The impact of drug addiction in families

Addiction does not stop with the addict. It impacts the entire family. Suggestions on how your family can heal after addiction here.

minute read

Does everything seem to revolve around the addict in your family? How does a family member’s drug addiction hurt your family? We will address how addiction impacts not only the addict but their entire family and give you some suggestions on how to help your family heal. Then, we invite your questions, comments, and experiences at the end.

Addiction creates a new norm

There becomes a new norm when a person in the family is grappling with addiction. Typically, when a family member has an issue, the family can get together to help that person get through the rough time. With addiction it may not be that simple. Why? Because addiction and family dysfunction often come together.

There is no one way to deal with an addict and because we love that person, sometimes what is best for them does not seem like it. The more help your family provides, it seems like the deeper the addict goes into their addiction. The more you create an environment of love and support, the more the addict lies and manipulates friends and family.

Why do addicts end up hurting their families?

At first, they may be escaping some issue or pain. The addict knows that what they are doing is not right but they cannot help their urge to get high and escape. Then by the time they realize what is happening, they are physically and psychologically addicted to the high. Now they have to choose their family or their drug.

The drug usually wins.

An addict may not intend on hurting family. But in order to keep getting high they have no choice. Their internal struggle soon gets diluted in their high and, in time, hurting their family just becomes part of the process of getting what they need; drugs.

Division: The new family norm

All of the lies, the disappointment, the irresponsibility and watching a loved one hurt themselves can become very taxing; not just on the addict but especially on the family.  The family feels genuine pain alongside the addict.

Sometimes, this can tear families apart, leaving people in separate corners. The family can become divided. Some family members become enablers and some become distant to the addict, casting them out of their lives. Family members start to argue on how to handle the addict; some frustrated by the enabling and others frustrated by what seems like cruel treatment.

Now, not only is the addict struggling, but the family is hurt, divided, fighting and possibly separating. Addiction can impact the family in such a way that it can cause members to stop talking to one another. Addiction can trigger divorce and cause families to have ill feelings towards one another. It seems unfair that the family has an addict to take care of and now has to also deal with the secondary issues occurring within the unit.

Mend the divide

Even if the addict is not in recovery, the family can be! Though the family may not agree on the best course of action…that is part of the road to recovery. Have hope that addiction and family issues can be worked out, and you CAN come to a point of agreement.

There will come a point where everyone in the family will become frustrated. In fact, it is important for there to be a divide, so mending the family can follow. If every family member does not do what they think is best and explore every avenue, they will feel they did not do everything they could do. Each person must go through their own journey and experience the addict on their own terms. Some need to learn how to love an addict without enabling them. Others need to come to a level of acceptance.

Once everyone has done their part, it is time to get together and re-evaluate the situation. Not everyone may get exactly what they want, but a balance can be achieved. This process can be a relief for families and allow them to start to trust one another again and feel like they are on the same team. Including a specialist may really help each person see their part and how they can get together and be on the same page in regards to the addict. Who can you ask for help?

  • an intervention specialist
  • a certified representative from Alcoholics Anonymous
  • or a psychotherapist…

Each of these professionals can help the family come together and do what is best for the addict. A divided family can allow an addict to play family members against one another. An addict may find it easier to get what they need when they can do this. They can tell mom that dad is mean and make mom feel sorry for them. But remember: ENABLING does not help an addict!

When an addict sees that the family stands firm, a wall is created that is harder for the addict to penetrate. Mending a family can help the family heal regardless of the state of the addict but may also help the addict in the process.

About the author
Amanda Andruzzi, MPH, AADP, CHES, is a Certified Health Coach, founder of Symptom-Free Wellness, and the author of Hope Street. Her first book, Hope Street memoir is an inspirational story of one woman's frightening journey of co-addiction that led her to uncover courage, unbelievable strength and overcome great adversity. She resides with her daughter, husband, and two sons in Florida.
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