Families and familial relationships can play essential roles in addiction and addiction recovery. The effect of the family on the development or recovery from drugs or alcohol abuse is often more complicated than first assumed, with some family members playing an enabling role while others being vital to their loved one’s recovery.
Family and Active Addiction
One of the main causal factors of a substance use disorder or addiction may be family dynamics or a particular familial relationship. Some of the ways family issues can contribute to the development of substance use disorders include:
- A history of or environment promoting substance abuse: Living in a home where alcohol or drugs are abused or having a family member who struggles with a substance use disorder can increase the risk of another family member experimenting and possibly becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol.
- Negative behavior within the family: Whether this stems from financial stress or abuse, the severe effects of this behavior on a child or family member’s mental health could put them at a greater risk of developing an addiction.
- Extreme expectations: Holding family members to a high or unreachable standard can negatively impact their mental health and self-esteem and encourage them to turn to substance abuse to deal with feelings of guilt or uselessness.
Addiction affects the whole family, and often family members will slip into particular roles once loved ones develop a substance abuse disorder. These roles are described below:1
The dependent is the person who is struggling with addiction. They may turn to drugs to deal with personal issues or familial conflict and the mental health issues caused by dysfunctional family dynamics.
The enabler is the person who tries to make excuses for the dependent’s substance abuse. This behavior may be a misguided attempt at helping the dependent, or it could result from denial or attempting to maintain the family image.
The scapegoat may often choose to take the blame for everything that goes wrong in the family, including the dependent’s addiction development. They try to maintain a positive family environment by taking the faults of all other family members on themselves, with often devastating consequences to their mental health.
Like the enabler, the denier refuses to believe something is wrong and will rather pretend the dependent is simply “going through a phase” than seek medical help. Deniers need to be confronted with the truth to admit there is something wrong and provide the dependent with the right type of support for them to seek treatment.
Effects of Addiction on the Family
Other than these dysfunctional roles within the families of people who abuse alcohol or drugs, addiction can cause strained, damaged relationships; financial problems, and a communication breakdown.
These reactions could create an environment conducive to even more family members, especially teenagers and children, experimenting with and developing an addiction to narcotics or alcohol.
What Is the Family Role in Addiction Recovery?
Just as families can play a causal role in the development of addiction, so they can also be essential to the recovery process. Some of the best ways families can help encourage addiction treatment and recovery in their loved ones include:
Seeking and attending a substance abuse treatment program is vital to the recovery of anyone struggling with addiction. However, the most challenging step in recovery may be admitting you have a problem and need help.
To achieve this step, a non-judgmental family intervention could help the individual realize their behavior has not gone unnoticed and needs to be addressed. Often, the support and open conversation created by a family intervention can be the first and most significant positive step in a person’s recovery journey.
Family members can provide essential assistance in finding addiction treatment programs for their loved ones struggling with substance abuse. Showing enthusiasm and encouraging them to have a positive outlook on addiction treatment could help them enter a rehab with the mindset that can best help them overcome their substance use disorder.
Attending family therapy is essential to address the relationships and dynamics that may have led to addiction and provide each family member with the coping strategies and skills to deal with the emotional and psychological effects of their loved one suffering from a substance use disorder.
It is essential that families support their loved one’s attempts to quit using drugs or alcohol and offer this support in a healthy, constructive manner. Knowing your family doesn’t judge you and loves you unconditionally can be an immensely positive influence in the recovery journey of anyone battling addiction.
One of the most critical steps to take as a family to promote long-term recovery and sobriety is maintaining an alcohol- and drug-free living environment whenever your recovering loved one is at home. This includes removing all traces of alcohol or illicit drugs from your home and ensuring conversation and entertainment do not promote substance abuse or the depiction of drug paraphernalia.
Why It’s Important for Family Members to Seek Their Own Healing
Family and individual therapy for the loved ones of an individual struggling with addiction is also crucial for the following reasons:
Learning to set boundaries and enforce limits to protect yourself, your children, and other family members from being hurt or used, either physically or emotionally, is vital if you wish to maintain your own mental and physical health while providing your family member with the support they need to get treatment and recover.
Healing Trauma and Wounds
Alcohol and drug abuse within a family can cause emotional trauma that should be discussed and addressed with the help of a counselor or therapist experienced in assisting the family members of former or current addicts.
Family therapy like that offered by Adelante Recovery can help you learn and develop all the above-mentioned methods of supporting your loved one’s recovery journey while maintaining your mental health and the safety of your family members.
If you or a loved one suffers from addiction, contact our team at (949) 427-9099 to get the help and support you need to get professional assistance.