NATIONAL FAMILY SUPPORT NETWORKSUPPORTING FAMILY MEMBERS LIVING WITH SUBSTANCE MISUSE
Stage One: Unknowing
This describes when families are unable to recognize the existence of a drug problem in their homes, either ignoring early telltale signs or attributing them to signs of adolescence. Often by the time this stage is over the problem has worsened.
Stage Two: Coping Alone
When families discovered the problem the majority of parents attempt to cope with the issue themselves and do not seek any outside supports. This way of coping is too difficult and by the time families realize this, the negative impact of drug use on the user and the family has intensified.
Stage Three: Desperately Seeking Help
When the family realizes they cannot ‘fix’ the problem they begin a long and often desperate process of seeking help from both generic services (for example G.P.s, schools) and specialist services (for example addiction counselors or treatment centres). However, often family members lack understanding of the problem they are dealing with and the fragmented nature of support services makes it extremely difficult for the families to identify the type of help they need or to access support. This experience of seeking help can add to rather than improve the family’s burden of care.
Stage Four: Supported Learning
At this point families have begun to learn about the physical and psychological impact of the drug and what to expect in terms of the drug user’s behaviour and about how to engage more effectively with managing that behaviour. Once families gain this information it tends to be a pivotal point for families in that they are able to disengage from their previous ways of coping and move onto more effective and strategic ways of coping with the drug use.
Stage Five: Reclaiming the Family
When families are provided with information and personal support they begin to develop new ways of engaging with the drug use. Part of this is separating the needs of the family and their own needs from those of the drug user. Families begin to separate the family dynamic from the drug dynamic and start to address the wider family needs.
Stage Six: Supporting Recovery
At this point families have disassociated themselves from the drug use dynamic and therefore are better able to facilitate the drug user to make effective choices and to support the drug user to act on these choices. In this way families are often able to reinforce the work of treatment centres and agencies to support the process of recovery.
Stage Seven: Contributing
Many families who progress through the various stages of engaging gain enough expertise and experience to be in a position to give something back to their community or other family members in relation to drug use.