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Understanding Connection and Enabling for the Family

There is a popular Ted Talk that has circulated around by Johann Hari entitled, “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong.” Although some people view it as controversial because he challenges the notion of the disease concept of addiction, there are some very valid points to his Ted Talk and it can to be very useful to those who are family members of someone struggling with a substance use disorder. I encourage you to go watch it, but a brief synopsis of his theory is that the opposite of addiction is not recovery but connection.


If you are a family member of someone who is struggling with a substance use disorder this idea of connection can feel distant and foreign at this point. If you have been in the position where you have sent a loved one to treatment or sober living it is likely that a professional at one of these places has said something to you like, “cut them off” or “don’t answer the phone for them anymore.” Hari challenges this idea that for someone who is struggling with a substance use disorder, cutting all communication and connection from them could be detrimental. Connection and love for an addict can be the very thing that could pull them from the very grips of their addiction. The hardest part for family members is to distinguish between a healthy connection and enabling.


The definition of enabling is to give (someone) the means to do something. Connections means to have a relationship with someone or something, a bond or an attachment. When you look at the very definitions it is easy to see the difference between the two. Enabling very literally means to give someone the means to do something. By giving a drug addict money, a cell phone, a place to live, a car, etc. you are very literally giving them the means to get more drugs or alcohol. By connecting with a drug addict or alcoholic you are giving them love, attachment and a sense of a relationship. For a person struggling with a substance use disorder they already feel disconnected, alone and unsure of them self. Allowing them to stay connected to the very people in their lives who they already love and trust can mostly be beneficial. Of course there are instances where it could be unsafe, such as a parent who is actively using seeing their child. But allowing them some hope, some love, some sort of connection to that child whether it be by phone call or pictures, allows that person who is struggling just to get a day clean to have some hope right in front of them.

Staying close to home

There was a time 10 or even 15 years ago that treatment for a substance use disorder was not easily accessible. For some today it is still hard to get good, quality treatment for someone struggling with addiction. For most families they had to make the hard decision to send loved ones far from home in order to receive good care. Today that is no longer the case. Families in New Jersey no longer have to send their loved ones to Florida or other states that previously housed the best care. Now families can find help in their own back yard, allowing their loves one to get the help they need close to the people they feel most connected to, finish treatment and go on to various sober livings in New Jersey to begin making a life for themselves. New Jersey sober livings and other various sober livings in the tri-state area have become popular in the recent years because of the new studies and research to support family therapy treatment, family involved in continual treatment, and the new idea of keeping solid connections within your family while going through your own recovery process. The research to support continuum care from inpatient to outpatient to sober living continues to be the best model of treatment and have the highest success rate for people attempting to maintain long term recovery. Fortunately, long term care if available close to home which is beneficial not only for the person getting clean and sober but also for the families.

If the opposite of recovery is connection, how can we stay connected to loved ones who are far away? By helping loved ones find help close to home and New Jersey sober living facilities, loved ones can be involved in treatment processes, be involved in the therapeutic growth of their family members and most importantly, grow their connection and love deeper and stronger.


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