A recent American clinical study examined the effect of perceived criticism on relapse back to substance abuse, and found that the perception of criticism was a very significant factor leading to relapse. Families can best help in the recovery process by remaining encouraging and supportive, and additionally attending both therapy with the alcoholic, as well as some form of family support organization.
The Al Anon philosophy:
Al-Anon has but one purpose to help families of alcoholics. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps, by welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics, and by giving understanding and encouragement to the alcoholic.
I’ve praised al anon before, but recent research seems to prove that the al anon method of encouragement helps alcoholics in recovery stay sober. Family support is of paramount importance to the newly recovering alcoholic, and family support can make the difference between continuing sobriety and relapse. The al anon program teaches families how to heal themselves from the pain of addiction that always resonates through the family, and that additionally teaches that the best way they can help the alcoholic is to remain encouraging and supportive, and never to criticize or nag.
A recent study from the State University of New York at Buffalo looked at this scientifically, and found that the al anon philosophy of encouragement does seem to be helpful. Research indicates that men who were in recovery and perceived that their wives were critical of them were far more likely to relapse back to drinking than those that said their wives were supportive of their recovery. The study leader also reported that families that got some form of therapy together were far more supportive of the recovering alcoholic, and these alcoholics were as a result far more likely to remain sober.
Family involvement in recovery is important, and perceived criticism of the recovery process can lead men back to substance abuse. The best way for families to support the process is to become involved in the treatment through family or couples therapy sessions, and also to participate in family support organizations like al anon, that teach the family how best to encourage the alcoholic, whether they are drinking or not.
Addiction always causes pain, and it sure destroys a lot of families, and criticism is likely a legacy of all of the suffering caused by the alcoholic while drinking; but if a spouse and a family truly want to help, the best thing they can do is to remain encouraging and supportive, even when they don’t necessarily feel that way.
It gets easier with time, and a period of sobriety begins to heal a lot of what was. If you want to help, bite your tongue…it’s worth it in the long run.
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