e x c e r p t s

Introduction
We Come Home Together

Structured Family Recovery is so simple, so obvious, it’s a wonder it hasn’t been done before. Often the truly simple is the most revolutionary. Success doesn’t come magically or accidentally. It is a result of what we do. The same can be said of failure. Usually it is a small change in one direction or the other that determines if we win or lose. Structured Family Recovery helps us make the correct choices and then steadily keeps us on course over time.
Up until now, families have been mostly left out of the recovery equation. This surely contributes to the ubiquitous nature of relapse. Structured Family Recovery starts with a family and ends with a family recovery team. We support sobriety by bringing together family and addict in a way that creates unity and mutual triumphs. Turning to social science, we learn what really creates change—challenging the things we’ve been taught. We apply discoveries of how the workings of the brain affect how we make real-time choices in life. We put it all together to create a family recovery program that is simple and smart.

Structured Family Recovery is a GPS system, a way of navigating through addiction and recovery using the elements we know work. It’s about connectivity, not isolation. It goes beyond patient-centered care to family-centered recovery. By working together, we create a different story and unshackle ourselves from the power of addiction.
The first section of this book provides a broad scope of knowledge on addiction, recovery, and change so we can better understand what we’re up against, what’s required for sobriety, and how we can make change last. The second section of the book is a guide for Structured Family Recovery, putting into action the goals of achieving lasting sobriety and rebuilding family trust and respect.

There are many ways we find help, both for the addict and the family. Treatment and family programs dot the map of this great country, giving us any manner of assistance and head starts. But these places and programs don’t keep alcoholics sober or drug addicts clean; they just begin the process. What keeps the addicted from going back to drink or drugs for the long haul is outside the domain of professionals. Programs for families, marvelous as they are brief, don’t prepare us for the day we’re again standing in the kitchen face-to-face with our addict, who has now relapsed. I recall the panicked words of a woman who had just smelled alcohol on her recovering husband’s breath: “What do I do now? I went to the family program! No one told me what I do now!”
Structured Family Recovery is not a response to crisis but a safe- guard against it. We do not stand alone in the kitchen. We stand with family and an entire recovery community. We come prepared for cri- sis, smoothing the waters with a family living in recovery, gliding for- ward steadily, with perseverance, over the ripples of turbulence, looking ahead, working for something better, saying farewell to our past ways as best we can. Imperfection is in us and all around us, but we can embrace it as the place where change begins.

Coming together takes the powerless and makes them powerful. Structured Family Recovery brings this power to the family and, in co- operation with the larger recovery community, stands firm in the face of addiction, which trespassed into our homes and multiplied itself into our lives. We crowd addiction out by building a family life brim- ming with togetherness and recovery, even though we may start out not knowing our way back to each other.

Rather than leaving families clueless in the dark, second-guessing, hoping, and praying, we place family smack-dab in the center of recovery. This is when things begin to change. We can no longer leave lasting sobriety to chance, waiting around for the addicted person to figure out what it means to succeed. The cost to families is far too great, and some- times we pay a price that is beyond what anyone can bear to pay.

When their families are part of the alcoholics’ or addicts’ journey, experiencing recovery in the most democratic of ways, newly recovering loved ones no longer feel like the identified patient, the outsider. They know that, once again, they belong to family. They know they are loved.

Follow the book as it’s written. The information builds on itself to move you forward—not just with head knowledge, but in real ways to change the course of what’s to come. Recovery is practical. It requires we take action. This book shows families (which always includes the re- covering addict) the way into recovery with a step-by-step presentation of Structured Family Recovery. It’s a place where the world begins to change, and it comes from the changes within us.

Families can engage in Structured Family Recovery on their own or work with an addiction counselor trained specifically to do this work. Whichever you choose, I have only one word for you: commit- ment. Family members must demonstrate to the addict, in deed, what this word means. Then, along the way (not always immediately noticed), recovery heals us, individually and together.

If we can trust just a bit, if not yet in each other, in the greater providence of good and walk forward with only the barest of faith, we will find what we could not see before. Too few find their way alone. Let us bring family and the beloved addict together. It is in the “we” that we find an elegance in life that is as sweet as it is powerful.

We belong to one another. Nothing can change that, not estrangement, not even death. Family is defined by belonging. When we use the word family, it’s for each of us to know what that word means—who it is we belong to and who belongs to us. We are born into families, adopted into them, marry into them, or choose them from people we love best. But family goes beyond love; it’s primordial. It defines us. We are born with a deep need for knowing there are people who will always show up when we need them, stick with us through thick and thin, and love us at our best and worst. Author and columnist Erma Bombeck described it like this: “We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life . . . inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.”
This book is about addiction and family and lasting sobriety, and, ultimately, about working together to find that place where everyone is okay and safe and happy.

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Chapter 1: The Missing Element

It Takes a Family

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Excerpts from It Takes a Family are Copyright © Debra Jay.
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