The importance of family support for GLBT members in recovery

newspaperRehabilitation from drug or alcohol addiction is always challenging, but for members of the GLBT community, there can be additional obstacles to overcome. Legal changes are doing plenty to end segregation based on sexual preference but sadly, all too many people feel ostracized by their own family simply because they are gay.


Defining the Family Unit

Family support has been found to increase positive outcomes for those in recovery, so it is important to understand that each  family unit is impacted by culture, religion and rituals. The rules, roles, relationships and patterns of behavior we learn as children often define how our individual family systems functions. Family systems can include blended families, step-families and families with non-biological children, as well as extended families.


Broadening the Idea of Family

We need to redefine our idea of ‘family’ to incorporate ‘chosen families’. As, notes, “Love is what makes a family, whether your family consists of blood lines, adoption or foster care, friends, neighbors, people of the same sex or people of different sex, race or color.” Chosen family is sometimes all we have.


The Link Between Rejection and Drug Use

Within the LGBT community, drug use is often rejected to issues like the difficulty of coming out to family members. Family issues can trigger anxiety and depression, which can lead to self-medication through drugs or alcohol. Therefore, when an individual is undergoing rehabilitation treatment, it is vital for their family to understand the circumstances that have brought their loved on to treatment and to undergo family therapy, in an effort to address maladaptive communication, relationship patterns and boundaries.

Once the person is no longer using, the family needs to establish new rules, boundaries, limits and communication patterns, to rebuild the trust that has been eroded in the past.

– Column by Mel Davis

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