Addiction does not just affect the person misusing drugs or alcohol; it impacts the entire family. Everyone is affected by changes in routine, mood, behavior, finances, and relationships. Family members may believe that they’re fine because they’re not engaged in substance use, but the entire situation can cause physical, mental, and emotional distress.
A major challenge when it comes to addiction is loss of trust. When the person in active addiction doesn’t follow through with what they say they will do, slacks on responsibilities, misses events, or abruptly changes their mind, other family members can have a hard time trusting them moving forward. They may always be cautious or skeptical when plans are made.
It can also cause an environment of instability, confusion, and uncertainty. Children are unsure what will happen from one moment to the next. One day their parent may be happy to listen to them read a story or help bake cookies, and the next day they’re getting in trouble for the same thing. Children can become anxious or worried because they don’t know what to expect, how to act, or what the proper response is. Children thrive on structure and routine, and addiction can throw all of that into disarray.
Family members may also have to deal with shame, embarrassment, or anxiety. It can be stressful trying to make excuses for a loved one’s absence or behavior, or trying to clean up the messes they leave behind. Children may not want to have friends over because they’re not sure how their parent will act. It can make building relationships challenging because their own family relationships are strained.
There are also financial ramifications that accompany addiction. Money that is supposed to go toward rent, utilities, groceries, and other bills may be spent on drugs or alcohol instead. The person in active addiction may lose their job or have trouble holding down a job, further taxing already tight finances.
Overall, addiction can be damaging to family relationships. It does not create a healthy, safe environment for children, can lead to fights or arguments between spouses, and contributes to other hardships. It may also put other family members at risk for developing substance use disorders themselves as a way of coping. Children may think the behaviors they see are normal because that’s what they have grown up with. They may also have to grow up more quickly than their peers because they feel the need to take on more adult roles in the family to provide support.
Dealing with the Impact of Addiction
Families are not alone in their struggles. There are a variety of resources and supports available to help them overcome the challenges of addiction. For instance, Crossroads offers a four-week educational program that teaches families about addiction, its impact, and the process of recovery and relapse prevention. Couples and family counseling are also available to support families in expressing their thoughts and feelings in a constructive way and working through these challenges.
Recovery is a process and it takes time. Trust and relationships will not be rebuilt overnight. However, with professional help and ongoing support, families can create a thriving future free from addiction. It is important that the needs of spouses and children are met in addition to the needs of those in recovery. There are a variety of support groups specifically designed for family members and children, such as those provided by Al-Anon and Nar-Anon and other organizations. Here, participants can connect with others who also have family members in recovery or still battling active addiction. They can share stories, ask questions, and seek guidance and support.
Addiction recovery is nothing to be ashamed of and is not a journey that families must travel alone. Crossroads is committed to supporting clients and families through comprehensive services and evidence-based approaches to treatment.Is your family impacted by addiction? Find the help you need at Crossroads.