When people discuss the impact of addiction, the focus is often on the addicted individual. While no one endures the consequences of chronic substance abuse at the same level as the user, family members are frequently a close second. Addiction is a disease that impacts the whole family. Those closest to an alcoholic or a drug addicted individual have unique roles in the development of addiction and will play an enormous part in the subsequent recovery.
In recent years, the American family unit has shifted away from the traditional, nuclear family to one that comes in all forms. There are single-parent households, blended families, multi-generational families and foster families. The makeup of your family unit will influence the impact that addiction has on it.
For example, a parent of small children may try and overcompensate for the shortcomings of his or her substance abusing spouse, while children of an alcoholic may begin taking on adult-like responsibilities that are not indicative of their developmental stage. Children often create intricate systems of denial to shield them from the realities of a parent’s alcohol or drug abuse habit. In situations with aging parents of addicted children, the parents often maintain overly-dependent relationships with their children, keeping them from valuable learning experiences during this transitional period.  One well-regarded study outlined multiple characteristics that are likely to be found in a family unit where parents or children are abusing alcohol or illicit drugs:
Every family unit will be impacted differently, and in all situations, a restructuring of relationships within the family is necessary in homes troubled by addiction. Children of alcoholics and drug addicted parents are more likely to get into trouble, perform poorly in school or become substance abusers themselves.,
The spouses, children, parents and siblings of people with addictions are affected on multiple levels by their loved one’s substance abuse. Likewise, these people also have a positive or negative impact on the development of addiction. When someone you care for has a drug or alcohol abuse problem, the natural reaction is to want to do whatever you can to help him or her fix the problem.
In general, the intentions are always good, but it can be difficult to make the distinction between helping and enabling. In short, helping is doing something for someone who cannot do it alone. Enabling is doing something for a person who can and should be handling the task solo.
Enabling behavior can manifest itself in many forms and includes any behavior that shields a substance abuser from facing the consequences of his or her actions. While it may seem like you’re helping your husband by covering for him when he misses work due to drinking too much the night before, you’re really just enabling him to continue abusing alcohol without any fear of a negative ramifications.
Many times, the hope is that by protecting the substance abuser from job loss, financial ruin, poor academic performance and other negative results of addiction, that eventually he or she will recognize the error in their ways and decide to change. The problem with this thinking is that it’s these very consequences that often leads substance abusers to get help. By protecting your loved one from the inevitabilities of drug or alcohol abuse, you enable him or her to keep going down the wrong path.
Watching your spouse, sibling, child or parent fight a losing battle with addiction can be frustrating and heartbreaking. In many cases, it can become overwhelming and cause close family members to lose hope and withdraw from the addicted individual. “If he doesn’t care, why should I?” is a common sentiment felt under these circumstances.
However, it’s at this time that your loved one needs you more than ever before. Left untreated, alcoholism and drug addiction almost always get worse. No matter how upset you are with your addicted loved one, giving up on him or her is never the answer.
Unity Behavioral Health is a fully accredited drug and alcohol addiction recovery facility located in Florida. We specialize in helping people with addictions reclaim control over their lives and bringing families closer together. Chronic substance abuse is devastating to families, but effective addiction treatment can begin the process of reversing the damage. Learn more about how we can help by contacting us at 561-708-5295.
Speak to one of our experienced and caring representatives at Unity Behavioral Health to learn about how our rehab programs can help your loved one defeat addiction.