Addiction is not a self-contained problem. It does not only affect the person misusing drugs or alcohol. The effects are far reaching and can impact the entire family whether the person misusing drugs realizes it or not. They may think they are only hurting themselves, but this is not true.
Some of the effects of addiction on the family include:
- Chaos/Disarray in the Home: When a parent is struggling with substance misuse, life can be unpredictable. They may be alert and engaged one moment and focused on substance use next. This can lead to a lack of order or routine. Children aren’t sure what to expect or what will happen from one moment to the next. Even though kids don’t usually like being told what to do, they do thrive with structure and routine, and when this is absent, it can result in many problems.
- Loss of Trust: In the throes of active addiction, the person may not follow through with promises or agreements. They may have the best of intentions but the drugs and alcohol prevent them from staying accountable. Spouses may get frustrated with the other not showing up when they say will or forgetting about important appointments. Children can have a hard time forming bonds because they aren’t sure what to believe. They may be often disappointed when their parent doesn’t follow through and develop issues trusting others as well.
- Increased Stress: Addiction can strain relationships. One parent may feel as though they are carrying the brunt of responsibilities. They may be left making decisions, paying bills, taking care of the kids, preparing meals, running the house, and cleaning up after their spouse. This can become overwhelming as they also try to balance a job and their own needs.
- Disagreements: Families may notice that there is more fighting than usual when dealing with addiction. Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol can make people more irritable, aggressive, anxious, and unreasonable. They may start fights over silly things or become defensive when someone mentions their substance use. In some cases this can also lead to abusive situations. Although the person may not normally be an aggressive person, when misusing drugs or alcohol, they may act rashly and out of character.
- Fear and Confusion: Family members may become more fearful. They never know how their loved one will respond. They may do something one day and it’s fine, but they do the same thing the next day and they get yelled at. Children may become more reserved and withdrawn in hopes of keeping the peace. They may be hesitant to invite friends over because they never know what type of mood their parent will be in or what to expect.
- Financial Problems: Drugs and alcohol don’t come cheap. With more frequent or increased use, costs can quickly add up. Families may have problems paying for basic needs such as rent or mortgage, utilities, food, and clothing because money is being misspent. There can also be many legal fees associated with being caught with drugs or driving under the influence. The person in active addiction may end up losing their job as a result of poor performance, tardiness, or excessive absences. This can put even more financial strain on the family. There are also medical bills for any health concerns stemming from substance use.
It can be challenging to live with someone struggling with addiction. You want to help them but may not be sure how to. They may be in deep denial that they have a problem or need treatment. They may not realize the impact that their actions and decisions have on not just themselves, but those around them.
Dealing with Addiction in the Family
One of the best things you can do when you realize that your spouse or loved one has an addiction problem is to encourage them to seek treatment. Try talking to them in a calm and compassionate way when you know they are sober. Present them with facts rather than opinions. If they won’t listen to you, consider getting a doctor, therapist, or intervention specialist involved. They can help you go through the process of staging an intervention and guiding your loved one to get the help they need.
Therapy or counseling can also be a great resource for the entire family. It allows everyone to share their thoughts and feelings in a safe and structured environment. The therapist can help you to work through challenges and implement strategies to start rebuilding trust and relationships. You may want to do family therapy as well as some individual or couples sessions.
There are also a variety of support groups available for family members. Some are even geared specifically toward children. Here you can meet others who are going or have gone through similar situations. They can be valuable resources and offer needed support. It can be comforting to know that you are not alone and others can relate.
Families play an integral part in recovery from addiction as well. Everyone must be open to making changes and working together. Chapters Capistrano offers a family program to help family members understand addiction and their role in recovery as well as to facilitate relationship building and improved communication. Get involved in supporting your loved one’s recovery from addiction today by contacting Chapters Capistrano at 949-276-2886.
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