Addiction affects everyone in a family in more ways than family members may realize. A person with a substance use disorder often neglects relationships, prioritizing their substance use instead. Not only do they suffer the effects of addiction, but their partners and family members also suffer. A good family therapy program can help each member of the family unit express their needs and concerns, take responsibility for past behavior, and work towards positive change.
Breakdown of Trust and Communication
Trust is fundamental to family relationships. That trust is broken when someone lies about or conceals their substance use. A substance use disorder may fear judgment or shame if their family finds out the truth. Other family members, on the other hand, might feel betrayed and frustrated when their loved one fails to follow through on commitments. Even after recovery has begun, the effects of addiction on the family may mean it takes a while to rebuild trust.
Addiction also damages family communication. Substance use creates emotional distance between family members since they may no longer be comfortable being honest with each other. Emotions can run high when addiction and family are combined, and dialogue may escalate into violent confrontations. When family members are too emotionally overwhelmed to communicate directly and assertively, or when one is under alcohol or drugs, the risk of abuse and violence increases.
The Enabling Effects of Addiction on Family
Often without knowing it, family members can act as enablers for a person with a substance use disorder. Enabling situations are common, but they aren’t helpful for anyone in the family. A family member with enabling tendencies might make it easier for their loved one to avoid getting help for their addiction. Someone with enabling tendencies might:
- Accept responsibility for their loved one’s behavior
- Make excuses for their family member
- Blame themselves for their family member’s addiction
- Make sure their loved one doesn’t experience the consequences of substance use
- Lie to others on their loved one’s behalf
- Take over their family member’s obligations
Enablers usually genuinely care for their loved ones with addiction and want the best for them. But they may be unsure how to help. They may also feel personally responsible for the addiction. These feelings can complicate the effects of addiction on family relationships.
Addiction and Family Roles and Responsibilities
When one member of the family experiences addiction, other family members may find that their family roles change. For instance, they may have to take on new responsibilities that the person with addiction is neglecting, or they may become a caregiver for the person with the addiction. This situation increases stress for family members, who may be anxious about keeping the family together, resent their new roles, or neglect their own needs.
Children who are part of the family may take on increased responsibilities at a young age, especially if their primary caregivers struggle with addiction. Children in families with addiction are especially vulnerable to learning and developmental delays, emotional instability, and physical neglect. As adults, these children are more likely than the general population to develop substance use disorders themselves.
Family Healing at Footprints Beachside Recovery
Family involvement, whenever possible, is a priority in our treatment plans. We offer family therapy with trained, empathetic, and neutral professionals, where everyone – both the person with addiction and their loved ones – can learn how to create lasting, positive change. Family members have a safe place to express their feelings honestly and the time to work through these feelings. In the end, the family unit is stronger, with improved communication skills, boundaries, and goals.
Healing and recovery are family projects. Let us help you restore your family from addiction by calling 727.513.5972.