This article was written by James Malervy and published by RCA.
Addiction doesn’t just affect the individual struggling with it but also those around them. The behaviors and consequences of addiction can take a toll on relationships, and loved ones may experience various emotions, including anger, frustration, sadness, and worry. It’s common for family members and friends to feel helpless and unsure of how to support their loved one struggling with addiction. They may also struggle with feelings of guilt or blame.
However, it’s important to remember that addiction is a disease, and like any other chronic illness, it requires professional treatment and support to overcome. Family support and involvement in recovery can help someone overcome addiction and achieve lasting recovery. This article will explore how family can play an important role in health care matters and your addiction recovery.
Why is Addiction Considered a Family Disease?
Addiction is often referred to as a “family disease” because it can impact the entire family system. When one family member struggles with addiction, it can create a ripple effect that touches every aspect of the family dynamics and relationships. Here are a few reasons why addiction is sometimes considered a “family disease”:
- Genetic factors: Research has shown that addiction can have a genetic component, meaning that individuals may be more likely to develop an addiction if there is a family history of substance abuse or addiction.
- Impact on relationships: Addiction can create conflict and disharmony in family relationships, leading to breakdowns in communication, trust, and intimacy.
- Emotional toll: Loved ones of someone struggling with addiction may experience various mental health issues like stress, anxiety, and depression because of unrelenting uncertainty, insecurity, and sometimes hostility. Addiction distorts the life of everyone it touches, exploiting their emotions and squashing their hopes repeatedly.
- Financial burden: Addiction often comes with financial strain, as money may be diverted from other family needs to support the addiction. The person abusing substances may channel all their monies toward getting the drug of choice. They may lose their job and end up asking for support in terms of food, shelter, or even money. In some cases, they may need help paying for healthcare costs associated with addiction.
- Behavioral/emotional problems in children: Children of those struggling with addiction may develop behavioral or emotional problems due to the instability caused by the addiction.
- Increased risk of abuse: Substance use can increase the risk of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in relationships. There’s a higher chance that family members may experience abuse at the hands of an addict.
The Role of Family in Addiction Recovery
Family can play an important role in recovery from addiction. While professional treatment is essential for successful recovery, family members can provide a greater sense of security and understanding that can help to strengthen your resolve during difficult times. Here are some ways in which family can support you:
Encouraging you to seek treatment
Your loved ones can encourage you to seek professional help for your addiction. They can also help you find a reputable treatment program and support your decision to seek treatment.
Being a listening ear
Family members can be a non-judgmental listening ear to help you work through problems related to your drug abuse problems. They may provide insight and advice and help you find strategies to cope with difficult emotions or situations.
Providing emotional support
Addiction recovery can be a difficult and emotional process. Your loved ones can assume healthy roles and behaviors, like holding you accountable for your actions, to encourage and support recovery. For instance, your parent may act as a supportive yet firm caregiver who encourages you to take positive and thoughtful action. Your loved ones can also provide emotional support, understanding, and acceptance to help you stay motivated in recovery.
Offering practical assistance
Your family members can offer practical assistance when needed, like running errands or providing transportation. They may also help you with daily tasks such as grocery shopping or preparing meals. Providing these kinds of tangible supports to your recovery can make all the difference in terms of staying on track and building a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
Encouraging healthy habits
Your family members can also encourage you to practice healthy lifestyle habits as part of your recovery. This includes activities like exercising, eating a nutritious diet, learning stress management techniques, and engaging in other positive behaviors. These activities can help reduce cravings and provide a sense of stability during the recovery process.
Participating in family therapy
Family therapy can be a helpful tool during addiction recovery. It can help family members develop better communication skills, set healthy boundaries, and create a supportive environment for their loved one. Your loved ones may attend support groups with you or attend their support groups for families of people struggling with substance use disorders.
Family Support Groups and Addiction Treatment
Addiction is a complex disease. That’s why most treatment centers offer a variety of interventions, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), counseling and psychotherapy, group therapy, and medication-assisted treatment. Drug addiction treatment centers also offer support groups like the 12-steps to connect patients with peers.
Depending on the needs of the individual, family therapy may also be included in a treatment plan. The comprehensive treatment plan aims to help the individual recover from the addiction and helps family members cope with the effects of addiction.
Family counseling and therapy sessions help loved ones better understand addiction and its effects on their family. These counseling and therapy sessions are led by qualified family therapists and may allow families to learn how to provide support while setting boundaries.
Support groups, such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, can also help family members of those struggling with addiction. These groups provide understanding and support to those affected by a loved one’s addiction. They can help family members understand the nature of addiction, learn new coping skills, and offer compassion and acceptance. These support groups can also be instrumental in helping family members heal from the pain and trauma associated with addiction.
It’s important to remember that addiction treatment is more than just a rehab program. Your family can play an important role in your recovery and offer critical support during the process. Whether it’s providing practical help, emotional support, or encouraging healthy habits, your loved ones can make all the difference in your journey toward lasting sobriety.
So don’t be afraid to reach out for help from your family and loved ones. With their support, you can find the strength to keep going and stay on track with your recovery.