Effect Of Addiction and Alcoholism On Family Members
It is a common misconception that drug and alcohol addiction only affects the member of the family who is struggling with the disease. However, the effect of addiction and alcoholism have on family members cannot be overlooked or ignored. It is something that causes sickness within an entire family unit. This means that not just the addict or alcoholic in need of help, but every member of the family, in order to recover, get well and heal.
It is important to realise that because the family is affected it does not place blame on the family. A family will always be negatively affected by the addict or alcoholic, no matter how healthy or dysfunctional the family unit has been from the start. This leads to the danger of developing negative coping skills in order to keep functioning. Ultimately the emotional state of the family, habits and behaviours are affected as a whole, by the addicted individual.
Substance abuse is often triggered by a reaction to emotional, spiritual, physical or psychological pain. Often times an individual may want to stop abusing drugs or alcohol, but is unable to do so due to becoming physically dependant on these substances over a period of time. Often with no regard to the negative impact, it has on their family members or other individuals close to them.
Significant others, children, parents and grandparents often watch helplessly only to witness the addict self-destruct, especially when the individual is refusing help or treatment. Families begin to develop their own coping mechanisms in order to create a safe place for themselves during the chaos of living with an addict or an alcoholic. And these may not always be the kind of coping skills that support their own health and safety. A healthy family may be disrupted by the severity of addiction and alcoholism and create co-dependency, maladaptive behaviours, putting the whole family unit at risk.
Loved ones may try to help by protecting and defending the addict, they will also justify, rationalise and ultimately try and rescue. All family members are usually under an enormous amount of stress and fear when addiction and alcoholism get out of hand. Lives are interrupted and disrupted.
On Codependent Relationships
Codependent relationships are a frequent situation between and addict or alcoholic and their families. Often family members may fight for attention from the addict or alcoholic, and in doing so find themselves doing things that could or should please them, to their own detriment. Often an adult addict or alcoholic will show affection only when a family member is doing something towards (negatively) benefitting their addiction, such as giving them money for drugs or buying them alcohol. However, this kind of attention only enables the addict and takes away the attention that should be given to the real problem at hand. Addicts and alcoholics can be, and most often are, extremely manipulative, emotionally and psychologically.
The stress that family members of alcoholics and addicts take on is massive. The constant worry about where the individual is, if they are alive, and if they will return home takes its toll. Dealing with an addict or an alcoholic in the family causes huge stress, and therefore seeking the help of professionals in the field cannot be stressed enough. Both for the addict or alcoholic and each family member and loved one involved. It all begins with saying no, protecting yourself, your family and your loved one in the grips of addiction, by seeking professional help for all.
It is of utmost importance to seek professional help, both for the addict and for each member of the family. Even should the addict or alcoholic refuse help the rest of the family should continue to seek help with the knowledge that they are in need of support and healing?
For family members, there are 12-step groups available such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, support groups and therapists.
Should the addict or alcoholic seek out help it is important that the family is involved in the treatment process, also when an addict enters a rehab it is vitally important that the family is aware of the process in order to support the addict or alcoholic best. Not only for this reason, but also in order to understand what addictions are, in creating healthy boundaries and have insight into the journey of recovery.
There is no doubt that drug and alcohol addiction is devastating for all who love the person who has become addicted. It is indeed a monstrous disease. And that is why the importance of a decent rehabilitation centre can not be understated. Drug and alcohol addiction needs to be treated by professionals. And in doing so, help a family to restore healing.
Family members or loved ones may try and fix the addict or alcoholic, but often these methods of fixing only lead to bigger problems.
Fixing behaviours include:
- Allowing the addict or alcoholic to push or break boundaries in an attempt to keep them safe.
- Policing their every move and action in order to enforce sobriety – this can be dangerous in the case of an individual who is deeply trapped in alcoholism, as safe and medically supervised detoxification is of vital importance to prevent seizures that could be fatal.
Families can help maintain recovery by encouraging recovery activities such as rehabilitation at a recognised rehabilitation centre, therapy, support groups, a change of friends where necessary and relationships with healthy and sober individuals.
As much as it is vital that all family members are part of an individual’s recovery, unfortunately, the disease cannot simply be cured by love and attention from a family member alone.
Addiction and alcoholism have to be seen and treated the same way as one would treat diabetes or cancer. Addiction is a medical disorder that affects health, thinking, behaviour and all relationships.
Addiction is a disease that can be treated, allowing the addict and all loved ones hope, healing and relief.
Addiction and alcoholism is a disease and therefore it is undeniably of vital importance to seek out the best rehabilitation centre, even when it means intervention is called for. Twin Rivers offers advice and solutions to every kind of situation you or a family member may find yourself in. Call today for further assistance that will lead to a better life for your loved one in strife and for your family overall.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process