30 Jul The Devastating Impact of Addiction on Family
Addiction is a terrible disease. Addicts, even once in recovery, face a life of struggle. Addicts lose money, jobs, relationships and more to their disease and battle every day in recovery to avoid going back to that awful place. What makes addiction so insidious, though, is that the addict is not the only one to suffer. How addiction affects the family of the addict is complicated. Sometimes the family situation contributes to addiction, but the addiction always impacts the family in devastating ways.
Addiction Is a Family Disease
It is important to understand that addiction is a family, rather than an individual, disease. True, only the addict makes the initial choice to use, but the family dynamic is complex and implicated in addiction in most cases. Whether it is a parent or a child who struggles with addiction, the whole family struggles with her. The stress of the addiction pushes families to a breaking point. On the other hand, it may be the relationships within the family that led to a member’s substance abuse and addiction. It is also true that in order to heal and to have the most effective treatment for the individual, the entire family must participate. From all perspectives, this is truly a family disease.
Family Contributes to Addiction
It’s not helpful to play the blame game when a family member is struggling with addiction, but it is necessary to recognize how the family dynamic has been a risk factor for the disease. For instance, abuse in childhood can lead someone to substance abuse and addiction. Neglect has the same impact, as does witnessing the abuse of another. Even in less extreme cases, family members are often enablers of addiction. They may think they are helping the addict, when really they are perpetuating the problem.
How Does Addiction Affect the Family?
However the addiction began, once the disease has set in, everyone in the family suffers. When a parent is addicted, the children may be neglected, ignored or even abused. They suffer emotional and sometimes physical trauma from seeing a parent battle addiction. When a child is an addict, both parents and siblings suffer. Siblings may not get the attention needed from their parents because they are so focused on dealing with the so-called problem child. Parents suffer too. Addicted children can be abusive. They might steal from their parents. And of course, parents have to cope with the guilt and hopelessness of watching a child struggle so badly.
Addiction impacts the entire family, but it is the family who can come together to solve the problem. When an addict goes through treatment with the support of family, she is much more likely to be successful. And although hurt feelings will linger, making amends in recovery goes a long way toward repairing the damage caused by addiction.
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