At Avanti, we believe that recovery from addiction is a process that should involve the immediate family. We have developed an effective and highly involved method of family counseling, focusing on multiple factors involving the existing family dynamic by examining the family unit and understanding the role of each individual family member. Ultimately, the aim is to restructure the family dynamic into something healthy, functional, and beneficial for all involved.
We now offer a cost-free, weekly support group tailored for parents or caregivers of teenagers experiencing addiction and mental health challenges. The support group provides opportunities to learn innovative communication strategies and offers a supportive environment.
The meetings are hosted by Avanti and facilitated by Illuminate Community Recovery Services, a nonprofit organization composed of highly trained peer and family specialists, Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) therapists, recovery advocates, and outreach specialists, all committed to serving our community.
Heather Lister is Illuminate’s founder and executive director. As a peer and family recovery support pioneer, she brings over a decade of experience across care levels and demographics. Lister actively engages individuals affected by substance use disorder (SUD) in treatment and family recovery.
“While treatment options for individuals with addiction have been greatly expanded in recent decades, family support still lags behind quite a bit,” she says. Families often have misguided ideas about how addiction works and what their role in recovery should be. “The support group is about teaching families about addiction. When a person first goes into recovery it’s like a rollercoaster and the family is going in that rollercoaster with them.”
The person with the addiction often knows there will be ups and downs but the family does not. “They think, she went to treatment, now she’s coming home and everything will be fine. And that’s really not the reality,” says Lister. She likes to compare it to a diet. “How many of us have gone on a diet and how many of us have fallen off a diet? How many people have gone on and off and on and off again? The situation is very similar to that of a person struggling with addiction.”
Being prepared for tough moments in recovery is one thing but the support group will also explore what the role of family members should be in the recovery process. “We teach them about their ‘lane.’ As a recovery coach, I know my lane—I’m not the therapist. I have a particular lane, let’s find out what your lane is.”
Parents cannot replicate a professional treatment program, although they may have tried that in the past. “Parents may have tried to be the warden or micromanage the situation but couldn’t get the substance misuse under control,” explains Lister. Once they better understand their roles, family members are in a better position to support their loved ones. “In a way, they become recovery coaches,” says Lister. “It’s really about giving family members the appropriate resources because most of them have only very vague ideas about what happens in addiction treatment. I like to pull back the curtain and give them a better idea about what’s going on.”
“They need to understand that in-patient treatment is not a cure but more of a jump start into recovery. True healing doesn’t even start until they are six months sober,” Lister says. “Helping them break it down, helps parents prepare for what is to come.”
The parent support group meets at a new time starting August 9th every Wednesday at 5:00 pm MT at 5950 S Willow Dr. Suite 308, in Greenwood Village, Colorado. For more information about Avanti’s intensive outpatient program and family programming, call (720) 753-4030.