how addiction affects the family

How Addiction Affects the Whole Family

If you’re struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, you might wonder why your family cares so much. Of course, they love you and are concerned with your welfare. But addiction affects the family in ways that you might not realize. That’s why there are support groups for family members as well as individuals struggling with addiction.

People who deal with drug or alcohol addiction often don’t notice that their actions affect others. Family members may not realize that they should seek professional help or counseling to manage the consequences of their loved one’s addiction.

Loss of Relationships

As an individual’s addiction continues, it can consume their life. They may withdraw from the things that once held their interest.

They might isolate themselves from family members and friends for a variety of reasons. For example, they may be ashamed of their behavior. They might not want to burden their loved ones with their problems with drugs and alcohol. Their shame could drive them further into their substance abuse.

Addiction affects the family by taking the individual who uses drugs or alcohol away from the relationship. The person with the substance abuse problem may stop participating in activities with their family members.

They might also drive people away with irrational behavior or anger. They may also cause so much strain on the relationship that the family members stop interacting with them.

Emotional Consequences of Addiction for Family Members

Some people say that addiction is a family disease. The loved ones of people who battle addiction have to deal with a roller coaster of emotions. They want to see their loved one get better, but they may not know what to do or say. They aren’t always sure how to help the individual free themselves from the grip of drugs or alcohol.

Loved ones may take on roles that they haven’t played before, such as:

The enabler

Makes excuses for the addiction and takes care of the things that the person struggling with addiction doesn’t handle

The hero

Obsesses over perfection and overachieves to make up for the substance abuser’s shortcomings

The mascot

Uses humor to bring relief and balance to the family

The scapegoat

Misbehaves or acts out in response to the chaos going on in the household

The lost child

Isolates themselves and engages in fantasy to escape the detrimental environment at home

Because familial roles are usually firmly set by the time someone in the household develops an addiction, shaking things up can add to the chaos of substance abuse.

How Addiction Affects Children

Although everyone in the household suffers when someone is dealing with addiction to drugs or alcohol, children of parents with substance abuse issues may be impacted the most. If children have to take on parental roles, they can miss out on important childhood developmental opportunities.

Parental addiction can lead to issues such as:

• Fear of abandonment
• Low self-esteem
• Guilt
• Anxiety
• Depression
• Loneliness
• Denial
• Adjustment problems

Children who live with people who have substance abuse problems are at an increased risk for emotional and behavioral issues. They may take on the role of a parent, assuming responsibilities that are far beyond their level of maturity. They may also be more likely to develop substance abuse problems themselves, using drugs to manage overwhelming feelings.

How Addiction Affects Spouses

Spouses may also find themselves struggling with the relationship if their significant other has an addiction. They may develop resentment for shouldering the majority of the household responsibilities.

Addiction often causes codependency between romantic partners. Spouses may put their addicted partner’s needs before their own. They may do anything to “fix” the situation even if it entails neglecting their own wellbeing. They may also try to compensate for the addicted spouse’s inadequacies.

How Addiction Affects Parents

It’s hard for parents to see their child develop an addiction at any age. When parents are dealing with addiction in their children, they may blame themselves. But they need to concentrate on helping their child instead of judging themselves.

Parents of adult children may have a harder time influencing their child than parents of younger children or teens. They may feel helpless if their child doesn’t want to participate in an addiction treatment program.

Many parents want to help their children but enable them instead. They may feel conflicted because they want to set firm boundaries. But they also want to protect their child. These emotions can put parents in an uncomfortable position and harm the relationship.

How Addiction Affects the Extended Family

Addiction affects the family in many ways. Its effects go beyond the nuclear family.

Extended family members might feel guilt or shame. They may be concerned or anxious about the person who is battling the addiction. They could even desire to cut ties with the individual or seek legal protection from them.

These emotions could damage the family structure for generations. Substance abuse can negatively influence trust and role modeling. It also gives family members a warped sense of normative behavior surrounding drugs and alcohol.

Addiction Has Financial and Medical Consequences

Addiction affects the family by creating financial problems. Someone with an addiction might spend money on drugs or alcohol instead of paying bills or rent. Sometimes, the individual with the addiction steals money from family and friends to pay for the substances.

Substance abuse can also cause an individual to lose their job. This can put a burden on children who rely on that parent for financial support. It can also affect parents, who may take their child in or pay for treatment for addiction.

The medical consequences of an addiction may also be hard on the family. Hospital and substance abuse treatment center bills add up quickly.

A Treatment Program That Meets the Entire Family’s Needs

A treatment program for substance abuse should meet the needs of the individual who is dealing with the addiction. But every member of the household might need help.

Family counseling sessions may be beneficial for opening up the lines of communication between loved ones. Therapy can help family members understand what the individual with addiction is going through. It gives them tools for managing their own emotions while supporting the addicted family member in a constructive manner.

At New Method Wellness, we offer a variety of approaches to care for everyone involved in an addiction situation. We know that our clients need a strong support system, and we’re here to help all of you.

For more information about our Addiction Treatment Methods, visit our website or call 866.951.1824

It’s Time For A New Method


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