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How Addiction Affects the Entire Family

How Addiction Affects the Entire Family

How Addiction Affects the Entire Family, Not Just the Addict

Many families don’t realize that the addict is not the only one who needs help. Loved ones are usually surprised to learn how addiction affects the entire family. It takes a tremendous toll, not only on the substance abuser, but also on everyone else. That’s why most drug and alcohol programs make family counseling part treatment.

Loved ones often believe that if they can just “fix” the addict, everything will be okay. Nothing is further from the truth. In order to recover, a substance abuser must want to recover and be willing to do the work recovery requires. No one can do it for them. They have to want recovery for themselves, not for someone else. The only way families can help is to detach, let go, stop enabling, and allow the addict to experience the consequences of addiction.

What Addiction Does to the Family

Emotional stress may be the biggest challenge. There is a constant feeling of uncertainty. There may be legal problems like DUIs and possession charges, and the family might have to get the addict out of trouble and out of jail on a regular basis. Loved ones are often ashamed about what’s going on and try to keep the situation under wraps, but that only keeps them isolated and cut off from help and support.

Families may be focusing all their attention, support and resources on the substance abuser. Meanwhile, others in the family may feel neglected and left out. This can create resentment and jealousy. There may be financial problems, health problems, and violence related to the addiction. These are just a few examples of how addiction affects the entire family.

Why the Family Needs Help To Recover

The families of substance abusers often don’t understand that they need help. They see the addict as being the problem, not themselves. They understand that the addict needs help, but they don’t understand why they need help. Helping families to see that addiction is a family disease and that the entire family needs help is the first step in the family recovery process.

What is Family Counseling?

Family counseling helps family members to understand the roles they are playing in the addict’s life and to clarify whether those roles are healthy and helpful. For example, loved ones may be enabling the substance abuser by protecting him or her from the consequences of addiction. Family therapy focuses on how to stop doing that and how to practice detachment and other healthy behaviors instead.

How Does the Family Recover?

Recovery begins when family members seek outside help. This ends isolation and allows healing to begin. Family members can learn new coping skills and let go of unhealthy behaviors such as enabling, minimizing, blaming, and denial. With the help of counseling, therapy, and support groups, families can learn to lovingly detach from substance abusers and focus on their own well-being instead.

Counseling and support groups help families to realize they are not alone and that they can make better choices for greater peace of mind. They can do this whether the addict is still using or not.


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