Addiction Affects the Entire Family
When one family member suffers from addiction, the whole family suffers. Surrounded by the influence, some members also succumb to drugs or alcohol. Even if no other family member suffers from addiction, the ill effects trickle down to spouses and children through emotional, physical, and verbal abuse, broken promises, and feelings of hopelessness. In order for a patient to successfully heal for the long term, their entire family should be involved in the recovery process for addiction.
Burdens on Children
Children of alcoholics or drug addicts must bear their own burdens as their parents work through addiction and even recovery. Children may try to cope with living with an addictive parent by the following ways:
- Withdrawal- Those with addictions may become verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive toward their loved ones. In order to stay clear from harm, some children will keep to themselves and try to avoid confrontations with family members.
- Self-reliance- When parents are too involved in their own world of addiction, sometimes the children are ignored. Some children have to make their own dinner from whatever they can find in the refrigerator. Others may have to find their own way to school when an intoxicated parent cannot.
- Parent-child Role Reversal- When parents are too intoxicated to take care of themselves, sometimes the children step in to care for them, care for younger siblings, and even manage house chores. As they step into a parental role, they are unjustly robbed of their childhood.
- Joining them- Without good role models, some children may start taking the same harmful substances that their parents are taking. If their parents are doing it, they may not see it as a problem.
Caught in a Traumatic Cycle
When addiction invades a family, it disrupts the natural flow of daily routines and stability. It transforms the safety and security of home to a place that is unpredictable and volatile. Stress, mistrust, and painful words and actions cause trauma for most family members in some form or another.
Some members deny the changes in family dynamics and try to keep surviving in their ever-shifting home life. For some, the shame of their tumultuous lives causes them to avoid seeking treatment. They think they can recover on their own, but once addiction problems enter the family, it spreads out its contagious reach to all members.
Benefits of Family Therapy
In order to completely rid an addiction problem from someone’s life, the entire family is encouraged to attend therapy sessions. It isn’t simply alcohol or drugs that a family is trying to rid themselves of; it is the traumatic memories, the broken trust, and disconnection from each other that they need to overcome and heal. Once everyone in the family can identify and acknowledge their own problems, the next steps in recovery can help them heal as a family and keep addiction out of their lives.