01 Oct The Role of Family in Addiction
When you struggle with substance abuse or addiction, you are not the only one involved. Your family plays a big role in who you are, along with the choices you make and their consequences. No one lives in a vacuum. We are all impacted by the choices the people closest to us make. Your family impacts your addiction and your addiction impacts them in turn.
How Does Addiction Affect Families?
There are so many ways in which addiction in one member affects the entire family. If the addict is a parent, the children can be especially impacted in negative ways. Children of addicts are, at best, neglected. In the worst-case scenario they suffer abuse at the hands of their impaired, addicted parent. The effects on children of addicts are devastating in the short term, but are also far reaching. Kids of addicts suffer socially and academically. They often carry trauma into adulthood. They are more likely than their peers to develop addiction later, as well as mental illnesses.
How substance abuse affects the family reaches beyond children. The spouse of an addict also suffers. The spouse is often neglected, and sometimes abused. In many cases the relationship completely disintegrates as the sober partner is forced to pick up the slack left by the addict. When a young person is the addict, family members suffer as well. Parents spend more time and attention on the addicted child, often to the neglect of siblings.
When Families Create Addicts
Addiction and substance abuse impact families, but the opposite is also true. Many times the dynamic of a family leads one member down a dangerous path of substance abuse. Abuse and other traumas, for instance, can make a child more susceptible to substance abuse and addiction. Enablers of addicts in families often make the situation worse. An enabler is often a spouse of an addicted partner, or a parent of an addicted child. The enabler makes excuses for the addict and takes care of responsibilities. These actions, whether intentional or not, allow the addict to continue using substances while denying there is a problem.
Because addiction affects everyone and because the family also affects the addict, all members should play a role in recovery. It may take time, but when everyone is able to admit there is a problem within the family and with the family dynamic, all can start to heal. Treatment should start with the addict who needs to get clean. All members of the family should join in on counseling sessions to help restore a better balance and to repair relationships. The addict will likely be making amends in recovery, and these should begin with family members and with putting the family unit back together.
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