Family Support and Alcoholism Treatment: Part 1

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Drug and alcohol addiction are incredibly complicated diseases to treat. Not only are medical interventions most often necessary, but psychosocial interventions and months or years of therapeutic aftercare often go together with the best treatment methods. As a disease, addiction lays waste to the foundations of families and communities. Addiction makes liars and thieves of the most honest people, addiction makes criminals of otherwise law-abiding citizens, and it takes otherwise functional families and makes them dysfunctional in every way imaginable. People that I have heard speak in AA meetings sometimes refer to alcoholism as a “family disease”. Not because more than one member of the family is drinking, though they often may be, but because the alcoholic drinking of one family member will upend the balance of the family in such toxic ways that every family member suffers from it. Certainly, anyone who is aware of the effects that alcoholism has on a family could probably spend all day giving examples of the damage wrought by alcohol.

There is, however, another side of that same coin. That is the family support network of a person who seeks treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction. Family support can be a key factor in long term success for someone seeking alcohol and drug rehab and sobriety after a long period of alcohol or drug abuse. The best drug and alcohol rehabs in Florida, including Florida Springs in Panama City, design programs to involve family or friends in the treatment of a loved one with substance use disorder.

The Role of Family

In discussing the results of studies that look at family outcomes for people seeking treatment for alcoholism it is important to note, as the authors do, that most of the research that has been done deals with mostly homogenous, heterosexual, white and non-Hispanic populations. Therefore, although we may hope these results could be representative of more diverse populations, we cannot say for certain until more research is done on more diverse populations of people. The results remain important, as they shine a light on family dynamics both before and after a family member has been treated for alcoholism. According to the authors,

“At 2-year follow-up, (we) compared family functioning for men who were in recovery to men who had relapsed. Wives of men in recovery, compared to wives of men who relapsed, drank less, were less depressed and anxious, had fewer negative life events, and had higher family incomes.”

As you can see, these results are positive, in that they show signs of a better home environment in cases where the husband in the household was not drinking after 2-years. This section also makes clear the limitations of this data, and this statement says very little about the many households which do not fit so squarely into a hetero-normative structure. We may be able to presume, based on this data, that households where one adult is not drinking encourages other adults in that household to drink less and possibly experience less depression and anxiety, and we can continue to hope that is the case until we get more and better data on the subject. It is the data itself, which was collected over 75 years in various journals and then collected by the authors of this study, which shows a male-dominated view of family and society, and not the authors of the study themselves, Dr. Barbara McCrady and Dr. Julianne Flanagan.

The authors continue,

“As a whole, families of men in recovery had greater family cohesion, greater expressiveness, a higher orientation toward recreational activities, and greater agreement in how they viewed the overall environment of their families, compared to families of men who had relapsed.”

The authors also showed that children in families where the parents were not drinking to excess showed fewer signs of emotional distress. In the next portion of the study, the two authors provide one of their main arguments.

Convincing a Loved One to Seek Help

Families can play a key role in fostering the environment where a person with alcoholism will seek treatment and eventually may seek inpatient rehab for alcoholism or drug addiction, according to the authors of this study. They mention that Al-Anon (A 12 step program for family members of an Alcoholic or Addict) meetings will often preach detachment for family members. I know this to be the case, and I understand the underlying thinking behind the idea that family members of alcoholics should detach. Many people with a close family member with alcoholism have seemingly tried every possible thing to help their loved one. They have found that no amount of love will cure their family member of alcoholism or make them seek treatment for that alcoholism. One reason that I was attracted to this study was that the authors take a slightly different view on this issue compared to a group like Al-Anon. I have no strong opinion either way, but it is always interesting to see people trying new things and bringing heterodox theories to the mainstream. Rather than simply avoiding family members outside of family interventions, as has been tried in the past, the authors lay out a set of general actions that can be taken by family members to support a loved one seeking alcohol rehab or drug and alcohol treatment,

“Key family behaviors that support the initiation of change include ignoring behaviors associated with using alcohol or drugs, reinforcing positive or desirable behaviors related to sobriety or help-seeking, allowing the drinker to experience the naturally occurring negative consequences of drinking, and making specific and positive requests for changes in behavior related to drinking, such as reducing consumption or seeking help.”

This study from the Journal Alcohol Research goes into incredible depth on the subject of families and addiction. In part two of the study, we will continue this conversation. In the meantime, if you or a loved one needs help from the best drug and alcohol rehab in Florida, call the number above to speak to a counselor at Florida Springs in Panama City.

By T.A. Cannon (Contact me at


  1. MCCRADY, B. S.; FLANAGAN, J. C. “The Role of the Family in Alcohol Use Disorder Recovery for Adults.” Alcohol Research:[s. l.], v. 41, n. 1, p. 1–19, 2021. DOI 10.35946/arcr.v41.1.06. Disponível em:,geo,url,ip&geocustid=s8475741&db=f6h&AN=150391543&site=eds-live&scope=site. Acesso em: 25 ago. 2021.
  2. Bischof G, Iwen J, Freyer-Adam J, et al. “Efficacy of the Community Reinforcement and Family Training for concerned significant others of treatment-refusing individuals with alcohol dependence: A randomized controlled trial.” Drug Alcohol Depend. 2016;163:1