People often discuss the effects of addiction on an individual’s physical and mental health, well-being, and overall quality of life. We sometimes forget though how addiction affects the lives of friends, family, and loved ones. It’s a strange relationship because while loved ones may not understand addiction if they haven’t gone through it themselves, they nevertheless have gone through the situation as intensely.
Being a support system can be emotionally strenuous on a person. The benefits of a sober community are that they provide a support system of people who understand what struggling with addiction is like, which in turn helps to take some of the burdens off of the family and loved ones.
Family members need to learn how to put themselves first too for their physical and psychological well-being. That can mean taking time for themselves, going to therapy, or even finding their own support system of family members who have had relatives struggling with addiction.
Types of Family Structures
Today there are many different family structures, which include a number of different ways addiction affects families. There are nuclear family households, single-parent families, stepfamilies, and more. A common structure that develops is that the non-substance-using parent may become closer with and focus more on the comfort of the child and/or children.
There are also several financial consequences the family may experience. These effects can be experienced by extended family members as well, in addition to feelings of fear, anger, guilt, or even cause them to cut ties with the individual struggling with addiction.
These effects and impacts can last for generations. A child who experiences the negative effects of addiction can struggle to maintain relationships later on in life, including relationships with their own children. In some cases, these children end up falling ill to the same struggles as their parents. Either way, the cycle continues. It’s important for family members to learn how they can break this cycle, for their children and future family members.
Addiction Affecting Family Interactions
Some of the ways that addiction can impact family interactions include:
- Negativism: communication manifested through complaints, criticism, or expressions of displeasure. This creates overall negative energy within the family, which can reinforce already present issues with addiction.
- Parental Inconsistency: lack of consistency when it comes to rules, enforcement, and weak structure, can lead children to be confused about how to behave and cause parental reactions to be erratic.
- Parental Denial: when it comes to a parent struggling with a child’s drug addiction, parents can often fall into denial. This is true even when the authorities become involved.
- Miscarried Expression of Anger: repressed anger about an emotionally deprived home environment can manifest in drug use.
- Self-Medication: a parent (or child) will use substances to cope with strong emotions like depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses.
- Unrealistic Parental Expectations: unrealistic parental expectations usually reap two common outcomes. Children make excuses for substance use because of a parent’s lack of expectations, or children may be drawn to overachieve because they feel that what they do is never enough. Children often conform to their parent’s expectations.
The Ripple Effect of Drug Use
It is important to acknowledge that just because a person’s addiction and choices may hurt their family, it doesn’t mean that they want to intentionally hurt their family. Addiction is an illness that physically alters a person’s brain chemistry, and as a result, alters their decision-making processes and outcomes.
Some of the ways an individual’s drug use can cause ripple effects, according to the national institute of drug abuse, include:
- Using money to buy substances instead of playing for the family’s food, rent, or other needs.
- The way drug use affects a person’s ability to do their job often results in them losing that job. Unemployment leads to a decrease in income, benefits, and the ability to provide for their family. This, in turn, has an obvious negative impact on monetary amounts set aside for college, retirement, and other needs.
- If untreated, substance use can lead to divorce, increases in medical issues and bills, and even worse, domestic abuse or death.
It’s common for individuals who are struggling to be overwhelmed with feelings of guilt, creating a cycle of increased drug use as a means to cope with that guilt. Additionally, feelings of guilt may increase if someone is coping with other co-occurring mental illnesses. Not only might they feel guilty about how their struggles have affected their family, but their inability to cope with those mental illnesses in a healthy manner often leads to continued self-medication.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, it’s important to know how those struggles can be affecting your or that person’s family. Addiction or substance abuse in a family can affect relationships, cause financial struggles, lead to divorce, and have detrimental effects on any children in that family. How families and children suffer can vary. Parental drug use can lead to a lack of consistency and boundaries, cause the child to not know how to act, and in worse case scenarios, lead to domestic and child abuse and death. To learn how to repair the damage inflicted on a family due to addiction, it’s important to first understand these negative effects. Here at Lakehouse Recovery, we understand the harm addiction can have on a person and their family. Let us help you on your path to recovery today and help your family find peace. Call us today at (877) 762-3707.