Addiction is a family disease. This means that it negatively impacts parents, siblings, and children in addition to the addict themselves. For this reason, it’s important that family members become involved in the treatment process.
Addiction doesn’t just affect the addict. It affects the entire family. BRC’s fully integrated Family Program helps families understand the science of addiction, the challenges their loved one faces on a daily basis and the effects addiction has had on family dynamics. We offer a safe, comfortable setting where families can speak openly and honestly about their experience without having to feel ashamed, guilty, or resentful.
Our Family Program Includes:
- Weekly phone updates for family members
- Multi-family support group
- Monthly family educational meeting
How Addiction Affects the Family
Family members of people with addictions have an increased likelihood of domestic violence and illness. They also tend to have a deterioration in their interpersonal and psychological activities.
This includes problems with:
- Social behavior,
- The relationship with the addicted family member,
- Behavior problems in children.
Family members frequently have to deal with financial and legal issues. This combination of problems can have an extensive impact. One impact is that the families of drug users usually have health care usage rates that can be up to four times higher than that of typical families.
10 Effects of Substance Abuse on the Family
People with an addiction often have issues with jealousy. They may become jealous of their partner, friends, and other family members.
Hostility with a Partner
Addicts may have arguments, give or get the “silent treatment,” and grow apart because an addict always puts their addiction first.
Conflicts with Children
Frequently, addicts will argue with their children too. As a result, the children begin to disregard the addicted parent’s authority or become afraid of them.
Struggles with Money
Addicts often struggle economically because of:
- losing their job,
- needing time off work, or
- making bad financial choices.
They also tend to put all their money into their addiction.
Addicts often cause emotional difficulties for their partner, children, and other family members by yelling, criticizing, insulting, abuse, or manipulating.
It’s not uncommon for addicts to become violent, or for their family members to become violent with them.This can include slapping, hitting, smashing things, and throwing objects. Sadly, a parent with a SUD is 3 times more likely to physically or sexually abuse their child.
Addicts often become distant from their partners and find gratification through pornograpy, internet sex, prostitution, or another person who appears to “understand” them better.
Behavior influenced by addiction can cause divorce, separation, and isolation from other family members, particularly children. This can happen because they don’t want to be around the addict or, in the case of children, they are taken from them.
The example that an addict displays will influence their partner, children, and other family members.In fact, there is a high risk that children of addicts will also become addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol can damage an individual’s judgment and lead to neglect and harm to family members. Drinking while pregnant can cause damage to a baby’s brain (fetal alcohol syndrome).
Roles of Family Members in an Addict’s Life
Like any organization when any part is changed, it causes changes in all parts of the system. And so it is in the family organization. Similar to a mobile hanging from the ceiling, all the parts are connected to each other, and when one piece is moved, or changed, they all change positions.
For example, when one family member is overly responsible and controlling– perhaps a parent–it affects the attitudes and behaviors of the other family members. Children and adult partners typically respond by becoming less responsible. Therefore, when a family member is struggling with an active addiction, they behave less responsibly which influences other family members to respond by becoming more controlling and responsible.
The balance shifts, like the mobile, as each family member adjusts and changes to fit the situation. The changes occur slowly and unconsciously.
Addiction and Family Roles: Where Do You Fit In?
Each role targets the negative effects of SUD on family members, particularly the spouse and children.
Addicts live in a constant state of turmoil. Alcohol or drugs is their main way to deal with problems and complicated feelings. They will burn bridges, lie, and manipulate to supply their needs. Their behavior creates negative effects for the whole family.
The enabler’s role is to deny the problem and try to smooth things over to protect the family. They convince themselves that it’s not a problem and make excuses. This role is usually taken on by the spouse but can also be a child.
Role 3. The Hero.
The hero is typically a hard-working overachiever who tries to unite the family and create a feeling of normalcy. This is usually the oldest child. They try to do everything right to give hope to the family. This creates a lot of stress on the hero and a risk for illness later in life.
This is the person who gets the blame for the family problems. This role is typically the second oldest child. They shield the addict and give the family a chance to blame someone other than the addict. When scapegoats get older, they tend to run away, act out in violence, or engage in promiscuous sex.
The mascot often tries to deflect the stress of their life by supplying humor to the situation. This is usually the youngest child. They’re fragile and desperate for the approval of others. Humor is the mascot’s defense against feeling fear and pain. They often grow up to self-medicate.
The lost child is generally taken by the youngest or middle child. They’re usually shy and thought of as invisible to the other members. They don’t get a lot of attention from other family members, particularly when an addiction is present in the family.
Characteristics of Family Interaction
There are several features of family interaction. One or more of these are likely to be present in a family that has parents or children abusing drugs or alcohol.
- Negativity. Family members’ communication is negative. It generally takes the form of complaints, criticism, and other expressions of disapproval.
- Inconsistent parenting. Rule setting is erratic. Enforcement of rules is inconsistent. Not enough structure. Children end up being confused because they can’t figure out right from wrong.
- Parental denial. Although there are plenty of warning signs, parents deny there is a problem.
- Failed expressions of anger. Parents or children who resent their emotionally deprived home and are afraid to express their feelings. They use drugs to manage their anger.
- Self-medication. A parent or a child will use drugs or alcohol to help ease severe anxiety or depression.
- Unrealistic parental expectations. When expectations of parents are unrealistic, children may excuse themselves from all future expectations. They may say “Don’t expect anything from me. I’m just a junkie.” Or the reverse may happen which is obsessive overachieving. They believe that whatever they do is not good enough. On the other hand, if expectations are low and children are told they will fail, they will tend to adjust their behavior to the parents’ expectations.
How Family Treatment Works
When one family member is struggling with addiction, the entire family is struggling. Our Director of Alumni and Family Services works with the family to:
- Improve communication skills
- Discuss difficult topics
- Work through family dysfunction
- Resolve conflict
- Identify and avoid enabling behaviors
- Establish healthy boundaries
- Rebuild trust
- Learn about family dynamics and the roles family members play
Families also learn about the risks of enabling and codependent behaviors. For many people struggling with addiction, enabling and codependency are what drove them to use substances in the first place. If these issues go unaddressed, it increases the risk of relapse.
Call us today to learn more about our Family Program and how our recovery services can help everyone in your family – not just your loved one – heal.
Benefits of Family Addiction Counseling
Treatment programs for people who have a substance use disorder tend to have better outcomes if the addict’s family or close associates take part in the therapy process. If the individual’s family doesn’t get involved in learning about addiction and the effect it’s been having on the workings of the family, it can actually prevent the person’s recovery. Family members may end up continuing to enable the addict.
SAMHSA (Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration) has stated, “Family therapy can help families become aware of their own needs and aid in the goal of keeping substance abuse from moving from one generation to another.”
Substance abuse treatment and family therapy help improve distressed relationships with your partner, children, and other members of the family.
During therapy you may:
- Examine your family’s ability to solve problems and express feelings productively.
- Explore family roles, rules, and behavior patterns to target the issues that contribute to conflict.
- Identify your family’s strengths and weaknesses.
We Help Families Heal
It’s critical for families to be involved in their loved one’s treatment not just to improve their understanding of addiction and undo the damages it causes, but because family serves as a built-in support system. When a client has a strong foundation of family support, it dramatically improves their chances of lasting sobriety.
At BRC Recovery, we encourage families to be involved with their loved one’s treatment because it’s often the difference between a lifetime embattled in addiction and one in recovery.
Contact us to learn more about our Family Program and how our recovery services can help everyone in your family heal.