How Addiction Affects the Family
Within each family, an organized system naturally develops. When a member of this system abuses substances, the interactions and behavior of other members becomes dysfunctional, often having a long-term effect on:
- emotional and psychological health by eroding trust, impacting family members’ self-esteem and possibly causing anxiety, depression or other mental health issues.
- physical health by lowering the addict’s inhibitions, which can lead to increased aggressive behavior or abuse of loved ones.
- finances by requiring increasing amounts of money to pay for the addiction, causing job loss, home loss and sometimes costly legal issues.
- overall family dynamics by blocking effective communication, promoting enabling and controlling behaviors.
Because of the many ways a family is affected by addiction, family involvement is often a vital component of the addiction treatment process. For example, Hope Valley Recovery encourages family engagement (depending upon each client’s personal comfort level), which can include family counseling and family involvement with case management services.
At Hope Valley Recovery, we also recommend for clients to maintain connection with family. Typically, this would involve in-person visits, but due to COVID safety protocol, clients can speak with family via phone or video chat.
Whether a loved one is in recovery or still living with active addiction, family members can benefit from
- following a self-care routine, including adequate rest, healthy diet, exercise, meditation and hobbies.
- gaining a deeper understanding of addiction as a disease. (Dr. Nicole Labor, who practices addiction medicine, offers an excellent presentation in this video.)
- seeking support from others, which can include personal counseling, talking to understanding friends or family or a support group such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon or Families Anonymous.
- setting and maintaining healthy boundaries.
- recognizing that each family member is solely responsible for changing his or her own behavior.
- developing an accepting and non-judgmental stance toward the loved one living with substance abuse.
Contributor: Bethanie Mauerman, Licensed Professional Counselor.