Addictions Effect on The Family
Addiction and the Family: What You Need to Know
It is Not Your Family's Fault
The effects of addiction are like a rock thrown into a pond.
The rock drops in at the center and quickly a wave of ripples starts to spread out.
Addiction is perplexing and frustrating.
But here's the thing...
It has nothing to do with willpower and it's 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.”
But there's something you should never do when it comes to addiction...
You should never shame the addict.
Often shame is one of the biggest catalysts for addiction in the first place.
Addiction Can Happen to Anyone
Myths and stereotypes surrounding addiction can be harmful.
The picture of a homeless man on the street chugging alcohol.
A person could look at the man and say, "well, at least I'm not that bad".
It makes one wonder, What's the face of addiction?
Well, there is none.
Addiction can and does happen to even the most privileged of people and the most loving of families.
Getting past the "why" of the addiction is important.
Only then can you focus on the solutions.
Addiction is certainly not just the problem of the addict, but of everyone that loves and supports the addict.
Who should get the blame for the situation?
Avoid putting blame on yourself.
Avoid putting blame on your addicted loved one.
Addiction doesn't look the same for everyone.
Some who are struggling with drug and alcohol use have an exceptional ability to hide it.
And some are able to function normally at a high level.
But their ability to function always decreases over time.
Still, it may take a long time to notice.
We trust our friends and family.
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 of Addiction
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 an 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 on 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.
Contact us today if you want to learn more about addiction intervention for families.
Lander, L., Howsare, J., & Byrne, M. (2013). The impact of substance use disorders on families and children: from theory to practice. Social work in public health, 28(3-4), 194-205.