Treatment must include the family—not just the alcoholic

Joseph A Troncale, M.D.
Medical Director, Caron Treatment Centers, Wernersville, Pennsylvania
Chair, American Society of Addiction Medicine Workgroup on Family and Generational Issues

As medical director of an addiction treatment facility, part of my job is to talk with the families of the patients. I also give a one-hour lecture every week to the families who come to the Family Education Program at our facility. Although part of what I talk about with families is the neurobiological basis for addiction, at least half of the time is spent on Twelve Step recovery and Al‑Anon Family Groups.
 
I try to teach the families that recovery is not just for addicted individuals, but the whole family. Recovery is manifested by honesty, connectedness to others, decreased anxiety, trust and self-worth.  Al-Anon allows individuals to experience recovery from the brokenness that is typical of alcoholism. Al-Anon allows individuals to stop playing the game of being the cop in the family, the victim, the protector, the rescuer. It allows people to just be themselves without having to carry the addicted person.
 
In my time with the alcoholics’ families, I point out that by not getting help for themselves through Al-Anon that they also continue a pattern which adversely affects their addicted family member's potential sobriety.

Many people call or write me from time to time and tell me how much Al-Anon has meant to them. Even if their addicted relative is not always doing well, it has given them hope and serenity to carry on their life. It is a real joy to see Al-Anon's positive impact on children and younger members of families.