I was very sad to read the recent Scottish study that half the women who died from drugs last year had children under 16. This illustrates the terrible ripple out effects of addiction. Unsurprisingly opiates were implicated in 3/4 of cases but in nearly all cases there were multiple other drugs being used. This is the major flaw in pharmacological quick fix solutions to drug problems. One may be able to replace or block opiates but it is only one of many drugs of abuse. Unsurprisingly to any of us who work in addiction treatment it was also shown that nearly 2/3 of those who died had a psychiatric condition recorded in the six months before they died. Again, this shows why simple solutions for these problems are rarely successful.
Of course deaths are possibly the most extreme and tragic consequence of the addiction spectrum but if you imagine the millions who have a problem with addiction, you can quickly imagine the broader impact of this problem.
Dr. Judith Landau describes in her lectures the way that addiction ravaged her family. Therapists often draw family trees known as ‘genogrames’ which identify problems that each of the people in the family have had. Judith described brilliantly the diamond pattern of addiction she had seen in her own family. Addiction had spread out through a couple of generations to affect great swathes of the family but as some of these members got into recovery, the recovery spread gradually extinguishing this flare up of addiction.
There are many problems that make it hard for parents to receive help. Having the responsibility to look after children often stops parents from being able to take time away. There is also a fear that if the extent of addiction were to become known, this might lead to social services stepping in to take control of the children. The guilt and shame of not providing the caring environment that children need can also drive the problems deeper.
Clearly the best option is to be able to treat the whole family at the same time. Surprisingly this is something that is hardly ever offered. We have a medical system in this country which is very much geared to treating individuals in very isolated packages. A wide group of professionals may work with one member of a family but they will very rarely involve any others in the treatment. This causes a multitude of problems. Family members are often ill themselves and in need of direct help too which, if not offered at the same time, will just put the identified patient right back into a dangerous situation. Equally, by treating them each as individuals, having adolescent units or putting parents into programmes for months on end, we don’t really establish a firm footing for all the family.
At Withersdane Hall we are trying something new, we want to treat the whole family all at one go so they all start off on the same footing and support each others recovery. This way not only are all the families’ problems addressed at the same time but they are also able to support each other in early recovery. We give a family their own house to live in so they can carry on caring and being cared for, and we can work with all the dynamics that come up in recovery for all. So far, just a couple of months into the launch of our family residences, we have had a few families come through in this way and it has proved exceptionally successful for them all.
– Robin Lefever
To find out more about our Family Recovery Residences and Family Stay Programmes, please get in touch with us!