Family Therapy—Bringing the Addict and Family Together

A happy family of young adults

Family Therapy—Bringing the Addict and Family Together

Oh no, he’s coming home. 


Usually, a loved one’s return home after an absence is met with celebration. We’ve missed them, and we welcome them back into our lives with open arms and hearts. 

David’s years of alcohol and drug abuse were incredibly challenging for all of us, but I believe they were particularly hard on my girls. When the kids were little, David was big brother to them—funny, protective, and not above bribing them to bring him a snack when he was too lazy to get off the couch. 

But any relationship my daughters had with their brother was obliterated by his addictions. The reason was simple: their brother was gone, a stranger taking his place in his body. There was nothing funny about David’s behavior. And he was no longer protective of them. In fact, they had to protect themselves from him.  

Needless to say, the girls wanted nothing to do with their brother during his years of addictions. Having witnessed the pain, stress and upheaval David had brought to us as a family, the girls were beyond relieved when he left home for inpatient treatment. The last thing they wanted to do was visit him for family therapy at a rehab facility. 

A young woman walking on the train tracks

Yet, I insisted. I believed we needed to be together, with a counselor to run interference (in case one of the girls went for David’s throat—a distinct possibility), believing it was the only way we would be able to move on. 

I wasn’t sure forcing them to go was the right thing to do. I’m still not sure. But I’d do it again for that simple reason: when you don’t know what to do, you’ll try anything. The girls were mostly silent during that session (they went once and I didn’t ask it of them again), but I felt it was important to at least give all of my kids an opportunity to honestly face what was going on in our livesthere had been too many secrets and lies before. 

Even if your family isn’t ready to deal with your loved one’s addiction head-on, ask counselors for guidance about how to move forward. Any insight will be helpful, particularly since most of us have no frame of reference on addictions. We simply don’t know what to do. And while no one has all the answers, it’s essential to utilize the team assembled to help your loved one.

Use the experts. 

A happy family embracing, looking at the sunset

I’m happy to say that after much effort on all parts, my kids have rebuilt their relationships—for the most part. There is still some occasional prickliness, but then, they are siblings, and bound to get on each other’s nerves. I am just grateful they are all here to do so. 

Mary Fran Bontempo is a 2x TEDx speaker, author and humorist. Visit her at

Her latest book, “The 15 Minute Master—How to Make Everything Better 15 Minutes at a Time,” can be found on Amazon.

Mary Fran Bontempo
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