Addiction and Family

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There is no question that drug addiction affects families in a multitude of ways — financially, emotionally and functionally. If you are part of a family in which someone is addicted to drugs, you know the feelings that can arise when dealing with this sensitive issue. There are so many competing emotions and questions that arise that you may end up feeling utterly helpless. Unanswered questions can lead to despair.

These questions are common and expected. Enabling and codependency are big problems when it comes to addiction and family. Sometimes families become almost dependent on the problem and begin to work around it, fixing problems under the direction of the disease. This can cause enabling, which means directly or indirectly helping the addict to keep using. You need to be able to recognize this behavior to be able to free yourself from it.

Common Questions:

  • How do I help?
  • Am I doing more harm than good?
  • Is it my fault?
  • Why can’t they just stop using drugs?
  • If I can’t help, then who can?

The Impact of Addiction on Families

The most common impact of addiction on families is that the family may revolve around the substance abuse, just as the addict revolves the substance. You can be overcome by worry, guilt, depression, anger and helplessness. In many instances, the same emotions of the addict are shared throughout the family. Other family members may feel abandoned because of the preoccupation circulating around the user. And, most importantly, the family usually does not know how to help. This is why, in a treatment facility, family therapy can be a very useful tool, for not only the addict’s progress, but also the family’s benefit.

Family therapy is important because many times the addiction has changed the healthy functionality of the family. Through counseling, there is a wealth of information that can help the user and the family move forward in recovery.

Points of Emphasis in Family Therapy

Family therapy sessions in treatment will usually involve most, if not all, of the following.

  • Information on the addicts progress and the reason specific treatments are used
  • Education for the family about the addiction and insight into how it has affected the family
  • New communications skills that can be used among all family members, not just communication skills used with the addict
  • Stress on the need for boundaries, to minimize the potential for enabling and codependency
  • Education on the steps required to rebuild a healthy family structure
  • Information to help the family understand that the whole family needs to recover, not just the addict

Overall, family therapy is intended to show that addiction is not merely an individual disease, but rather a family disease.

Moving Forward in Recovery

Just as the addict must apply maintenance to continue recovery, you – as a family member – must do the same. Like recovering from the patterns of addiction, changing family patterns can be hard to accomplish at first. Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are good starting points to find guidance and support from others who are struggling with their loved ones’ addictions.

It is important that family members find the same health and happiness that an addict can find in recovery, and, in the end, move forward together.  If you have any questions about what you can do as a family member of an addicted person, please call us. We can help you find treatment for your loved one – and recovery for yourself.


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The Have I Got A Problem website is a free online resource to help people better understand any issues or concerns they may have about mental health or addiction. The website includes resources specifically focused to; general Mental Health, Depression, Stress, Anxiety, Insecurities, Self-harm Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Anger Management, Eating Disorders, Coping, general Addiction, Alcohol, Smoking, Gambling, Drugs, Cocaine, Heroin, Marijuana (Cannabis) Ecstasy, PCP, Mephedrone, Ketamine & Crystal Meth.

The site was created to give the public information to help them understand mental health and addiction issues and to assist people in making better informed decisions about their life and personal choices.

www.haveigotaproblem.com was created and is run by 'Advising Communities’, which is a UK registered charity (Charity No. 1061055)

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"I had to start saying to myself the reason I don’t use drugs is because I don’t want to not because I can’t stop once I start."

Anonymous

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