Society often categorizes addiction as an individual disease and condition, and in many respects, that is true. It’s only when one finally gets to the point where they seek help and commit to a new, sober life that they can break the chains of addiction.
But, their addiction doesn’t just affect them. It affects the whole family, and healing the family after addiction is just as important as your loved one’s treatment. The costs of addiction and the family are steep, but there is hope in recovery for all.
Addiction and The Family: How Did We Get Here?
All too often, families find themselves loving and supporting a family member who is suffering from addiction. While your loved one generally felts the biggest impact of that substance misuse, the reality is that you feel a significant impact as well.
Addiction is a family disease. Loving someone who is suffering causes you stress and causes your relationships to be strained regularly. Your loved one may become very good at covering their misuse and addiction at first. You may not even know the extent of the addiction until erratic, and often dangerous behaviors become too noticeable to deny.
Feeling Guilt When Your Loved One is Addicted
You may initially feel guilty about how you may have helped your loved one get to the place of addiction they’re in. Those who suffer from addiction are resourceful. The motivation to continue using the substance may mean that you’re contacted for money or food, or resources that will help your loved one continue to use. The realization that you’ve possibly contributed to their addiction may make you feel responsible and thus responsible for the consequences, but this simply isn’t true. It’s not always obvious to see that your loved one may have a problem, and you most likely have genuinely felt you were helping them.
Your loved one may behave very differently when they’re in the throes of active addiction. This may include manipulative behaviors that trigger emotional responses out of love. Family members may disagree over the best way to interact with your loved one. Financial and emotional stressors may be at an all-time high out of a simple desire to ‘help’ your loved one. This may leave the entire family, wondering how you ever got there in the first place. Addiction and family dynamics are such that it seems your family’s life is entirely different. This is common, and you’re not alone. 1 Over 21 million Americans have a substance abuse disorder, which means that millions of families are impacted. 2
Why Is Addiction A Family Disease?
Addiction doesn’t just affect your loved one who’s struggling with misuse. It causes stress in nearly every relationship they have. The family dynamics and roles within your family will most likely be different, as well. The effects of addiction as a family disease will be different if you’re the parents of someone struggling than if you are the spouse, and the same goes for if your parent(s) are the ones suffering from abuse. Sadly, without recognizing that addiction is a family disease, family members suffer also.
When someone chooses to get help and work to break their addictions, we must focus on healing the family after addiction. Not only does healing the family after addiction help each family member, but it also encourages long-term recovery opportunities for your loved one. When your entire family unit knows how to manage their stress and their boundaries with their loved ones, support becomes all the more meaningful. When you love someone struggling with addiction, you want to do all you can to help them. The sad reality is that you will all-too-often be pouring from your own empty cup. It’s crucial for you as family members to be healthy and capable of supporting your family member’s needs.
A tremendously important thing you can do when your loved one struggles with addiction is to make sure you and your other family members are as strong and healthy as you can be. When you’re constantly worried about your loved one, you may feel like you’re overwhelmed with life. You need to focus on your self-care to be the best you can be for your loved one. That’s often hard to do because, as family members, you may feel tremendous guilt.
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You need to know that the guilt isn’t yours to bear. You did not cause your loved one’s addiction. It’s especially hard to battle when your loved one is working through recovery because you’re constantly worrying about your role in their struggle and their treatment. Addiction lies, plain and simple. It tells your loved one that they can’t live without the substance, and it tells you and the rest of your family that you could have done something about it if only…
Seek counsel from family therapy or support groups to help remind you of the truth of the matter every day: your loved one’s addiction is not your fault.
Most importantly, trust the process. You’ll constantly be holding your breath, watching, and waiting. But you have to make sure that you take care of yourself and trust your loved one’s resources in therapy. At Ocean Hills Recovery, we know that recovery may be a bit of a shock for both you and your loved one. It’s a change the whole family will experience and see, but we have years of experience working together with families to help their suffering loved ones work through the stresses and pains to get back to a life of freedom.
How Can Ocean Hills Help Heal Your Family After Addiction?
We know that no family is immune to addiction, and that addiction affects your entire family. You’re not alone. Our staff wants to work together to help your loved one end their struggle with addiction and begin their new life of freedom in sobriety. We are here to help your family member struggling with addiction. Our professional staff is here to help you learn to communicate and transform your family dynamics for this new path you’re all on together. We want to give your loved one and you the tools to break the cycle of hurt and pain. If you’re looking for this support and want to know more about how we can help your loved one and your family, contact us today.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.