Substance abuse damages a person’s physical, mental and spiritual health, but families and close friends of someone struggling with substance use disorder aren’t immune to negative consequences either. It’s common to become so wrapped up in a loved one’s addiction that you forget to think about how it’s affecting you, which can cause lasting damage to family dynamics if unaddressed.
1. It causes isolation.
Substance use can seriously impact a person’s cognitive functioning, judgment and sense of self. They may be embarrassed by their substance use, to the point where they begin to withdraw from friends and family and retreat into isolation. Or, friends and family members may choose to separate themselves from their loved one out of embarrassment or the inability to cope with the situation.
Addiction can also dismantle relationships altogether. An addicted individual or their family member may distance themselves so much that there is no more relationship, which can be a harrowing, heartbreaking experience.
2. It fosters enabling behaviors.
Enabling behavior within the family is a telltale sign of addiction and an accurate example of how addiction affects the family, as it allows the person with substance use disorder to continue engaging in destructive behaviors while the family tries to shield them from the consequences.
Examples of enabling include:
- Lending your loved one money because they don’t have a job or can’t hold one.
- Letting them live with you even though they don’t make any contribution to the household, financially or otherwise.
- Doing anything else that requires you to take responsibility for your loved one’s life while they’re non-productive by comparison.
The enabler often feels like they’re helping their loved one, but in reality, they’re only fueling their loved one’s addiction by not allowing them to fully experience the negative side effects of their behavior.
3. It breeds codependency.
Similar to patterns of enabling, codependency is very common among families struggling with addiction. According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, codependency refers to “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction.”
In a codependent relationship, the family member who doesn’t have substance use disorder begins to derive their self-worth from playing the role of caretaker with their addicted loved one. They may feel good about “helping” them, but caretaking can become a significant burden on the family member to the extent that it takes a toll on their mental and physical health. They start to prioritize their loved one’s needs over their own and stop taking care of themselves.
4. It causes financial woes.
Someone with substance use disorder may steal money or valuables from family members to fund their addiction, which creates distrust that is difficult to recover from. They may also struggle to fulfill their work responsibilities and could lose their job as a consequence, or may use money set aside to pay for necessities like food, shelter and utilities on drugs or alcohol. Or, they may become a financial burden on their family. Parents may take on their loved one’s financial responsibilities, which is a form of enabling.
5. It perpetuates negative mindsets.
Addiction takes an emotional toll on family members who may start to experience depression and anxiety as a result of their loved one’s addiction. Family members may begin to blame themselves for their loved one’s substance use, sending them on a shame spiral that devastates their self-worth and makes them feel disappointed in themselves and their loved one.
It also perpetuates feelings of distrust and suspicion, as an addicted individual will often take significant measures to hide their addiction. It can be extremely difficult to break out of such a negative cycle of emotions that feed off of one another and cause family dynamics to worsen.
Family and close friends are often forced to compensate for their loved one’s behavior, which perpetuates a cycle of negativity. It’s difficult to go unaffected by someone else’s addiction, which is why it’s so important for family members and close friends to be involved in their loved one’s recovery. Segue Recovery Support’s Family Support Services can connect you and your loved one with recovery coaching, counseling and 12-step groups that can restore healthy family dynamics and help everyone heal. Contact us at 1-833-485-0789 for more information.