The effects of addiction on family of someone with a drug or alcohol problem can be damaging and long-term. Family often seeks to protect the person with the addiction. The family usually wants to hide the problem so people outside the family do not find out about it. Protecting and hiding the problem only serves to enable the addict to continue the addiction.
A Conflicting Situation
Problems within the family are often blamed on the person with the drug or alcohol addiction. At the same time feelings of guilt arise in family members because they know they are enabling the person but don’t know how else to deal with the situation. Families have many different emotions including feeling confused, frustrated, sad, angry, ashamed and embarrassed. The effects of addiction on family create a situation where family feels torn between helping or protecting a loved one and protecting themselves.
When a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the person will do and say things that might hurt other family members. Verbal, emotional, physical or sexual abuse might occur which will have a lasting impact on relationships within the family. Resentment breeds within the family. Some family members will choose to completely detach themselves from the problem; some will hold on too much, becoming entangled, in an attempt to help or stop the problem.
Family Healing Does Happen
The effects of addiction on family are definite and measurable. They cannot be denied. But when an addict receives treatment and begins to live life without relying on drugs or alcohol, the damage done within the family can be addressed and healed over time.
At first, the family won’t trust the addict to continue to stay sober. They are cautious about believing that their loved one will begin to live life “normally”. They are waiting for the next relapse to happen along with its subsequent chaos. After time has passed and the family sees their loved one is truly working to recover from addiction, family members begin to let their guards down. They begin to focus on being a family unit again, not just individual members trying to survive a bad situation.
Healing is a Process
It takes time for a family to settle out in this new environment where their loved one is no longer using drugs or alcohol. As the person in recovery continues to change and grow, the family is forced to change as well. Growth will be awkward at times, even painful. But the effects of addiction on family take time to resolve and work out. Along the way, family bonds will grow stronger and each member of the family will grow from the experience.