Recovery is about the family, not just the individual

Ask the Expert by Jeff & Debra Jay

Q: We have an addicted loved one and don’t know what to do as a family to intervene and help him. Are there things we can do as a unit to make a difference in his potential recovery?

A: For most families, the recovery process feels unmanageable, with too many things left to chance. The whole process of getting an addicted loved one into treatment, getting them into aftercare, and getting them into a stable recovery – even getting them to admit they have a problem in the first place, seems almost impossible. In the past, most of these things have been left to chance, and as a result, most people haven’t gotten better, and far too many have died. If alcoholism and drug addiction are real diseases (and they are), we can’t let the treatment and recovery process be subject to luck.

There are old myths that get in the way. “You have to let them hit bottom” and “they have to want to get better” are commonplace. But since addiction is characterized by denial, how long will we have to wait? And how many children will have to suffer in silence?

An important part of the treatment process is breaking through the many levels of denial. Why would we expect them to be free of denial before they began treatment? Also, why would we take the chance that there could be a catastrophic event that finally broke through their denial?

Fortunately, over the last twenty-five years, specific methods have been developed to break through the denial and defenses of the addict, get them into treatment, create a culture of healing in the family, and guide the recovery process. It has been our privilege to write the two best-known and best-selling books on intervention and family recovery. Together, they provide a step-by-step process for getting an alcoholic the help they need, keeping them engaged in the treatment process, and creating a solid support system within the family.

This last piece, the family support system, is somewhat revolutionary. It builds on the evidence-based practices that have been used with addicted professionals for many years. You see, when an airline pilot or physician or an attorney develops a substance use disorder, they are placed into very specialized treatment, mentoring and monitoring programs that deliver better than average success. Much better. For example, over a five-year period, nearly 90 percent will have one relapse or less – an astonishing statistic.

Of course, these professionals have a lot to lose when it comes to relapse, and for years people said their programs couldn’t be adapted to normal folks. However, with painstaking research in the behavior change field, and building on the successes of the professional recovery programs, a new trail was blazed.

Dr. Robert DuPont, MD, the first “Drug Czar” under President Ford, and one of our country’s foremost experts, has described Structured Family Recovery® as the “missing link.” It is a program that harnesses the incredible power of family and channels it in a specific way to undergird the recovery process and provide structure and guidance through the critical first year of the process.

The message for families struggling with addiction is simple: you can make a difference. You don’t have to sit on the sidelines waiting for fate to intervene. You can take action and help guide the process. When we speak at the War Memorial on March 15, 2018, we will lay out a plan that any family can follow to help their loved one get the help they need. Beginning with a good, structured family intervention and following through to long-term structured family recovery, we will clarify the steps that need to be followed for maximum success.

The Love First Intervention model builds on the ground-breaking work of Dr. Vernon Johnson, the father of modern intervention. Love First provides a guided process that his work lacked, and also puts the power of love front-and-center. Most families feel that they’ve tried everything to get their loved one into treatment, but in fact their efforts have almost always been unorganized and ineffective. In fact, without the proper organization, families are often working at cross-purposes.

In the first part of our talk, we will lay out the basic steps necessary to plan and carry out an effective family intervention. These steps are laid out in detail in our book, “Love First,” now in its second edition from Hazelden.

In the second part of our talk, we will present the details of long-lasting family recovery. In her latest book, “It Takes a Family,” Debra Jay builds a framework that any family can follow to safeguard the recovery process. The book contains directions for developing a recovery plan, a relapse plan, and putting a monitoring system in place. It also contains 48 weekly session for a family to follow, to create a safe haven for recovery in the household.

One of the key points of Structured Family Recovery is that it can work for family members that are spread out across the country. Because the 48 weekly meetings are done via conference calls, no one needs to make time to come to an office or fly in from out of town. We can still act as a family unit when we’re hundreds or thousands of miles away.

A family doesn’t have to wait for their loved one to hit bottom. There are steps they can take now to intervene and get their loved one started on a path to recovery.

We hope to see you March 15th for an in-depth look at the process.

Jeff Jay and Debra Jay are the authors of, “Love First, a Family’s Guide to Intervention.” They head a national private practice of interventionists, therapists and recovery mentors. They live in Grosse Pointe Farms. Contact them at 313-882-6921 or through their web site:

Jeff and Debra are members of The Family Center’s Association of Professionals.

Enriched Communities Through Stronger Families
The Family Center serves as the community’s hub for information, resources and referral for both families and professionals. The Family Center is a non-profit organization founded to promote a deeper understanding of the role of parents and others in supporting our youth to become competent, caring and responsible community members.

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