When someone is in the throes of an active drug addiction their behavior often has a tornado like effect sucking in and spitting out everything within its path. Since drug addiction has such serious and negative consequences for the addicted person it is often hard to look beyond those effects. Understanding how drug addiction affects family members is important for both the addicted individual and their family members. Addiction is a family disease and it affects each family member in a unique way. Ideally, each member of the family will take steps to work on themselves when the addicted individual takes steps towards recovery.
How Drug Addiction Affects Family Members – Parents
Parents often spend years worrying about their drug addicted son or daughter. Their worry can take different forms, but the one commonality is that they spend a great deal of time thinking or doing for the addicted individual and as a result their own life suffers dramatically. They are so busy worrying, in fact, that they do not even realize how drug addiction affects the family members involved, including themselves. Once their loved one enters recovery it becomes clear exactly how much time they spent worrying about their loves one. All of the sudden all they have all this free time, but without help and guidance from others they have no idea what to do with all their newly acquired free time. After worrying about your loved one for so many years it feels only natural to continue. But, this type of behavior should be managed to insure success in recovery. One of the most damaging things a loved one can do with all of their newly acquired free time is try to oversee and micro-manage the recovery of their family member. It is important that parents get the support that they need during this time. Trying to control their child’s recovery can have detrimental effects on their success. The family dynamic is complex.
While it is easy to blame all family problems on the drug and alcohol abuse that takes place in the lives of some family members, each family member plays some kind of role. The most common role is that of an enabler. This occurs when the parent encourages their family member to continue using drugs and alcohol because of a failure to set adequate boundaries. Parents also tend to become financially responsible for their drug addicted child. Sometimes, this is because the drug addicted individual never leaves home because living rent free is an alternative to independent living that allows them to focus their financial resources directly into their disease. In other situations, parents actually give their addicted child money from drugs and alcohol out of fear for what their child will do for the money otherwise. No matter the cause or the circumstances parents need to create solid boundaries when it comes to financially their son or daughter once they enter into recovery. Gaining financial independence can be tough for those who are newly sober and its important that their families encourage them to be self-supporting.
How Drug Addiction Affects Family Members – Spouses
Like parents, spouses often spend many years worrying about their spouses before their spouse gets the help they need, if they ever do. What can be more powerful, though, is anger. Our relationships with our spouses are supposed to be based on trust. When the world wears you down a spouse is the first person we turn to. But, when a spouse is living in active addiction they are often both physically and emotionally unavailable. This unavailability also leads to fights about the division of labor, finances, or over the lack of trust. It is very common for those in active addiction to lie to their spouses about where they are and what they are doing. Most will say anything that to continue drinking. This cycle of toxic emotions and behaviors can be broken when the addicted spouse actively seeks out recovery.
When your spouse enters recovery, you must strike a tough balance. It is important that you are supportive but not engaging in enabling behaviors. Enabling behaviors are those which allow a person to continue in active addiction. Most would not get sober if it weren’t for living through some of the negative consequences of addiction. Some examples of enabling behaviors are staying up late at night and going to bars with your spouse while they drink, lying to other family members to cover for you missing spouse, or lying to children. A spouse must be loving and supportive but also firm. The recovery of their spouse could depend on establishing new boundaries with their spouse.
How Drug Addiction Affects Family Members – Children
One of the most severe examples of how drug addiction affects family member comes into play when there are young children involved. Drug and alcohol abuse is on the rise nationwide. It is much more common that most people think. So, it is no surprise an alarming number of children are exposed to people that abusing either alcohol or drugs, some studies report this number to be as high as 1 in 5 children. Growing up in this kind of environment can have long lasting effects. For young children it is very distressing and disturbing to watch their parent suffer from the disease of addiction. This environment is more likely to lead to mentally unstable children. We know that the effects of being exposed to addiction as a child has long lasting effects because adult children of alcoholics often report feeling an extreme since of guilt that spills over into other types of relationships.
How Drug Addiction Affects Family Members – Siblings
There is no relationship quite like that of siblings. For that reason, drug addiction has a unique affect on siblings. Many siblings describe each other as their best friend. When drugs and alcohol take over the lives of a sibling’s feelings of mistrust, abandonment, fear, and worry can over take what was once a loving relationship. Its important for love ones of addicts to get support for the emotions they may be going through and this includes siblings.
How Drug Addiction Affects Family Members – Extended Family
The concept of family differs from person to person, especially in America. As time has gone on our definition has expanded to include more than just the nuclear family. Now, many are often very close with aunts, uncles, cousins, and even grandparents, sometimes all living under the same roof. Depending on the family dynamic this can means that how drug addiction affects family members can look different for each person. For those who are very close with their extending family the same feelings so loss, hurt, anger, and even mistrust can be felt by extended family. In families that are not close with extended family the affects might be much less severe. No matter how far removed drug addiction is likely to have an affect on any family member. It is important to be cognizant of this and offer far reaching support.
How drug addiction affects family members can vary from family to family. The one thing that is certain is that drug addiction will affect family members young and old. Understanding how drug addiction affects families helps both the family and the addict. When armed with all the information the family and the addict can work together to break the cycle of addiction. Long term recovery can be achieved by anyone willing to do the work and can lead to long and happy lives which include vibrant familial relationships.