How Addiction Impacts FamiliesSeth Sparks
Some addiction professionals describe substance use disorders as family diseases. This idea speaks to the many ways that addiction indirectly affects those close to someone with a substance use disorder. Addiction impacts families in many ways, and it can create feelings of abandonment, stress, fear, anger, embarrassment or guilt in both immediate and extended family members.
Family dynamics and addiction are both complex, highly personal issues. When an addiction is introduced into a family, members often struggle to find healthy ways to communicate. Relationships are tested and sometimes broken. Fortunately, there are solutions to help family members navigate the challenges they’re facing.
Addiction Impacts Families in Several Ways
How family members are affected by a loved one’s addiction depends on how equipped they are to deal with challenges. For example, strong family ties, good communication skills and adequate financial resources can give a family the tools to address the problem. The weaker the ties, the poorer the communication and the less resources a family can rely on, the greater the chances that addiction will inflict significant damage on relationships. Addiction impacts families even more when they aren’t prepared to deal with the challenges it brings.
Addiction can affect a family’s
- Emotional well-being, and
- Physical health.
The more open and determined families are to find solutions, the better prepared they’ll be to withstand the problems they face together. Ultimately, the addicted family member must be willing to cooperate, but there are several tools available to concerned family members that might help that loved to find a path to recovery.
Addiction Can Create Patterns That Are Difficult to Break
A parent who struggles with addiction risks passing on their disorder to their children. Children who have parents with addictions are far more likely to develop a substance use disorder. A parent’s addiction can also affect a child in other ways. For example, when one parent is absent because of a substance use disorder, a child might start to compensate for their absence by taking on responsibilities of the missing parent, often acting as a surrogate spouse or as a parental figure to their siblings.
Even if a parent struggles with a substance use disorder, it doesn’t mean that these effects on their children are inevitable. Instead of setting an example of addiction, a parent can instead show their child that they have the strength to stay sober and be a positive force in the child’s life.
Parents Might Place an Unfair Burden on Themselves
When a child suffers from a substance use disorder, parents often put themselves through a great deal of self-criticism and blame. Though self-awareness could help identify problem areas that can be addressed, parents run the risk of becoming so focused on their past parenting decisions that they lose sight of what they can do to help their child manage a disorder.
Marriages Can Be Strained Beyond Repair
Addiction can permanently damage marriages. Dishonesty is a hallmark of substance use disorders and, when trust between two spouses is broken, healing those wounds becomes an increasingly difficult task. However, if both spouses are committed to the process of recovery, their shared commitment can become a source of strength.
Family Members Have A Sense that a Crisis is Around Every Corner
Addiction breeds instability. To avoid the threat of chaos, family members might compensate by dramatically changing their own behaviors. In some cases, families do whatever they feel is necessary to accommodate their loved one’s disorder. Though this desire to avoid a crisis often stems from good intentions, family members might also begin inadvertently enabling their loved one’s disorder.
Communications Become Distorted by Past Experiences
The turmoil caused by addiction makes communication impossible. Well-intentioned gestures are misinterpreted. The weight of family members’ past experiences clouds not only the way things are said, but also how they are received. Resentment permeates every facet of a family’s dynamics, and trust becomes impossible.
When communication completely breaks down, families should begin looking for help from professionals. Having an objective consultant offer a fresh perspective can make a dramatic impact on how family members communicate with each other.
There is Always Hope for Families
Clearly, addiction can take a serious toll on every family member. However, it is essential that families never give up hope. A properly staged intervention can help a loved one understand how their disorder has affected their own life and the lives of the people they care about. A professional interventionist gives a family the framework necessary to communicate concerns to someone with a substance use disorder.
If You Need Help with a Family Member, Contact R&A Therapeutic Partners
At R&A Therapeutic Partners, we know that families can be a source of strength for their loved ones. Though addiction impacts families in deep ways, sometimes all it takes is guidance from an experienced professional and a commitment to the process. If you want help planning a successful intervention, contact the Miami interventionists Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno to find out more about the services that R&A Therapeutic Partners offers. Call us at 786-452-7352 to schedule your appointment.
At R&A Therapeutic Partners Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno specialize in substance use and mental health disorder evaluations, treatment, intervention and therapeutic/educational consulting for clients throughout the greater South Florida area, as well as nationally and internationally. For more resources and information please visit Therapeutic-Partners.com or on Facebook.