The Impact of Addiction on The Family System

This blog post is contributed by Ashley Taylor, MSW, LMSW, of Heights Family Counseling and Rachel Evans, LMSW, of the Center for Recovering Families

When someone we love deals with addiction, wishful thinking tends to surround their recovery. We think to ourselves, “If this person just gets better, then everything else will fall into place.” No matter how desirable that outcome, substance use disorder is a systems disease that requires a systems solution. Substance use disorders not only affect the person suffering, but also the people closest to them.

“By the time people get treatment, the family system has often regulated around the addiction to maintain the status quo,” says Rachel Evans, family therapist at the Center for Recovering Families. “The addiction has become the locus of control.”

Everyone who is involved in the system has adapted in ways they might not even recognize in order to maintain a sense of normalcy and peace, while watching someone they love battle a difficult disease. Because of this, many families are exhausted by the time their loved one enters treatment. Regardless of the ways in which the support system has regulated itself around the addiction, the relationship between the person dealing with substance use disorder and their families can be an important one.

impact of addiction on family system

“The collaborative effort of treatment is very beneficial,” says Rachel. When appropriate, having family members present for treatment improves success rates, and treatment benefits both the person struggling with substance use disorder, as well as the family members. When it comes to recovery, it is crucial that everyone is willing to do things differently in order to set family recovery at the core of the system. Through family recovery, everyone is able to gather and understand different strategies for coping with the new way of life for this person, as well as unlearning potentially harmful practices that had been in use prior to the recovery process.

This help can take the form of family treatment, support groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, and even individual therapy. When an entire system is affected, addressing the entire system is the most effective treatment. This takes the responsibility off one individual and makes the process a collaborative one. In this way, the person going through recovery can feel more supported in their journey, and feel the love and encouragement from those closest to them.

The process of addiction recovery is rarely linear, nor does it only impact the person working to overcome substance use disorder. When addiction is viewed as a systems disease, it can be addressed throughout the whole system. By viewing this process in a more collaborative light, we are able to better support and understand the journey of our loved ones.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder, call us today at 713.914.0556, or contact us through our website.

A Message to Those Affected by the Opioid Crisis

This blog post is authored by Mary H. Beck, LMSW, CAI, President & CEO of The Council on Recovery

Most of us are well aware of the opioid crisis facing our communities. We read the grave statistics about addiction and overdose deaths experienced by so many. Impassioned advocates call us to action, treatment specialists inform us on the most cutting-edge practices, legislators pass laws and allocate financial resources to combat this public health emergency. All of this is vitally important.

Yet we are facing a parallel crisis, which is tearing apart families and leaving people in severe distress – a crisis to which our communities are often blind: the trauma and grief experienced by family and friends of those struggling with addiction or who are trying to live in the wake of an overdose death.

Our loved ones die – it is a sad, painful truth. For years, many of us live in fear of this truth – knowing that when someone we love so deeply is suffering from a chronic illness, death may be the outcome. We cherish the moments of reprieve and hope for recovery. At other times, we are doing everything in our power to save them – we suffer in silence once they are gone.

This is true whether your loved one dies from cancer, heart failure, brain disease, and yes, addiction too. If you are feeling the pain of a loved one’s substance abuse or their death, you are not alone. Over 100,000 people have died of a drug overdose in the past year alone – leaving spouses, parents, siblings, and friends behind.

How did we get here?

Americans take 80 percent of all prescription painkillers in the world. New reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Houston High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area confirm that drug overdoses have surged since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, both in Houston and nationwide. The sharpest increases were deaths involving opioids, primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl. In the last year, fentanyl related deaths in Houston increased by 40%.

opioid crisis image

The extremity of this surge is a cause for grave concern for our team, but it only strengthens our resolve to partner with local leaders and community partners to tackle this issue comprehensively and systemically. This takes a multi-pronged approach – focused on education and awareness, providing intervention and treatment, opening doors to recovery, and when necessary supporting family and friends in their grief.

If you are one of the millions watching a loved one’s addiction spiral out of control, or if you have already lost a loved one due to an overdose, you deserve the same compassion and support others receive when they are grieving.  You need a place to turn, where your strength and courage are honored, while your grief and emotions are nurtured. The Council on Recovery is that place – a place to start when you don’t know where to turn and a place to heal.

If you, a loved one, or a client/patient is struggling with opioid use, contact us today, and we can get them the help they need. For more information on our opioid use services, download our flyer.

Houston Sports Legends in Recovery

The word is out – our speaker series will return in-person with Houston Astro and Baseball Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell as the keynote speaker at our 2021 Fall Luncheon on October 15, 2021. Along with Craig Biggio, Derek Bell and Lance Berkman, Bagwell was part of the “Killer B’s”, the core lineup for the Astros in the late 90s and early 2000s. During his run, the Astros qualified for the playoffs six times, culminating in a World Series appearance in 2005! Despite his success, Bagwell struggled with addiction, reminding us that this disease can affect anyone – even our hometown heroes. Here are three more inspiring Houston sports legends who have dedicated themselves to a life of recovery.

Houston sports legend Jeff Bagwell's induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame

John Lucas

John Lucas played on and off from 1976 to 1990 as point guard for the Houston Rockets as he struggled with substance use disorders behind the scenes. The team repeatedly suspended Lucas before he started treatment for his substance use in order to stay in the NBA. Lucas has been in recovery for more than 30 years now, and has started his own recovery program for athletes while also serving as an assistant coach for the Rockets.

Bill Worrell

A native Houstonian, Bill Worrell was one of the most prominent voices in Houston sports for four decades. Worrell served as a television broadcaster for the Houston Astros for 20 consecutive seasons, as well as the television play-by-play announcer for the Houston Rockets from the early 1980s until his retirement earlier this year. At the height of his career, he committed to a life in recovery after struggling with alcohol use, and credited his long-standing career to his sobriety.

Earl Campbell

Earl Campbell, nicknamed “The Tyler Rose,” was the Houston Oilers’ legendary running back from 1978-1984. The local-boy-turned-pro-football-star never shirked from any challenge—a quality that made him one of the great football legends of all time, but led to significant physical injuries. Campbell found relief through prescription painkillers, which eventually took over his life. In 2009, he undertook the challenge of living drug and alcohol free after his sons initiated an intervention. Campbell shared his story at our 2012 Fall Luncheon, helping The Council to raise more than $400,000 to make recovery possible for his fellow Houstonians.

To help local individuals and families get the education and treatment they need to recover from the effects of addiction, join us on October 15th at our annual fall luncheon with Jeff Bagwell. Purchase a ticket here.

The Promise of Intentions

This guest post is written by David Sunday, outreach coordinator and veteran liaison for The Council on Recovery.

As we move into another exciting year full of possibilities and opportunities, I was struck by the number of New Year’s resolutions the crossed my social media. It brought up the question, what is a resolution? Merriam Webster defines a resolution as the answer or solution to something, a firm decision, to do or not do. That was very intriguing to me. As a person in long term recovery, working a program and involved with the recovery community, I often hear sayings like “one day at a time” or “easy does it”. There’s even an old joke poking fun at the disease of addiction that quotes, “The three words you never want to hear from a person in recovery say are ‘I was thinking…’”

Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

Today, we’re able to laugh at ourselves, but we also recognize that we are works in progress, and that every day we try to be just a little bit better than we were the day before. Some days we have clarity, and others, we simply know that tomorrow is a new day! We try our best to be gentle, first with ourselves and then with others. 

Maybe it makes sense to simply change our language a little.

Using the word intention instead of resolution reminds us that today we will make every attempt to show up as our true and authentic selves, and in doing so knowing that we have done our part. After all, there is only today, we no longer live in yesterday and tomorrow is not a guarantee. Our intention is all we really have, as psychologist Ram Dass has taught us to “be here now” in this place together.

This writer’s love for the people of the recovery community stems from acceptance that we are all enough, perfectly imperfect. We no longer need to measure up to a standard because we are already there, but maintaining the intention that there is always room for improvement. Every single day is a new beginning and a new chance to create a life well lived!

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 56

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 56 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

In the commercial world that is the core of the economic society in which we all live and work, the experience of bankruptcy, along with the economic impacts of death and divorce, is one of the horrors that some of us have to experience.  We can define bankruptcy as insolvency, a condition in which the financial equity in one’s organizational structure or life system has been entirely exhausted and the ability of cash flows to service all sorts of debt obligations is nil; it is an experience that horrifies us and the commercial worlds in which we all live.   There is a set of laws called the Bankruptcy Code (the “Code”), formerly known as Title 11 of the U.S. Code of laws and regulations which governs precisely how the process of bankruptcy is meant to work to allow individuals, corporations and other organizations to resolve the conflict presented by their debt obligations and, then, to be rehabilitated.

I have had some experience in this world and it strikes me how it resonates so powerfully with the experience of addiction, the descent into its worst nightmares and the process to recover and build a sober life.  I have come to believe that life in our economic world is replete with people that span the full range of experiences, from those for whom success and wealth seem to come with consummate ease, to those who just can’t keep it together and are always on the edge of, or deep in the throes of insolvency.  It is much like the range of experiences of all humanity with addictive substances and behaviors. Many of those at the dark end of the economic cycles are increasingly caught in the web of insolvency as a result of a spendthrift and wholly irresponsible patterns of life.  They seem powerless over the experience of living beyond their means and their life increasingly becomes unmanageable.

The process of recovery for such people is also much like that for the alcoholic and addict, working with consultants, therapists, family and friends to discover a new way of living and managing daily affairs.  There are many parallels in the descent into bankruptcy and the process to recover to a sound and responsible way of living.

I have a good friend who has worked in this world most of her life, helping debtors to migrate through the myriad of processes that the Code provides.  I was at a meeting with her one day, where a number of distressed debtors – individuals, couples and small companies – sat in a large room ringed with small alcove offices.  The small offices were occupied by officials of the Court system and the meeting, called a Chapter 13 meeting in Texas, was to allow for the Court system and the debtors to come to terms with the precise nature of the debtors’ insolvency and develop a procedure for its resolution to be presented to and approved by the Bankruptcy Courts themselves.  As different debtors were called to a particular office my friend went with them, as their counsel, to explain and arrange each of their processes of resolution.  As I sat there observing, I was struck by the fear and anxiety on the faces of the debtors and the ease and comfort of my friend’s manner in working with them to a resolution. She was an “angel of mercy” moving about the room, very much like the presence that recovering alcoholics who serve as sponsors have in a room full of distraught and anxious newcomers of AA and its sister12 step programs.  Both are wonderful experiences to witness, the newbie alcoholic starting to work the steps with a sponsor and the bankrupt beginning the processes of financial rehabilitation with her/his counsel, both nurturing recovery with a presence of deeply committed service.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 55

Avalon mythical island

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 55 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

Santa Catalina is an island offshore southern California, “26 miles across the sea…” from Long Beach.  The “26 miles…” line is from a 1958 song by the Four Preps, a male quartet of Hollywood teenagers whose name conveyed their image…preppy, well groomed suburban kids in white shirts, identical suits and skinny ties. They had a number of hits in the late 50’s and 60’s as the popular music world was moving from traditional rock ‘n roll to folk ballads.

But the island of Santa Catalina eschewed their image.  It was a quiet, very rocky, almost magical island whose main harbor and city then and now is Avalon, a quaint village of shops, restaurants and B&B’s.  Avalon also was a very reverent name in ancient Celtic legends. 

Avalon was an island in the marshlands of Wales where spiritual beings with great healing powers were said to reside. It was also the place where the magical sword, Excalibur, was reportedly to have been forged, the instrument that empowered King Arthur with a mantle of invincibility.

When Arthur was wounded in his battles with Modred, he was transported to Avalon where he was attended to and healed by the Enchantress Morgana le Fay. While Avalon on Santa Catalina today is just a nice quaint city on a distant isle, those of us blessed with the miracles of the Process of Recovery can easily see it in its mythological constructions. Travelling there across the water, entering the beautiful harbor, walking among the rocky hills of the island, we can imagine ourselves as Arthurian Knights, reveling in the bliss of a magical existence, immortalized in so much literature…for our lives in the “sunlight of the spirit,” afforded by our diligent working of the program, is precisely that…is it not?