It Takes a Family

a cooperative approach to lasting sobriety

by Debra Jay

e x c e r p t s


We Come Home Together

Structured Family Recovery is so simple, so obvious, it’s a wonder it hasn’t been documented 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. 

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, writing of the most successful companies around the world, said, “In each of these dramatic, remark- able, good-to-great corporate transformations, we found the same thing: There was no miracle moment. Instead, a down-to-earth, pragmatic, committed-to-excellence process—a framework—kept each company, its leaders, and its people on track for the long haul.” He could as easily have been writing about Structured Family Recovery. It is exactly that— a specific process and framework—that keeps families on track in their recovery for the long haul, with the power to keep addicts sober in great numbers and make our families not only good, but great

Up until now, families have been mostly left out of the recovery equation, which 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 affects 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 the 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 fam- ily. Treatment and family programs dot the map of this great country, giving us any manner of assistance and head starts. But they 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 words of a woman who’d 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 the entire recovery community. We come prepared for crisis, smoothing the waters with a family living in recovery, gliding forward 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. 

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 the way into recovery with a step-by-step presentation of the Structured Family Recovery model. 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 therapist trained specifically to do this work. Whichever you choose, I have only one word for you: commitment. Family members must demonstrate to the addict, in deed, what this word means. Then along the way (usually not 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, 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. 

As author and columnist Erma Bombeck once said, “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

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