovery. They have a network of inpatient, outpatient, intensive outpatient and sober living homes throughout the state of Utah. Connect on Facebook or Twitter.

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