As the public view of addiction as a moral deficiency shifts to the view of addiction as a disease, simultaneously there has been a transition of perspective to the concept of addiction as a family disease. Professionals in the addiction treatment field continue to seek clarity as to the cause(s) of this disease in hopes that this will produce a more adequate and lasting solution for those who suffer. In recent years, some of this focus has been on trauma and family systems, as they relate to the addicted individual. For those of us who work in this field, it is quite apparent that many of the individuals that we work with come from families that they did not feel a part of and also whom have endured trauma in their lives, the pain of which they used substances or behaviors to cope with. However, one might ask how this bears any significance when individuals who come from professionally successful families and who have no history of notable trauma develop this malady of addiction as well. One thing to think about, in regards to this very valid question, is that each individual, each family, and society at large all have different concepts of success and normality and the “perfect Smith family” with the white picket fence, that is so often referred to as the “American Dream” family, may have an emotional or spiritual bankruptcy that takes a toll similar to financial or professional ruin. The simple answer to this question is that there is not a simple or concise answer sufficient enough to provoke a cure for this malady that we call addiction. If there were, the treatment industry would not exist as it does, a mosaic of modalities and methods for combatting this fatal disease. In intervention, there has also been a healthy and productive shift, since the days of Vernon Johnson, to the view that family healing is necessary for lasting recovery and change. As I sat in one of largest 12-step speaker meetings in Portland, OR last evening, I was inspired by the sight of this family healing at work, before my eyes. As the chip committee gathered to distribute coins, representing milestones of sobriety, to attendees, I focused attentively at the many miracles before me. A large group of people made their way to the podium to collect a token for their completion of 30 days of sobriety, one of whom was a young girl in the row behind me. I applauded the group as I waited for the next group to gather. As I watched more and more clean and sober people collect coins, I witnessed the group of people in the row behind me stand up and cheer for one of themselves repeatedly. Like a domino effect, I watched 4 out of the 5 family members directly behind me walk up to collect a 30 day coin, a 1 year coin, a 5 year coin, and a 10 year coin. As this occurred, I watched the family glimmer with happiness and joy. On their faces, I saw what resembled a serenity and a hope that only those of us in recovery can truly relate to in this way. This semblance and emotion displayed by this family was contagious and brought a feeling of joy and gratitude into my own being. I knew that I was in the presence of a family that had endured much pain and suffering for many years, and slowly came into this place of healing and recovery that I had the privilege of witnessing. This, I wish could be witnessed by all of the families out there that are still caught in the pain and suffering of addictions. At Compassionate Interventions, we strive to help each family that we work with find this hope, the foundation of their healing, so that they too can recover.
Colin Tardif, Compassionate Interventions