From Dysfunction to Resilience: A Good Road to Travel © Tom Ersin 2023. This is the current installment from the serialized publication of this distinctive self-help book.

Chapter 4: Recap

Primary Points

  • A dependent — or principal, a term we also use — is the person who perpetuates substance use disorder, emotional/physical abuse, anger/rage, hyper rigid household rules, or other damaging behavior. A co-dependent is anyone in a close relationship with a dependent.
  • Members of a dysfunctional family develop unhealthy, unspoken rules: Don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel, and don’t be truthful.
  • Dysfunction extends to any family that perpetuates an emotionally repressive
  • Dysfunctional family members often become socially isolated, further trapping them emotionally.
  • Family recovery comes through education, support group attendance, and possibly counseling.
  • Interventions can interrupt the cycle of dependence by breaking through the personal denial of the principal.

How Families Begin Recovery 

One Person Can Make a Difference  

Families dealing with this type of debility know something is wrong but often don’t know what to do. They may have become used to the turmoil and social isolation — they may have come to believe this is their normal. Meanwhile, all the negative effects continue to increase, along with the principal’s damaging conduct. Maybe the spouse/partner or parent/guardian finally confides in a knowledgeable friend. Maybe the teenage child consults a school counselor. Or maybe someone is reading this book at just the right time. One member can start the family toward recovery. 


An important step toward solving a problem is becoming educated about it. Many free articles and pamphlets are available at the websites of Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, CoDA, Families Anonymous, and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, aka NCADD. Books are available at libraries and stores, written by experts in the field. When the pain of dysfunction outweighs the tendency to do nothing, start by seeking information. 

Nonprofessional Support

As stated, often the first step toward recovery is exposure to a support group like Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, CoDA, or Families Anonymous. These are free, anonymous, and nonprofessional. Attending a meeting might seem like a chore or it might seem scary. Fortunately, support groups will be there when your family’s well-being and safety outweigh the fear or bother of attending a meeting. 


Many people decide to pursue professional counseling in addition to, or instead of, support groups. Clinical therapists have specific training and experience helping families recover. They may or may not help the principal into treatment. Their primary purpose is to help members deal with their own emotions and reactions, no matter what the principal’s outcome is. For referrals, consult your health insurance provider, employee assistance program (EAP), or community mental health services.■

[Tom Ersin holds degrees in communications and counseling. He’s examined long-term dysfunction from both sides of the counselor-client relationship and from within his own nuclear and extended families.] Click here to purchase book. Please leave a rating.