Addiction is not only detrimental to the addict, but also to their family. Living with addiction puts a family under constant stress that, at times, can become unbearable. Both the addict and other family members may, at times, feel the harmful effects of a life turned upside-down. Trying to cope with the physical and mental ramifications of addiction can also be an exhausting experience that may lead to feelings of hopelessness. Watching a loved one deteriorate is a gut-wrenching experience, and the family will do everything in their power to try to fix the problem. But sometimes they don’t know how to fix the problem and that is when they need professional help.
How Addiction Affects the Family
Addiction impacts a family by de-stabilizing it under the weight of all the problems it brings. There may be health and financial problems as well as issues of trust, shame, fear, anger, stress, anxiety and more. Sometimes family members will act like everything is okay, but they know that the ground is shaking beneath their feet. They know something needs to be done, but they may not be sure of what they should do. There is help for families of addiction with programs of family education and counseling. There are also specific guidelines that family members should learn to incorporate into the family dynamic.
Help for families of addiction recovery can come from rehab facilities, 12-step programs and support groups such as Nar-Anon and Al-Anon. The programs offered by these groups are designed to help the addict, their family and friends. Individual therapy with a certified therapist, for each family member, is also an important part of the recovery process. Family therapy will provide information on how to communicate more effectively with other family members. It also helps to bring stability back to the family unit by providing a safe environment for all family members to share their concerns, fears, anger and pain. Therapy will teach the importance of relapse prevention techniques and may also act as a deterrent for other family members from becoming addicts themselves.
In their struggle to cope with their own inner turmoil, children living in a chaotic addiction household may develop psychological and behavioral coping mechanisms. They may develop feelings of fear, anxiety, attachment, emotional withdrawal and more. They may also begin to rebel, act-out and become manipulative and controlling. Children may also resort to becoming over-achievers and strive to excel in school, sports or any other activity or endeavor.
The family of addiction is challenged to the point of becoming dysfunctional. Eventually, family members lose sight of what is normal and start to play-role within the distorted family dynamic. Their world becomes disorderly, unpredictable and chaotic. Their sense of trust, safety, support and stability has been broken by the affects of addiction. Each family member needs individual therapy to reclaim their sense of identity and recover their strength. They have to feel safe again and be allowed to express their feelings without the fear of negative repercussions. Some characteristics that a person may develop from living with addiction are: anxiety, depression, emotional withdrawal, distorted reasoning, hyper vigilance, learned helplessness, loss of faith and trust, seeking unhealthy relationships, impulsiveness, inability to accept love, high-risk behavior, survival guilt, hyper-reactivity and self-medicating.
How to Help Your Loved One Who is Addicted
There are things that family members can do to help the recovering addict. These include becoming educated about addiction and recovery. Try not to judge the addict or resort to accusations and name calling. Try to provide a safe, serene home environment and encourage the addict to attend meetings and therapy sessions. Be patient. Start to create a new, sober life for yourselves and have fun together. Recognize that addiction is a disease and help your loved one back to wellness. Offer your love and support but let the recovering addict do things for them self. Overtime, the family that suffered from addiction will heal and a new, healthy family dynamic will begin.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.