Addictions Effect on The Family
Addiction and the Family: What You Need to Know
Addiction is not Anyone’s Fault
Addiction is like a rock thrown into a pond in that it causes multiple ripples that affect many things outside the epicenter. Many people are understandably left perplexed and frustrated by a loved one’s addiction and while it may be tempting to chalk it up to a lack of willpower, addiction is never anyone’s fault. Many experts, including the American Medical Association, conclude that addiction is a disease; however, many addicts find that with treatment their disease becomes more manageable.
According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, “The goal of treatment is to stop drug use and allow people to lead active lives in the family, workplace, and communities.”
Indeed, what’s important is to be solution oriented and not to shame an addict for the disease of addiction, which is not their fault. Often shame is one of the leading reasons why addicts delay treatment.
Addiction Can Happen to Anyone
Many myths around addiction involve a down and out person living on the streets with a wine bottle in their hands. But there’s no “face of addiction” and in fact, addiction can and does happen to even the most privileged of people and the most loving of families. Once one gets past the “why” of addiction, they can begin to address the ways in which a loved one’s addiction affects them directly. Addiction is certainly not just the problem of the addict, but of everyone that loves and supports the addict.
What’s important to remember most of all is to not only avoid putting blame or shame on the addict but to avoid putting blame on yourself for missing the signs of addiction in your friend or family member. Addiction rarely looks the same for everyone and indeed many people struggling with addiction and alcoholism can be quite adept at hiding certain alarming behaviors. We trust our friends and family, and unlike in the movies or on television, addicts can often function at a very high level up until a certain point. Not everyone is falling down sloppy drunk at the office Christmas party.
The Ripple Effect
The ripple effect is one which can be felt by the friends and family members of an addict. While an addict might be preoccupied with getting and using their substance of choice, family and friends are often preoccupied with making sure the addict is okay. When an addict decides to get help and seek recovery, his or her entire support network must seek their own forms of support, as well. In fact, it’s often crucial that the addict’s support system seeks help and support; if this doesn’t happen, an addict’s chances of relapse are far higher. This is because in programs like Al-Anon, Nar-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics, people are taught healthy coping skills and how to institute and maintain boundaries with the addict. Additionally, addiction treatment centers typically offer family counseling and support. Indeed a family is interconnected and when one person makes a positive change, it bolsters the whole family unit.
Addiction is a manageable disease in today’s day and age. Addicts and families can seek help if they wish. Addiction is about more than just the addict, it’s a family issue and families must also get help and support.
What are the important takeaways here? Addiction is a very scary thing to go through, both for the addict and for their loved ones. It’s normal to feel lost at sea when a beloved friend or family member is struggling with addiction. It can also be a very difficult issue to discuss openly, especially with strangers and acquaintances. But, many times the effects leave one feeling so heavily impacted that it becomes necessary to bring the issue up to a supervisor or someone else. Feelings of alienation, isolation, fear and sadness are extremely common for any addict and their loved ones and can make one’s ability to seek help or support even less likely.
It appears one of the biggest impacts to the family unit here is secrecy and shame. Families are units, like a machine. When one part of the machine breaks down it affects the whole. If a family can talk openly about what is going on and if members of that family can seek support for themselves, an addict has a much better chance at recovery.
Finding support is key, whether it be a friend, neighbor, professional therapist or a support group. Family members of addicts must find support as well, not just for their own health but for the health of the addict. If your loved one is struggling with addiction, don’t blame him or her and don’t blame yourself. Addiction doesn’t just happen to “bad” people, it can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time.