A family is deeply involved with the creation of the addict. They can also be a very important influence when it comes to helping an addict recover. It can start when families unknowingly have a system of dysfunction. When the negative dynamics of families are changed, recovering from substance abuse can occur, and the chances of others becoming addicts decrease significantly.
The Family System
Families may function with a system that is only understood by its members. A dysfunctional home environment has a variety of different attributes.
- Secrecy – Secrets are kept and protected. Honesty is often punished
- Fear – This could be a home situation where violence or abuse is present
- Conflict – This occurs when families are not able to successfully resolve important issues with one another
- Role reversal – This sometimes develops when parents are intimidated by children who have too much influence on decisions in the home
- Emotional Chaos – This emerges in a home where people do not get their emotional needs met, and chaos ensues as they try to resolve these issues
Many families have members who struggle with addictive behavior. It is common for a member of such families to assist the addicted person with their substance abuse. It is also common for members of families to help one another in various circumstances.
Many families struggle not to help the addict. They intentionally help the addict avoid experiencing the consequences of their behavior. When someone else deals with the problems caused by an addict, this is known as an enabling dynamic. Doing this will only promote addictive behavior.
This refers to relationships within families where one family member actually relies on the addict’s substance abuse. This type of relationship often occurs between a parent and child or between spouses. The non-addicted person may unknowingly work to maintain the other person’s substance abuse.
This situation can be very complicated when a family member may believe they must support the addict, even when the addict has destructive behavior. A codependent person will go against others who tell them the addict is sick and needs help. They will try to protect the addict even when told the person they love could die or experience terrible suffering.
When this happens, they unintentionally assist the addict’s substance abuse. A co-dependent person may lend them money and more to help support their substance abuse.
The impact of generational addiction can occur in many different ways and it can have a major influence on the children.
Research has shown that over 7.5 million children under the age of 18 reside in a home where at least one or more adults have a substance abuse disorder. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a large portion of these children are five years old and younger. This means that ten percent of children at this early stages of development are at risk for emotional as well as substance abuse problems later in life.
The impact of living in this type of home environment puts these children at a greater risk of developing their own addictive behaviors.
Create an Environment for Recovery
Families with members who are addicts, and get them help, may assume all of the problems associated with the addictive behavior have been corrected when the addict completes a rehabilitation program. They will believe that since the addiction is under control, it is something they can forget and move on with other things.
But many times when returning to their home environment, addicts must deal with the relationships that contributed to their addictive behavior. During the time of their addiction, their parents, siblings, and others had to deal with a wide range of emotions. Families may have had to deal with everything from anger to helplessness, fear, frustration, resentment, disappointment and more.
There will be a need to address all of these feelings. This is essential for creating an environment where recovering from addiction is possible.
Addressing Dysfunctional Issues
The issues that contribute to dysfunctional families need to be addressed. Should the addict be pushed away when they return, their chances of recovering are greatly diminished.
All family members must learn their role in the addict’s treatment and recovery. It’s important that everyone is aware of how they can impact the process. They need to be willing to change their own behaviors as well.
When families try to alter their dynamics, they often find it is a real challenge. In many cases, counseling and therapy are able to help families better communicate on important issues and reconcile for past issues. When this group begins to function in a healthy way, an addict will more easily meet their recovery goals.
There has been much research conducted that shows the important elements associated with recovering from substance abuse. Families must be involved in the treatment process, and when this happens, the rates of dropping out of treatment decreases significantly. It also results in a greater chance for positive long-term outcomes.
Group family therapy is often very effective. Families should work toward becoming a single functioning unit where everyone is working toward the goal of helping their loved one suffering from substance abuse.
Activities for the Family
There are many things families can do to assist someone recovering from substance abuse. They should try to educate themselves on substance abuse and everything involved with recovering from it. It’s important for there to be no judgments, accusations or name calling. Everyone should understand this is a difficult time for all of those involved.
Families need to realize their lives will change. The old life produced substance abuse and needed to be changed. This is a time for families to rediscover one another and try to spend time having fun. The drugs and alcohol previously used to relax are now eliminated.
Recovery is a Process
When someone is trying to stop their addictive behavior, it is a process. Many who are able to remain clean and sober for years know this process is one of the most important journeys in their life. This is something made easier when families are able to do it with them.
When family members know the importance of this role, they can help a loved one’s journey to sobriety. This will forever change a situation that made substance abuse possible.
Read more about family and addiction treatment.
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