Addiction is a disease that can reach far beyond the person actively using drugs or alcohol. When someone struggles with addiction, the entire family can also struggle and be impacted by it in a variety of ways. Much like a storm, addiction can leave destruction in its wake, but with the right support, families can overcome, rebuild in recovery, and grow stronger together.
What impact does addiction have on the family?
Family relationships – Addiction affects the family unit by influencing how its members interact with one another, how they cope with mental and emotional pressures, and how they perceive themselves and the person in active addiction. A person in active addiction may react in anger or denial when confronted about their drug abuse and need for treatment. They may skip out on responsibilities such as paying bills, or caring for the home and children, creating financial strain and an environment of neglect. Trust is also often broken between family as a result of a person’s actions while in active addiction, such as stealing or lying.
Enabling and co-dependency could prevent the person from seeking proper treatment as other family members look to avoid confronting the addiction or give in to appease their loved one, even if it means neglecting their own needs.
Emotional strain – Addiction in a family can increase the occurrence of dysfunction, conflict, and feeling isolated from other members. Loved ones may experience frequent stress and anxiety about their family stability or worry the person will overdose or relapse. Feelings of guilt, shame, anger, confusion, resentment, and hopelessness could be experienced by all involved.
Family stigma – The stigma of addiction is also an issue that can affect the family as a whole. Stigmatizing addiction may prevent someone from seeking alcohol or drug abuse treatment, counseling, and other crucial resources.
A cycle of addiction and trauma – Unhealthy family dynamics can stem from substance use disorder or, if such a dynamic is present beforehand, perpetuate risk factors of someone developing a substance use disorder. Alcohol and drug abuse in the home places children at an increased risk of emotional trauma and the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder themselves.
How do we address addiction as a family?
Since addiction affects more than the person with the substance use disorder, support must be sought not only for the person in addiction but for their family as well.
Encourage treatment – Treatment must be encouraged for the person in addiction, and can be done through interventions, family discussions, or even through legal intervention such as Casey’s Law. Short-term, long-term, residential, and outpatient drug abuse treatment programs offer options to fit the needs of those with substance use disorder.
Explore family support – Additional resources are available to help affected family members better understand addiction, address their needs, and practice self-care. Individual and family counseling will help navigate the mental and emotional impacts of addiction and support groups such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, Ala-Teen, Parents of Addicted Loved Ones, and others help families know they are not alone in their experiences.
Where can I find help?
Isaiah House Treatment Center is a faith-based treatment option for those affected by alcohol and drug abuse. Located in Kentucky, Isaiah House takes a holistic approach to treatment, addressing spiritual, physical, mental, financial, legal, and educational aspects of our clients’ lives. This approach means that clients who complete treatment through Isaiah House will be equipped with the skills to better maintain their lives in sobriety. Individual, group, and family counseling services by a licensed clinician are also available, along with parenting classes, peer support, and family medical care through Real Health Primary Care in Danville. At Isaiah House, we understand the importance of treating the whole family when it comes to addiction, and how rebuilding the family unit in recovery will contribute to long-term success in living sober.
It is important to remember that, while addiction may feel isolating, you are never alone in your experience and there is always help available to you and to your loved ones who are struggling alongside you.