Addiction takes its toll. Along with the laundry list of consequences the addict must face, the ripple effects of addiction touches and changes the lives of the ones who love the addict.
Addiction is a family disease.
Everyone is affected.
For some, it can be difficult to admit that addiction is more than just a one man game. Many families think that if the addict would just stop using, everyone would be okay. But it’s not that cut and dry.
By the time a recreational drug user becomes an addict, the family has been affected. Even more difficult to come to terms with, is the likelihood that the family may have been unhealthy even before the addiction began. Families are a part of one another’s lives. One person’s mess get’s on the next person. We all affect (and infect) one another, whether it’s positive or negative. So, if there is addiction in the family, it’s pretty safe to say that everyone not only needs healing, but deserves healing.
What Does Addiction Look Like in The Family?
The negative influence of addiction in the family setting takes form in a couple different ways:
- Stress: According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency, addiction puts a huge amount of stress on the family, impacting stability of the home, family unity, mental health, physical health, finances and family dynamic.
- Dysfunction: It is common for families dealing with addiction to operate in dysfunction. There is a lack of ability to maintain normal routines when there are consistent disruptions by unexpected, unsettling events. This is especially prominent if the addict is unpredictable, violent, or abusive in any other way.
Living in stress and dysfunction inhibits the family’s ability to connect with one another. It is very common for children living in homes impacted by addiction to experience feelings of being overwhelmed, to withdraw within themselves, to act out, or to self medicate using drugs or alcohol. Furthermore, children who grow up in this type of environment have been found to be more likely to develop anger issues, mental health problems, or to develop a substance abuse problem, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
The Journey To Recovery
Arriving at a point where the addict is willing to seek treatment is a dream come true for so many. Suddenly, a healthy and happy family life is within reach, and that gnawing stress you experience every day that you’re loved one continues to use is beginning to retreat.
Complete restoration is possible, but it requires the whole family to make it happen. Treating the addict and ignoring the disaster area of broken family members is a recipe for failure. Addiction recovery has to be done together.
Codependent and Enabling Behavior
Addiction doesn’t just impact the behavior and mindset of the addict; it impacts everyone around. Everyone learns to cope with addiction in their own way. Some choose to sweep everything under the rug, pretend everything is okay and constantly clean up the trail of destruction the addict leaves in their wake.
For others, the addiction becomes the center of everything. Nothing else in the home receives the attention it needs in order to survive because of the mass amount of attention directed toward the addict.
Either way, it is likely that codependent and enabling behaviors have unknowingly developed. It’s important to recognize and correct these behaviors in order to begin repairing family health.
- Codependency: Codependency is defined as engaging in learned behaviors, attitudes and feelings which result from adapting to dysfunction. Codependent individuals are so concerned with another person’s problems that they tend to neglect their own needs.
Codependent behaviors include:
- Obsessive worrying over the addict’s using and the consequences of their addiction.
- Living in constant denial over the severity of the addiction.
- Lowered self esteem caused by self neglect due to the intense focus on the addict.
- Misplaced anger.
- Compulsive coping behavior such as shopping, eating, exercising etc.
- Your demeanor is dependent on the mood of the addict.
2. Enabling: Enabling is defined as behaviors which support the addict’s substance abuse, directly or indirectly, and involve the removal of consequences of the addict’s addiction. This is done out of love or fear but actually causes further damage.
Enabling behaviors include:
- Using with the addict in order to stay near them and protect them.
- Keeping your feelings to yourself in order to keep the addict from becoming sad or upset.
- Validating the addict’s excuse for using.
- Protecting the addict’s image by making excuses on their behalf.
- Working hard to make sure your home appears normal.
- Feeling guilty when the addict has to suffer the consequences of their addiction.
A Family In Recovery
Recovery isn’t just for the addict. In order to increase the odds of success in sobriety and to restore health to the family, everyone needs recovery.
Dr. Laura has achieved a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology, her APA accredited pre-doctoral internship, and is now completing her post-doctoral psychology residency with us here at The Shores. Dr. Laura provides family based psycho-education on trauma and addiction, while guiding our clients at The Shores and their families into healing through a systematic approach.