When a person is abusing drugs or alcohol their behavior has an effect on everyone around them. The harmful behavior weighs heavily on those who care for them. It can be extremely difficult for those around the individual to cope with the decisions being made. Unfortunately, many individuals who are addicted to drugs or alcohol are unaware of the full impact of their actions on those around them.
Although addiction can be destructive to family relationships, it does not have to create a hopeless situation. When the family receives the help that they need to learn coping skills, interpersonal tools, and supportive strategies, they can serve as a support network for the individual battling addiction. In order to learn these tactics, it’s important to understand the effects that addiction has on the family unit.
Addiction Effects on the Family Unit
Addiction affects each individual differently. This also means that it affects every family differently. It depends on several factors, including the severity of the addiction, the prior relationship with the family member, and whether or not the families have support outside of the family unit. Regardless of these factors, addiction increases feelings of stress, which affects many different areas of family life.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, “Addiction is a family disease that stresses the family to the breaking point, impacts the stability of the home, the family’s unity, mental health, physical health, finances, and overall family dynamics. Living with addiction can put family members under unusual stress. Without help, active addiction can totally disrupt family life and cause harmful effects that can last a lifetime.” This is why it is critical for the family members to receive the treatment that they need in order to heal.
Effects of a Spouse with Drug or Alcohol Addiction
It’s not easy to live with someone when their addiction is causing issues within the home. Addiction causes certain behavioral changes within the individual that can harm others. The home should be the safest place, but with an addicted individual, it can be an environment filled with conflict and negativity. The partner struggling with addiction may feel a sense of failure, guilt, and shame in the partnership.
Sadly, this sometimes leads the other partner to overcompensate by working hard to “fix” the situation- even though they may not know how. This could be taking on extra responsibilities, covering up for their partner, or making excuses for their behavior. Dealing with a spouse struggling with addiction without the proper tools is like fighting a losing battle. The first step is to help guide them to make better decisions for themselves.
How a Parent’s Addiction Affects Their Children
No matter how old we are, as individuals, we are deeply influenced by our parents and how they raise us. In a healthy parent-child relationship, the parent has the role of the caregiver. The caregiver is responsible for providing food and shelter, emotional support, and security in all aspects. However, when it comes to an addicted parent, the roles can be reversed. This can be especially toxic to parents with young children who are still developing.
In the case of an addicted parent, children are asked to take on a role that they may not be ready for. The child is forced to assume the caretaker’s responsibility and provide emotional and physical support to their parents. This means children will grow up independently and having to care for themselves in addition to their addicted parent. As many other family members do, children also carry guilt and somehow blame themselves for their parent’s behaviors.
The Effects on the Parents of Addicted Individuals
Regardless of the age of a parent’s child, discovering that their child has a problem with addiction can be extremely painful. Even if their child is an adult, it may cause parents to question their parenting abilities and choices that they have made in their own lives. Mothers and fathers tend to carry extra guilt when their child is struggling with addiction.
If the offspring is an adult, it can be even more difficult for parents to help them because they hold less power over them. If they have young children, parents may also hold a sense of responsibility to care for their grandchildren. According to the U.S. Census, the number of children being raised by grandparents increased from 2.4 million in 2000 to 4.9 million in 2012 with two of the primary causes being an addiction and mental health disorders.
How Addiction Disrupts the Entire Family
It’s rare that the effects of addiction are solely limited to one person. Addiction reaches far beyond the immediate family members, often disrupting entire families. The stress and strain on relationships often cause falling outs between other family members. Blame and anger are misplaced and misdirected. Family members are often left to pick up the pieces that an addicted individual leaves behind, and it causes a great amount of stress on everyone involved.
Just about every person in contact with addiction is impacted in one way or another. Whether it be struggling with their own emotions or the responsibility of others, it can be a heavy burden to bear. This is why it is so critical for family members to receive the help that they need to heal. Not only does family treatment help heal wounds, but it also increases the chances of a successful recovery for the individual struggling with addiction.
If you are feeling the effects of a close friend or family member struggling with addiction, contact us for help taking the next step for recovery.