Family dynamics are greatly affected by substance abuse and addiction. Trust and communication are often severely damaged or destroyed. Relationships between family members may seem irreparable in light of an addiction discovery. Those not involved in substance abuse are often horrified and shocked at finding out their loved one is struggling with addiction. At the same time, the addicted person may feel guilt and shame about lying and taking advantage. If you’re a family in addiction recovery, it’s important to be involved together and heal together.
What Is Family?
When discussing a family in an addiction context, it doesn’t necessarily mean a traditional nuclear family that consists of a mother, a father and children. Family also means extended family as well as those who have close emotional ties but may not be related by blood. Addiction affects the entire family of the person who is actively involved in substance use. Some of the damaging effects include, but are not limited to, the following issues:
– Financial struggles
– Emotional problems
– Legal issues
– Domestic violence
– More addiction (i.e. of other family members)
For these reasons, it’s often recommended that family members go into therapy as well.
Family Roles During Active Addiction
When families are impacted by active addiction, family dynamics quickly become dysfunctional. Family members fall into different roles in order to cope with the dysfunctional system. The family roles are often called different things, but the purpose is roughly the same. Let’s take a look at the typical roles in a family dealing with addiction.
This is the person in the family who overachieves and doesn’t let anyone down. They often try to put themselves at the forefront of the family to distract everyone from the person struggling with substance abuse. They might even enable or cover for that person.
The mascot provides humor to cover up for the dysfunction surrounding addiction. Their humor becomes a way for everyone to cope with the pain that addiction is causing.
Lost Child Role
The family counts on this person not to be confrontational or start a conflict. However, the person in this role often suffers in silence with deep emotional problems due to addiction in the family.
The scapegoat family member distracts from the person with addiction by causing various other problems. They may be acting out due to how they feel about the person with an addiction.
The enabler or rescuer member of the family is in extreme denial about substance abuse. They won’t hold the person accountable, but instead, run interference to save the addict from the consequences of their addiction. The interfering actions of the enabler can stunt addiction recovery progress.
Healthy Family Involvement In Addiction Recovery
Families in recovery can work on finding healthy roles to support the addict as they attend therapy and work to recover. For example, parents can be firm and supportive by encouraging their son or daughter to seek treatment. Other family members can hold the addicted member responsible for their actions by rewarding positive choices. They can also attend therapy groups with their loved one, or they can go to family support groups to heal and speak with others going through the same thing.
Before the person enters treatment, family members may have to stage an intervention to let them know how they feel and encourage going into treatment. Interventions have been shown to be very effective tools in convincing addicts to seek treatment, especially when done with professional help.
The Effect of Teenage Substance Abuse On Family Dynamics
Teen substance abuse profoundly affects the teen involved as well as the family. Teens are typically still developing, and substance abuse can complicate things. For example, people who struggled with addiction as a teen may find themselves struggling as an adult if they don’t get proper help. They might also turn to stronger drugs. Teen substance abuse is hard on their family too when the teen skips school, gets bad grades and starts hanging out with other substance abusers. The reaction of parents in this position varies. Some become enablers and deniers, while others get angry and take it out on other family members. Sometimes parents even begin using drugs or alcohol themselves to cope with the stress of having their child using.
How Families Can Stay Involved In Addiction Recovery
It’s easy to stay involved in your loved one’s addiction treatment. Many programs seek to incorporate family into treatment as it helps the addict repair damaged relationships and have a stronger support system. When families stay involved, the addicted person is also more likely to stay in treatment. It also makes it less likely for other family members to struggle with addiction in the future. There are many ways that you can stay involved. If your loved one is in outpatient treatment, you can take them to their scheduled therapy appointments. You can also be supportive and encouraging towards them on a regular basis. Staying in communication with your addicted family member can help them stay motivated. The family roles in addiction recovery are different for everyone, but the main focus is to stay involved and active.
Family Therapy For Addiction
When it comes to addiction treatment, it’s important to understand that it doesn’t immediately fix everything. Even though your loved one may be finding out more about addiction and its underlying causes, treatment doesn’t necessarily fix all the problems that it caused outside of the individual. For example, they may have to deal with losing their job, getting expelled from school, financial problems, legal problems and possibly chronic health problems as well. This is where a strong family support system can really help.
However, it’s also important for families to get help for themselves as well. Dealing with addiction has likely taken a serious toll on your life and the lives of others. You may be experiencing some of these same issues as fallout from your loved one’s struggle with substance use. You may also be experiencing deep feelings of bitterness and resentment towards that person. That’s one of the reasons why counseling is strongly recommended for family members. If you’re wondering how to pick up the pieces, consider the following recommendations:
– Take time for self-care
– Don’t blame yourself
– Get professional help
– Build a healthy support system
– Join a support group
– Find healthy activities
If you need to put some distance between yourself and your loved one in order to heal, you should do that as well.
Dr. Howard Samuels is an addiction Therapist in Los Angeles who knows what it’s like to be in a family where someone is struggling with addiction. If you’re looking for a professional and compassionate addiction therapist, you have come to the right place. Find out more about Dr. Samuels and schedule an appointment by calling today.